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While We're Here (in hibernation)

 

From 2012 the Anthill has published stories from China to bring this quicksilver and wonderfully various country to life. Since then we've put out 330 posts, hosted three events and been shortlisted for an award, with over a hundred writers in the colony and 11,000 monthly unique visitors. Now we also have an anthology, While We're Here, available on Kindle (print edition on Amazon in Feb), in the Beijing Bookworm and Garden Books in Shanghai, or from the publisher. (All proceeds to charity.)

We're not going anywhere, and will be bringing you more new and surprising narratives in 2016, including from a laowai rapper in Chengdu and a detention cell in Datong. But for now we're in hibernation this winter, while Tom and I focus on a couple of other things. We'll be back in March, and will try to post reasonably regularly. My own book comes out in the summer, and more on that later.

If you want to join the colony and publish your own story here, submit! We're looking for narrative non-fiction, fiction, poetry, photography and translation (crossposts welcome). For more info check out our submission guidelines, and ideally please aim to submit before Feb 29.

For the time being we're leaving you with links to ten of the best stories from this last year, in case you missed them. Happy reading, and happy 2016.

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Hutong Neighbours

The unbearable lightness of Beijing – by Alec Ash

 

Mrs Wang the widow has lived on Xiguan Hutong for thirty-five years. She's an old Beijinger, born in 1951, and has been within a cabbage's throw of the same vegetable market for most of her life. Her childhood home was in Daxing Hutong, in the same block; her primary school was in Fuxue Hutong, two alleys down; her early teens were in Nanluoguxiang, back when it was just another residential ginnel. In 1980 she married a man who owned property in Xiguan Hutong (reinstated after the Cultural Revolution ended). She worked in a small factory five minutes walk away, making musical instruments from flutes to French horns. When her husband died four years ago, her son moved in with his Mongolian wife. Mrs Wang took a bedroom at the back to live out her retirement watching Chinese soaps, coddling her infant grandson and complaining about how her daughter-in-law complains about her.

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Old Chokey Christmas

Winter in Beijing – festive verse by Kaiser Kuo

 

Ed: This poem appears in While We're Here, our anthology published this month by Earnshaw Books. Listen to editors Alec Ash and Tom Pellman talk to Kaiser Kuo about the Anthill, the book and China writing on this week's Sinica podcast

 

In winter all’s still, and the sun’s scanty rays

Filter downward in pewter and silvery grays.

I find myself strolling down memory hutong

To Beijing in winters when life was more putong.

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Beijing in Black and White

Life in a frame – photography by Siok Siok Tan

 

Ed: We're proud to present a selection of a dozen photographs by the very talented Siok Siok Tan, a Beijing resident who took a picture of hutong life every day for a year. Check out her Instagram and her website for much more like this, and she will release a photography book in spring 2016

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Mouse Trap

Rats in a maze – fiction by Nick Compton

 

Bachelorhood didn’t suit Jake. He had an empty fridge and a cupboard full of mice. He’d hear them at night. Not just a few, but bloody hordes of the little bastards. Loud as a herd of elephants. Lying awake in bed, thinking of her, he’d listen to them run riot throughout his little hutong place. It was worse when they’d get into the drawer filled with plastic bags he used for the trash. The scratch and swish as they rifled through them had an air of desperation that panicked him much more than their secret scampering. When he told his landlady, a fast-talking barrel of lava from Sichuan Province, she laughed and waved him off. “It’s an old Beijing neighborhood,” she said in an explosion of accented Mandarin sand-blasted by years of chain-smoking full-tar cigarettes and screaming at her husband. “Buy a glue trap.”

One night he’d forgotten about a cookie in a little paper pouch he’d tucked into the side pocket of his backpack. As he closed his eyes, he heard what sounded like an excited kid tearing into a brightly wrapped present on Christmas morning. He popped out of bed and grabbed a slipper, sneaking to the top of the stairs that separated his lofted bedroom from the vermin below. It was too dark to see clearly, but he aimed for the bag and fired.

READ ON...