Little Lantern Buns: The Xiao Long Bao

Following this week’s news on the Xiao Long Bao and seeing so many Chinese people so endearingly (and all the more because it’s so rare) express their passion and love for this dish, I want to tell you a bit more about its history and the way it’s made, for it is truly a demonstration of Chinese culinary excellence.


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Raiding China’s Tomb Adventures

Our penultimate post is about popular Chinese fiction of the ghostly, grave-robbing kind. We are thrilled to post this piece by writer and translator Xueting Christine Ni, who is currently working with the fantasy and science fiction author Tang Fei, and writing a book on Chinese deities. Having studied English literature in London, and Chinese literature in Beijing, she is now based mainly in the UK.

As a writer on Chinese culture, specialising in pop culture, I’m often asked about genre fiction. “Do the Chinese do science fiction?” or “Does China have Horror?” Over the last two decades or so, Chinese pop culture has grown exponentially. Economic growth and relative political stability have allowed writers and artists the space to let their imagination run free and to create in readers a taste for such entertainment and variety.


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Manuscript of a Century: an Extract

From the father of Pinyin, Zhou Youguang. Because I liked his introduction.


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So Long 2016

This year has been the Chinese Year of the Monkey. I am sure many feel, as I do, that it has been quite trying in many ways. The monkey is lively, clever, but also mischievous and cheeky, prone to playing naughty pranks and causing disorder before running away, leaving others to their fate. A year under the auspices of this zodiac was bound to be chaotic.


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Star Wars and China

“To rebel is justified”. Mao Ze Dong

Almost every geek in the Western hemisphere, and many on the other side, have anticipated the release of the Star Wars spin off film “Rogue One”. I managed to see it last week, and was impressed with it. I loved how it filled the narrative between Episodes 3 and 4 of the saga, without making itself a necessity, how it tied in very snuggly with animated series “Star Wars Rebels”, which I have also been following, and how, despite its gritty tone, was ultimately uplifting. There is something eternally gratifying about seeing a small, unlikely band of outlaws with more guts than ammo railing against the dread powers that be. What I most loved though, was seeing actors from my home country, Donnie Yen and Jiang Wu, in a movie that is part of a new, sprawling global mythology.


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Introducing the QMUL Confucius Institute Movie Night

I have the pleasure of presenting the first QMUL Confucius Institute Movie Night. Here’s a little from my introduction.


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Kuai Xian

“Kuai Xian”, given the English title of “The Curse of the Chopsticks” is directed by Ji Yu. It begins with an attack on a patient who has just received a transplant at a private eye hospital, their new eyes mangled and a pair of bloody chopsticks left at the scene.


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Midnight Bookstore II

Directed by Du Jingfeng, “Midnight Bookstore II” is an anthology film, linked by the tale of Daoist monk Lu Shiyi (Peng Yusi) on a mission to recover a lost book of secret techniques. During his search Lu senses the auras of those possessed by bad spirits and offers his help along the way. The possessed characters are all drawn to a 24-hour bookshop and the shopkeeper Wu Xiubo (Zhao Jiaqi), a demon slayer whom Lu finds in possession the lost book. During their battle for this book. Wu and Lu end up saving the lives of these people by either restraining the bad spirits with their powers or converting them to good with benevolence.


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Tang Xianzu

The Ming writer Tang Xianzu (1550-1616) is regarded as one of China’s greatest playwrights. Born in Jiangxi into a scholar’s family, Tang exhibited literary talent from the very tender age of five. He lived in a time of government corruption, instability at the Court, when borders north and south crumbled under threat of attack from neighbouring tribes. Despite his prodigious learning, Tang encountered multiple setbacks in the Jinshi exams[1], and declined requests by numerous official that amounted to aiding in cheating. In 1591, he presented a memorandum to the emperor criticizing the idol conduct of servants of the Court, thus offending its key members. Banished to minor posts in poor, remote southernmost regions, he nevertheless worked with dedication and compassion, allowing prison inmates to visit their families during Spring Festival, and attend Lantern Festival celebrations.


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Zhong Qiu Jie: Mid-Autumn Festival

Tomorrow is 中秋节(“Zhong Qiu Jie”), Mid-Autumn Festival. I did a tweet stream a few years ago that proved immensely popular. Since then, I have been meaning to write about the traditional rituals and beliefs of Zhong Qiu for quite some time. Mid-Autumn Festival takes place on the 15th of the eighth lunar month, and is the second most important Chinese traditional festival after Spring Festival. Like many wonderful parts of Chinese culture, it emerged when the system of festivities came into shape during the Han Dynasty, and became a popular tradition during the Tang Dynasty. Whilst it shares similarities with Western the harvest festival, it’s also a time when families re-unite, offerings and thanks are given to a range of gods, all in all a time when people gather to enjoy their union with Nature and with each other.


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