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Destiny

A prophesy comes true in Shanghai – fiction by Tom Mangione

 

When I first came to Shanghai, I was a young man with a full head of hair and a bare chin. I could grow a beard, but I always thought it a bit gauche. Back home, everyone was growing beards, but the trend was lost on me. Clean-shaven felt classic, and I was a classic kind of guy. Maybe I was more classic than I knew.

I spent my first weekend in town at some local bars that I'd heard were cool. Everything about me gave away the fact that I was new to Shanghai, new to China, new to all of it. I fumbled with the novel currency, studying Mao’s smirk each time I pulled out my wallet. I tried out my nascent Chinese – wo yao yi ge pijiu – only to have the bartenders answer in calm, steady English. I was the proverbial deer in the headlights, and Shanghai was the Mack truck ready to splatter my assumptions all over the pavement. 

At the bar, I took up conversation with a middle-aged, white American guy, sitting sad and alone. He was bald, bearded and quite skinny. He looked like he had no one to talk to, and I felt sorry for him. I don't remember anything we talked about except for one thing. He said that every white man who stays in China long enough becomes bearded, bald or both. Usually both. When he said this I assumed that this was just his way of coddling his fragile middle-aged ego. He was, well, bald and bearded himself. It wasn’t until later that I realized I was wrong. Deer-in-the-headlights-meets-Mack-truck wrong. A chin full of prickly pear stubble is fate. A shiny bowling ball of a pate is destiny.

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Portrait of a Beijinger: Call of Duty

A deli owner collects war relics in a bunker museum – by Tom Fearon

 

Each month, Tom Fearon and Abel Blanco profile an ordinary Beijinger with an extraordinary story. We’re proud to present the second episode in the series, along with Tom’s story of meeting its protagonist Yang Guoqing. The video is viewable on Youku for streamers in China, and on Vimeo as embedded below

 

The town of Nankou on the outskirts of Beijing is perhaps best known for its abandoned, incomplete amusement park Wonderland, a ghostly reminder of China’s property bubble. But beyond the fake Disneyland façade is a winding mountain road to a highland, overlooking the sleepy Ming Dynasty village of Changyucheng, that provided one of the most dramatic backdrops to the Second World War.

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The Story-Telling Robot

A science fiction story by Fei Dao – translated by Alec Ash

 

Once upon a time, there was a King, who loved neither the beauty of his domain nor its women, but only took pleasure in listening to stories. He kept a story-teller in his palace, but the number of tales that any one person can know is limited, and whenever a minstrel had told them all the King would exile them far, far away. After a while, no one dared tell him any story at all.

And so the King convened the most ingenious scientists in the land, and ordered them to build a story-telling robot. At first, the stories that the robot told were lifeless, but it had the ability to learn independently, and under the supervision of the scientists it slowly perfected the quality. Its brain was installed with every story that was known of, and each night the King, tired from the affairs of state and wanting to relax, ordered the robot to spin him a yarn. If the King could not hear two or three short stories before retiring, he was not able not sleep.

One day the King, reclining in the imperial bed, closed his eyes and prepared to enjoy a new and fabulous story.

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Scotch & Stories: Anthill writers night

 

Those of you following the Anthill last year might remember our first storytelling night, Writers and Rum. We packed out Cuju bar in the hutongs (admittedly not difficult to pack out), got through nine stories and nine rums, and from what we can remember had an amazing time. This year we're doing it again, at the Beijing Bookworm on May 27th.

The night is in conjunction with the Bookworm's new Whisky Wednesdays and is sponsored by  the Beijing whisky shop Ai Whisky. We've got a fantastic line-up of six writers – reading non-fiction, confessionals, fiction and poetry – and each story will be hand-matched to a fine whisky by Anthony Tao, who runs Whisky Wednesdays and Beijing Cream. The price is 150RMB, including six whiskies, which comes in at 25RMB per scotch and is absolutely insane. Space is limited so if you want to reserve your spot email colonyemails[at]gmail.com. There are also non-drinking tickets available for 50RMB (40RMB for members) both in advance and at the door.

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He's Behind You!

Surprise attack – a photo essay by Joseph Johnson

 

When I arrived in China in late 2010, I was both overwhelmed and in awe. Like anyone experiencing an environment for the first time, I was fascinated by the new sights all around me – the landscapes, the architecture, the people.

He’s Behind You (身后) is a photography series that came about as a result of two things: the language barrier, and my general reluctance to point my camera in strangers’ faces (although locals on the Shanghai metro had no problem with it). Rather than not photographing people at all, I made the best of my self-imposed limits and started shooting subjects from behind.

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