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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Endless: the Sherman Lin Collection – an Extract

Today is International Translation Day. Translation is about more than just knowing two languages. It’s about knowing two cultures. Translators allow treasures hidden within one culture to be experienced by another. However, with that ability, also comes a lot of responsibility, not just to represent the meaning, nuance and voice of the original text, but also to express things in terms that the target culture’s readers will understand. Some of my readers who have found this website through my translation work, may be interested to see an original text side by side with my translation. Both the English and Chinese text were edited before publication. This is one of the more challenging pieces I have worked on.


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Survivor’s Guide to Water Margin

Back in 2008, I was living in Beijing. As you may expect, my Chinese literature course at the CUN involved reading the four cornerstones of Chinese literature (their resemblance to actual stones is remarkable). Having grown up in the UK I was glad to have the opportunity finally to read these works of the 14th and 15th centuries that have had such wide-ranging influence over Chinese culture ever since. So I was tricked by the professor into finishing two of these chunky works in six weeks. I thoroughly enjoyed Romance of Three Kingdoms, but little did I know what I was getting myself into with Outlaws of the Marsh, or Water Margin.


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Gold Boy, Emerald Girl: A Cross Section of 21st Century China

Golden Boy, Emerald Girl is the second collection of stories from acclaimed author Yiyun Li. Each separate story has previously been printed in different American and British newspapers. It makes perfect sense for the nine stories, all slices to urban oddities in modern China, to be collected in a single volume. With subject matters such as internet, social media, divorce, child adoption, child abduction and homosexuality, there is no mistaking their 21st century backdrop.


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