When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.
But surprises aren’t always good.
Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.
For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .
Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.
Posted in Blog and tagged book, china, Chinese, culture, fantasy, fiction, historical fiction, novel, Opium Wars, R.F.Kuang, review, The Poppy War, YA
Jin Yong, one of the greatest Chinese writers of the twentieth century, passed away earlier this week on Tuesday the 30th of October. Aged 94, he died of organ failure after battling long-term illness, at the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital.
Posted in Blog and tagged china, Chinese, culture, Jin Yong, literature, novel, Wuxia
Recently numerous friends on social media have pointed out to me the shockingly underinformed or dubious ways in which the Chinese arts have been represented in the Western media. I have been impressed by your astuteness and I thank you for your kindness.
Posted in Blog and tagged animation, arts, china, Chinese culture, comics, commentary, film, literature, novel, representation, science fiction
When I heard that Jin Yong’s Wuxia classic “The Condor Heroes” was being published in English, (translated by Anna Holmwood, and first volume released earlier this year), I was delighted. As a Chinese cultural commentator, I was happy to read the articles that this publication had generated, even by the old white academics who seem to have recently discovered the existence of Wuxia. One article however, did leave me mulling the content. In its use of journalistic shorthand, Vanessa Thorpe’s article in The Guardian a few weeks ago, described Jin Yong as being “China’s Tolkien”. Whilst I understand the reasoning for this, I feel that she’s missed the mark. In terms of story, character, genre, not to mention cultural significance, the world of “Condor Heroes” can be more appropriately described as China’s Star Wars.
Posted in Blog and tagged china, Chinese, culture, literature, novel, wuxi
It’s not hard to tell from the cover that this book is going to be an unpalatable sort of satire. Whilst I find Wang Shuo very interesting as a writer, I found myself waiting for the suitable moment to start this book. When I finally did, the stark committee meeting scene it opens with put me off a couple of times. Having been exposed to the Chinese media in my childhood, there is something in the tone of official committee meetings that is inevitably soporific and dulling to one’s senses. It was not until the plot device of the Big Dream Boxer is revealed at the end of the first chapter, that I really started to engage with the story.
Posted in Blog and tagged books, china, Chinese, culture, dystopia, literature, novel, review, satire, Wang Shut
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.
Posted in Blog and tagged books, china, Chinese, comic, culture, film, ghost story, horror, literature, novel, tomb raiding, translation
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.
Posted in Blog and tagged book, china, Chinese, cultural revolution, culture, literature, novel, post 80s, sample, Shanghai, translation, youth, Zui Book
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.
Posted in Blog and tagged china, Chinese, classic, demons, film, Journey to the West, kungfu, literature, Monkey King, movie, novel, Stephen Chow, wuxi a
Up til very recently, China is not known for its science fiction, its authors preferring the safety of traditional settings, despite their neophillia in almost every other area. There are a few examples though, including Chan Koonchung’s The Fat Years.
Posted in Blog and tagged book, Chan Koogchun, china, Chinese, culture, dystopia, novel, pop-futura, science fiction
People say, never judge a book by its cover. I have always judged contemporary novels by their covers. I trust that the penetrating market research and sensitive designs of today would somehow bring out the essence of the book on its dust jacket. This philosophy has mostly stood me in good stead (I’m talking about the hardback cover, there’s of course the paperback edition, mass market paperback edition etc… but I digress). This time, however, I feel I’ve been deceived.
Posted in Blog and tagged 1930s, America, book, china, culture, Lisa See, novel, Shanghai