Signing Off (from State Media)

A poem by Tom Fearon


I walked up to the east gate

of CCTV in the summer of ’09,

when a soldier stretched his arm out

his white-gloved hand nearly touching mine.

‘Wow, he’s friendly,’ I thought, going to shake his hand,

but he pulled it back and made a scowl,

“Please show your ID, young foreign man!”


Tom Fearon, Thu 28 August 2014 - 02:49

Cantonese Tuesdays: If Elephants Could Fly


Earlier this year, Hong Kong cartoonist Ah Toh (阿塗) published a Cantonese comic through the independent magazine Passion Times that became an instant viral hit. Based on Netherlandish Proverbs, a sixteenth century Flemish painting, Ah Toh’s version includes illustrations of 81 Cantonese idioms. See the full image with English explanations for all the proverbs here.

The cartoon shows just how colourful Hong Kong and southern Chinese idioms are. These include four-character idioms (成语 chengyu) such as “for the elephant to fly across the river” (飛象過河 fei jeuhng gwo hoh – to do something unexpected or break the rules), and everyday slang like to stir-fry squid (炒魷魚 chaau yau yu) for to get fired.


Rosalyn S, Tue 26 August 2014 - 06:00

Beijing Bound

Up in the air – flash fiction by Nick Compton


Been saddled up on this airplane economy seat for too long. I know it doubles as a floatation device, but I have a strong breast stroke and don’t plan on surviving a spiraling free fall from 30,000 feet into the deep Pacific, anyway.

United, from New Orleans to Denver to San Francisco to Beijing. Over 20 hours of mind-numbing, time-bending flight.

You start out early in the morning. Pull yourself out of a warm bed next to a soft girlfriend to load luggage, slurp coffee and pace off reams of reserve energy that would otherwise remain bound up in the maddeningly close confines of a trans-pacific budget flight.


Nick Compton, Sun 24 August 2014 - 07:32

Stranger than Science Fiction

A Q&A with Chinese sci fi author Fei Dao


Up on the LRB blog is my new piece about science fiction in China. Whereas more realist Chinese literature is often toothless to convey the realities about China, I argue sci fi can fill the breach – because of less stringent censorship for a more roundabout form, but also because some of those realities in a country that has squeezed so much change into just a few decades can frankly seem a little sci fi.

I've dusted off an old Q&A I did with Fei Dao, a young Chinese science fiction writer, last year, orginally for the LARB China blog. Plus at the bottom I've included a small truckload of further reading, including stories in translation, if you want to go deeper down the rabbit hole.


Alec Ash, Thu 21 August 2014 - 01:34

Cantonese Tuesdays: An Eggtart by any other name


Cantonese has a few loanwords borrowed from English that have slipped into everyday usage. The best example is probably 的士 (dik si) for “taxi”, hence people saying 打的 (da di) for “hail a cab” as far north as Beijing. Chinglish is also pretty standard, especially among trendy teenagers and work colleagues, who might say “Sendemail卑我啦” (send go email bei ngo laa) for “send me an email”.

But the biggest number of loanwords has to be for imported foods. The south of China is stereotyped for its fondness of eating everything from snake to civet cat, but we’ve embraced imported food too.


Rosalyn S, Mon 18 August 2014 - 23:06

Summer Shorts: Gloves Off

Love games – flash fiction by Erin McGrath


A bell rang – something was about to happen. Polo-shirted men leaned and gestured knowingly at one another, shaking the rosewood beads around their wrists, their thick fingers wishing for cigarettes. Savvy girls in tight, shimmering inverses of the macaroon-dresses popular in daylight angled their torsos away.

She was alone in the seats Xing had reserved for them, too near the ring. Possibly she would be bled on, or feel a spray of sweat, like a sneeze, diffuse on her forearms. At home she never would have thought to watch two men muddle each others’ faces, but it was pointless to be ethical when the city implicitly endorsed the opposite.


Erin McGrath, Sun 17 August 2014 - 09:16