Wandering Earth and China’s Sci-Fi Heritage

The Wandering Earth has been billed as a breakthrough for Chinese sci-fi. The film tells the story of our planet, doomed by the expanding Sun, being moved across space to a safer place. The Chinese heroes have to save the mission – and humanity – when Earth gets caught in Jupiter’s gravitational pull. Based on Hugo Award winner Liu Cixin’s short story of the same name, Wandering Earth has already grossed $600m (£464m) at the Chinese box office and was called China’s “giant leap into science fiction” by the Financial Times. It’s been bought by Netflix and will debut there on 30 April. But while this may be the first time many in the West have heard of “kehuan” – Chinese science fiction – Chinese cinema has a long sci-fi history, which has given support to scientific endeavour, offered escapism from harsh times and inspired generations of film-goers. So for Western audiences eager to plot the rise of the Chinese sci-fi movie, here are five films I think are worth renewed attention. Rest the rest on BBC Asia.


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Some Thoughts on The Wandering Earth

Hope you’ve all had a chance to watch The Wandering Earth by now. (If you haven’t, its on Netflix, and iQiyi). I’m ready to share my thoughts on it.

Did Wandering Earth live up to all the hype? I think it did! It was an excellent hard sci-fi movie. With very high production values, including the CG, a gripping but logically grounded plot line, which, whilst comparable to some of Hollywood’s disasterporn sci-fi, never loses its very Chinese heart.


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Forgotten Planets: Exploring China’s Long-Running Sci-Fi Film Tradition

In the 18th and 19th centuries, when exploration was a hobby of the British upper classes, you’d regularly hear about the discovery of Brand New Civilizations — as though indigenous people’s generational histories did not pop into existence until someone with a pith helmet and a camera stumbled into the clearing. I had my own “Dr. Livingstone Presuming” moment this week, when I began to read headlines in such stalwarts of the British press as the Financial Times (as well as digital newcomers like The Verge) stating that the just-released film adaptation of The Wandering Earthmarked China’s first tentative foray into sci-fi cinema, before scuttling back and forth between comparisons with contemporary American blockbusters and classic American sci-fi quicker than you can say “White Gaze Genesis.”


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On Chinese Arts in Western Media

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.


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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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“Lagrange Graveyard”, Wang Jinkang: An Extract

The speedboat had been racing for half an hour. The night was thick and heavy, the lights on the coast had gradually disappeared. Ahead, several dots of light suddenly appeared on the black surface of the sea, growing stronger and stronger, until they merged into a dazzling mirage, in which multi-coloured neon streams danced wildly.


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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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The Chinese Don’t Do Sci-Fi?! A Teaser

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?


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The Fat Years: China’s Sinister Near Future

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.


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