Chengyu Tuesdays: Frog in the Well

井底之蛙 jǐng dǐ zhī wā – Narrow-minded and ignorant


You've surely heard of this chengyu, so apologies for those who know it all already, Chinese Tuesdays is more for the 菜鸟 (cài niǎo, look it up if you're so smart). 井底之蛙 (jǐng dǐ zhī wā) literally means "frog at the bottom of a well" (之 is the same as 的), and is used for someone with a limited perspective, for example who thinks they know something but is actually ignorant, or who is talking about something they haven't seen. The idiom comes from a fable by Zhuangzi:

The frog lived down in a well where there was all he had to live. One day, a softshelled turtle came by and told him about the sea. 'The sea? Hah! It's paradise in here. Nothing can be better than this well. Why don't you come down and share my joy?'


, Tue 16 September 2014 - 05:26

Summer Shorts: Comedy Club

Punch lines – flash fiction by Hannah Lincoln


It’s Wednesday night and still too early for the bar to fill with bodies, let alone cigarette smoke and laughter. This isn’t the type of crowd to smoke, anyway: Westerners in their twenties, mostly white, simply dressed, with patient faces waiting to be entertained by tonight’s comedy, sharp eyes ready to judge, and over-invested analyses already penning affected reviews. Myriad blog posts could flow from the fingertips of their sweating hands, damning you, tonight’s entertainment, to legendary mediocrity.

As the audience trickles in, your heart staggers under the weight of this possibility. Jenna, your best friend, sits alone near the back


Hannah Lincoln, Sun 14 September 2014 - 03:54

Editor in Brief

A short story by Susie Gordon



My name is Tom Winston, for all the good it does me. I remember when a name like mine used to mean something in Shanghai. Being Tom Winston opened doors. 

We journalists think we own the city, and in a way, we do. A part of it, at least. Don’t ask us why we’re here instead of working on a broadsheet back home. We’ll only wane lyrical that the jackboot of censorship is preferable to the sheepskin shoe-boot of some cashmere-clad Daddy’s girl who lisped her way into the editor’s chair of some gently right-wing rag.


Susie Gordon, Fri 12 September 2014 - 06:15

Chinese Tuesdays: Mid Autumn Festival


We're a little late with this one, and mid-autumn festival (中秋节 zhōngqiūjié) was yesterday – the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, always a full moon. We hope you all gazed longingly at the moon, and managed not to eat any mooncakes (月饼 yuèbǐng). Quickly, here's one of the stories behind why the moon plays such a big part in this harvest festival, for those who don't know it, from the Handbook of Chinese Mythology:

In the ancient past, there was a hero named Hou Yi (后羿 Hòu Yì) who was excellent at archery. His wife was Chang'e (嫦娥 Cháng'é). One year, the ten suns rose in the sky together, causing great disaster to people. Yi shot down nine of the suns and left only one to provide light.


, Tue 9 September 2014 - 14:16

Summer Shorts: Brain Smog

Not for the faint of lung – flash fiction by Matthew Ryan Sadowski


The throng transudes from the burning bus like a popped pimple. Gray fumes fill the cabin. Smoke and air – you can hardly tell the difference anymore. Bleary eyes on the exit, you squirm wildly through the crush of coughing commuters, and thrust yourself from the vehicle. Breathe in, breathe out.

You don’t stick around for the aftermath. Twenty minutes till work, and you can’t afford to clock in late again. Your recurrent tardiness is building a case against your original claims of punctuality. You hock a loogie – saliva greyer and grittier than usual. Here you are – another laowai unaccustomed to the great Beijing shroud.


Matt Sadowski, Sun 7 September 2014 - 05:12

Ramadan in Kashgar

Searching for a morsel in Xinjiang – by Brent Crane


Unless you are in Kashgar during Ramadan, as a foreigner you will never go hungry in China. Eating is a national obsession, and takes on an almost sacred air. Cheap restaurants are everywhere, people are constantly talking about food, and Chinese hosts will bend over backwards to make sure you’ve eaten enough. Often I'm confronted by a fierce jabbing of chopsticks in the direction of a half-finished communal dish and the barking command “eat!”.

So I was surprised to find myself roaming the twisting streets of Kashgar’s atmospheric old town, with a rumbling stomach and diminishing chances of finding an open restaurant.


Brent Crane, Fri 5 September 2014 - 02:39