The Path to Freedom

written by Tang Fei, translated by Xueting Christine Ni

“Imagining the worst tomorrow makes me happy.
The gloom of the future lights my path.”


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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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“The Chinese Don’t Do Sci-Fi?!” A Reading List

As so many of you have asked for reading lists or further reading after my “The Chinese Don’t Do Sci-Fi?!” talk and again at the subsequent discussion panel, I’m publishing the list here, to share with you all.


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Meeting Science Fiction

An open letter from Li Zhaoxin, (SF Rabbit), founder of of SFComet, translated by Xueting Christine Ni


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2014: A Recapitulation

As we head into 2015, I’m taking a moment to recapture what a great year 2014 has been.


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On Chinese Horror Part II: the Ancient Jiang Shi

In honour of World Zombie Day, this week I am writing about Chinese zombies, which had existed for 900 years before the movies.


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A Recapitulation of LonCon3

Having worked and attended a select handful of “Geek” events, I was hugely excited as I headed to LonCon3, this year’s WorldCon host. Before I begin, I want to say the biggest Thank You to Kate Nepveu, and her excellent “Con or Bust” project, any spare money I have goes to promoting Chinese culture, and without the project, I would have been unable to attend.


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We, Who Don’t Belong – A Translated Sample

Homeless Love is the English title given to this novel by Li Qian, published in 2013, by Zui Books, Shanghai. I would have preferred “We, Who Don’t Belong” as it reflects the Chinese title more closely. At a glance it seems to be purely a romance. The heroine, Ruan Cong, who grew up in the town of Nancheng in the south-western province of Yunnan, arrives in Shanghai, the city of dreams, to begin her university education. With a large permanent scar on her hand, Ruan Cong thinks little of her own appearance. She runs into the boy she secretly loves, Yao Lin Kai, only to find him courting the belle of the university, Chen Min Wen. Meanwhile she rejects the advances of Shi Sheng, who falls deeply for her.
There is of course, much more to the story, and ideas of home and belonging, or lack of, feature strongly. I don’t believe I am the only Chinese who has had to think long and hard about where I belong. Even before I came to Britain, the idea of inherited identity, and personal sense of belonging are a tricky one, especially as China struggles with its evaporating patriachy.

The historical upheaval in the past two hundred years has not only resulted in a Chinese diaspora that is still growing, but also frequent movement of most of the domestic population. It is not unusual for a Chinese person to be born somewhere, to grow up somewhere else, and to live thence in yet another place.


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Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons

2013’s Chinese New Year movie, Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons is a kungfu fantasy film directed by Chi-kin Kwok and Stephen Chow. It’s based on one of the four cornerstones of Chinese classical literature, Xi You Ji or Journey to the West. Set in the Tang Dynasty, the novel tells the story of the monk Tripitaka and his perilous journey to India in search for Buddhist sutras, accompanied by his disciples and bodyguards, three reformed demons – a mischievous but super powerful monkey spirit, a fallen god turned pig demon and a fish demon.


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Chinese Children’s Literature?

The exhibition at 180 Strand, featuring the works of eight Chinese designers, closed today. As part of the British Council’s 2014 International Fashion Showcase, these designers had produced work based on the very English children’s book, Alice In Wonderland, by Lewis Caroll. I wish I could make a quick remark that, by way of cultural exchange, British designers should try their hand at a Chinese children’s classic.


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