The end of this week sees China’s second biggest traditional festival. 中秋节 Zhōngqiū Jié, or in English, Middle Autumn Festival. You may also hear it referred to as Moon, or mooncake Festival. Veneration of the moon goes back a long way in Chinese history, with offerings of food, fruits and wine on household altars, moon appreciation rituals, and of course, moon cakes (月饼 yuèbing). It is of course this foody aspect of the festival that has truly gone global in the 21st century.
Posted in Culture and tagged cakes, china, Chinese, cuisine, dessert, food, history, mid-autumn festival, moon cakes, Moon Festival
Donghua (Chinese for animation) has spread its wings internationally over the last decade, so impressive have been the currents it’s generated that even big Western studios like Disney, are capitalising on the trend. But its history of donghua goes all the way back to the early twentieth century. This is a talk I delivered for at Amecon in 2008, at the UK premier of Storm Rider: Clash of Evils. Having discovered that certain ageing white academics have helped themselves to my talk for ‘research’ without crediting me, I removed it from Myspace. Today, I’m making it available, in honour of the release of Domee Shi’s Turning Red. If you do use it for whatever project, put my name in the sources, and in return, put a little towards my research materials, or, buy me a cup of tea.
Posted in Blog2, Culture and tagged animation, china, Chinese, culture, donghua, film, history
After exploring the ancient beginnings of the Chinese comics tradition, I take a look at manhua in the early 20th century.
Posted in Culture and tagged art, china, Chinese, comics, culture, history, manhua, satire
The largely forgotten history of the Chinese Labour Corps, the 140,000 Chinese men who travelled from the other side of the world to the battlefields of Europe, to carry out supplies and repair work, in aid of the Allies during the First World War, has recently resurfaced in the media and public attention. Few would be better suited as a scriptwriter to a play dedicated to the CLC than Daniel York Loh (“Fu Manchu Complex”, “The Good Immigrant”), who has, among many things, become a leading figure in Britain in raising awareness of and fighting against entrenched racism and discrimination against East Asians.
Posted in Commentary and tagged china, Chinese, Chinese Labour Corps, culture, Europe, history, theatre, WWI
Whenever LGBT issues are mentioned in connection with China, they are almost always reported as negative. LGBT Apps and events being shut down, and one map published during Pride Month coloured China black, as “Persecuting LGBT”, alongside countries like Iran and Nigeria, where homosexuality is still a capital crime. This is of course an outdated and selective view of the country, and whilst it still has a way to go, I think it’s important to set the record straight as to its actual current position, and the history behind it. Like most things about China, its attitude to LGBT issues needs to be understood within the country’s very unusual and unique historical and cultural context. The ancient Chinese had passing acceptance of queer relationships, with homosexual love appearing in written records as early 650 B.C. As with most agricultural nations, where progeny are a necessity, society tolerated homosexuality mainly as a casual penchant of royalty and the aristocracy through the dynastic periods. As society modernised, the political climate during the 1960s and 70s, meant it became politicized as a “bourgeois decadence”, and was outlawed as a crime against the country. It wasn’t until the late 20th century that the Chinese really began to interact with the concept of LGBT, in a way that lead to mass inherent misunderstandings. In the late 1990s, legislative progress began to be made. This was slow going, beginning with decriminalisation of homosexuality, but not extending to the removal of trans and queer issues from the list of mental Continue Reading →
Posted in Commentary and tagged china, Chinese, commentary, culture, history, LGBT, Pride, rights, society
A recent conversation on Twitter about books on Chinese history turned into a much deeper discussion of China and identities. The two issues that have come up are fractured diaspora identities, and the idea of a “unified China”.
Posted in Commentary and tagged china, Chinese, commentary, culture, diversity, ethnicity, history, identity, languages, migration, race
China has been a breeding ground for fantastic stories for thousands of years. Even today, there are hundreds of fantasy films every year, thousands of novels, and untold comics, both in print and on the net. But when you think about these, you picture warring kingdoms, Ming dynasty monks using mixtures of kungfu and magic. The fantasies of China seem very much to be set in the past, either through history or legend. But where’s the work that looks to the future?
Posted in Culture and tagged china, Chinese, culture, history, science fiction
The roots of comics and cartoons have been in satire throughout the world, and China was no different. 漫画, Manhua, existed as early as the Eastern Han era, where a stone carving had been found in Shandong (author unknown), caricaturing the despotic Xia Jie. During the Five Dynasties period (10th century), the artist Shi Ke’s paintings satirized cruel aristocracy who exploited the poor, in works such as the “Bai Gui Xi Tu” (Frolicking of a Hundred Demons).
Posted in Culture and tagged china, Chinese, comics, culture, history, manhua
This weekend is International Women’s Day (8th of March). In China, it is celebrated with speeches on TV, stage shows and gifts for women from their junior loved ones. I remember presenting my mother and aunties with flowers and pictures I drew as a child. A Polish colleague once told me that in Polish tradition, females of all ages are eulogised on International Women’s Day. So both her and her daughter of five years of age, would get flowers on this day. Over here though, it is celebrated by white middle-aged men asking “when is it International Men’s Day?” all over Facebook and Twitter. So I’ve written about some strong female warriors throughout Chinese history, to remind everyone to think about how recent women’s emancipation still is, even in Britain, the land of the Suffragettes; and to also tell you that even if a civilization as patriarchal as China, there are strong female role models to be found, throughout history.
Posted in Culture and tagged china, Chinese, culture, feminism, festival, history, International Women's Day, Suffragette, warrior