The Granny

International Women’s Month usually sees me writing about the strong female role models of China. Warrior women, shining starlets, but this year, I want to consider the roles of older women. The so-called “Granny” figures in Chinese history.


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Looking Back on 2013: An October of Theatre Part I

This October has been an extremely good month for Sinophiles in London, with so many China-related events in museums, theatres, conferences as well as TV and the radio. I have actually overexerted myself a little over this month, attending so many events, filling notebooks with article plans and talk outlines, that I gave myself no time to actually write and upload anything, so consider this article a guide to the highlights, and pitfalls, of Chinese culture through the Western lense.


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On The Factory (Covent Garden) and Artistic Photography in China

Located in the heart of the West End, the Factory is a boutique photography studio that offers shoots for modelling, other professional purposes or just keepsakes for a fun day out. Earlier this year, I was bought a session as a treat by some friends, and of all the special instructions they passed on, only the one about not offering me too much to drink was passed through on the day.  The first shoot did not go well at all, what we were told would happen didn’t, the pictures were nothing like we were expecting, and I was very distraught. After my friends had words with the studio, and the situation was discussed, The Studio saw where they went wrong, and corrected it. They also gave me a second shoot, in order to show exactly how they could do it. This is a review based on that second shoot, and with the consideration that they’re continuing with the very high standard they showed us. The studio, situated on the top floor of the terraces on Great Newport Street, is not as big as one would expect, even announcing itself as boutique. It consists of a lounge area with make-up mirrrors against one wall, and one hair styling chair, two actual studios, one of which usually serves as a changing room for clients, and a small office/viewing room. The changing room, which, with its fleur-de-lis wall-paper and brocaded chaise-longue, felt rather like a boudoir (right down to the very low level Continue Reading →


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From Tie Gu Niang to Sheng Nu: Gender Issues in China

In the last week or so, China’s new generation of leaders was announced, in a statement that only really happens every 10 years or so. The fact that all the figures who walked onto the dais at the Great Hall of the People were men wasn’t really a surprise, but it was a disappointment.   Whilst imperial China was very much a patriarchal, chauvinist society,  the 1950s and 60s brought forth “Tie Gu Niang”(铁姑娘),or the iron maidens. Neither the torture device, nor the east London metallers, but strong, robust young women who frequented the battlefield, ploughed the fields and shoveled coal into the steelmaking furnaces. These androgynous, almost masculine women are often found on propaganda posters. Cradling farm tools, or machine guns, gazing off into the glorious new dawn. The public face of these industrial heroines also stretched to Cinema, and Tie Gu Niang graced the screens of two classics of this period, Five Golden Flowers (1959) and The Red Detachment of Women (1961).   In a relatively rare romance from this period, Five Golden Flowers tells the story of village youth, Ah Peng, who falls in love at the March Festival with a girl who dismisses his vows of undying love, instead giving him her name and the place to meet the following year. What follows is a comedy of errors featuring four other girls of the same name, a man only known as “the old meddler” and two bumbling artists of Chang Chun Film Studios from the city Continue Reading →


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