In hibernation (coming out soon)


It's been an interesting year for China, with signs in how Xi Jinping has used his power (from fresh meddling in the arts and opinion, to diplomatic posturing and stonewalling of protests and dissent) that I think are pretty unequivocal predictors for what to expect in the next several years. Meanwhile, life goes on with all the humanity and energy which is why I still love this place. The Anthill has always been about finding and telling some of those stories, which we think speak more to what a country is than the news ticker can.

It's been a good year for us (some popular post and stats here). Now we're going into hibernation over Christmas, and up until the Chinese new year. We'll be back with a vengeance in the year of the pleasant sheep, with an exciting announcement. In the meantime, I'm putting out a call for submissions for stories from new and old contributors, including fiction, poetry and translation – see our guidelines for more.

Until then, the colony wishes you a very merry Christmas and happy new years!


Songs of Shambala

Glimpses of Shangri La on the tourist trail – by Iain Manley


Dusk gently settled over Shangri La. A mist rose off the grasslands, while music started up in the cobbled squares at the centre of the old town, where men and women gathered to dance. Standing in a wide circle, they repeated the same few steps while edging clockwise, like pilgrims circumambulating a shrine.


Ode to Shunyi

A poem by Tom Fearon

We’ve built roads and planted trees
Our malls are new and our parks are free
Our population has increased
As more people head northeast
Because there’s no better place to be
Than right here in Shunyi

We’ve made our district pretty
Kicked migrant workers to the city
We live in tidy villa homes
Near thriving economic zones
From the city you should flee
It’s time to move to Shunyi


Chinese Invention Tuesdays: Longlist


It's an old saw that the Chinese invented most everything, including saws. But how many can you name to impress people at dinner parties? The four big ones are paper, printing, the compass, and gunpowder (while trying to create an elixir of immortality, ironically). Lesser known are golf, wheelbarrows, helicopters and – logical when you think about it – toilet paper.

We thought it would be interesting to list one Chinese invention for each letter of the alphabet. Most of these are well established, some are a stretch from the current version of the thing but the original idea was Chinese, or so they claim. Pity they didn't invent copyright.


Street Stories: Postures of Youth



My Girl

The race to save an orphaned Chinese child – by Lao Ye


Another emergency phone call. This time, a child needed to be accompanied to the hospital. Abby was maybe three years old, I guessed. She had what looked like severe eczema covering her face, eyes forced shut from the crusty skin. Someone hailed a taxi and we were on our way.

The first minutes were calm, but halfway across town that changed. She began crying hysterically, then screaming. I tried to talk to her but she was too far gone. I settled for holding her on my lap while the taxi driver complained about the noise. We stopped to see if she needed to use the bathroom – she did not. After much too long, we made it to the hospital and Abby had some tests, revealing the source of the reaction.