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Grassroots

An unexpected passenger – flash fiction by William Dyke

 

Mr. Wang woke at dawn to eat congee and fruit. He filled his tea mug and said goodbye to his wife before walking to the elevator. They lived on the 13th floor of an apartment that the government had given them after being displaced from their inner city hutong.

The apartment was on the outskirts of Beijing. It wasn’t especially nice, but it was his own. People like Mr. Wang didn’t normally own apartments. In the story of Mr. Wang’s life, he considered it a win on the whole.

Mr. Wang worked as a taxi driver, even though he didn’t have to. Years of steady work and a healthy pension ensured there would be food on the table plus some leftover. But ever since his son had moved out, he found himself lonely. He loved his wife but one person wasn’t enough to keep conversation going.

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Carrying the Torch

Clashing horns at a grasslands festival – by Edward Columbia

 

I didn't see the bull at first.

We had come four hours on gut-scrambling roads to this grassland site, above a Yi minority village in Sichuan province. Ordinarily, this was a quiet place of rolling meadows, but today was the first day of the annual Yi Torch Festival, and the grasslands had been transformed into a lively fairground for the holiday revelries.

Hundreds of local Yi people, along with the occasional Han photographer from out of town, squatted on the scrub-pocked hillside. The flatland was a smoky campground of parked vehicles, where vendors sold toys out of their trunks and women in colorful headscarves pulled skewers of hotdog meat and sliced potatoes from vats of oil.

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Gilded Age

Speculative fiction from Shanghai – by Isaac Beech

 

She came to China in 2020, at the spring of a new nation. After college, a liberal arts sanatorium for privileged outrage during America's mad years, she dithered in a city internship for a few months before hopping the Pacific after Christmas in a half thought-out rebellion against her family's cloying helpfulness. New year's in Bangkok faded into hangovers in Angor Watt and a misjudged café-venture in Phnom Penh with a girl she met in a youth hostel. From there she traced the curve of the banana pancake trail up the coast of Vietnam, until South East Asia gave way to the country she had been avoiding and gravitating towards all along.

Haijing, this young capital of the nation's newest incarnation, was still adjusting to its new political status.

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Northern Lights

A plunge into sub-zero at China's northerly tip – by Branson Quenzer

 

In northern China the cold can make a man stir crazy. Winter dreams visit you in minus forty-degree celsius temperatures. The aurora borealis, nature’s own 70s psychedelic montage, is said to make appearances in Heilongjiang province’s northernmost village of Beijitun. Modern technology now tracks the northern lights, and on a good night the aurora fairies might just dance. Away from the ice lights of Harbin, we were off to find the earth’s own nightlight.

I was joined by a friend from down under – removing himself far from the summer beaches of Bayern Bay – along with his girlfriend, a Heilongjiang local. The train to Mohe, the end of the line and launching point for the far north, was not an eight hour trip but 18 hours, made easier with big green bottles of Harbin’s finest Hapi beer. We met a pair of travelers from southern China on the train, and in Mohe the five of us piled in a microvan heading to the ‘northern lights village’.

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Gorge Life

Unexpected encounters at the top of Taiwan – by Brent Crane

 

 

My bus to Taroko, a natural reserve on Taiwan’s east coast, was as slow-going as its passengers. A big tour liner, it stopped frequently and each pause brought in another sluggish senior – the island oozed with them – wearing a bucket hat with thin straps that dangled below their chins like soba noodles. They congregated in groups at the front of the bus, looking like middle school field trippers in their silly hats, chatty and spry. I sat alone in the back by a window, pleasantly anxious in my hiking shoes, spying from my seat the sceneries of Hualien, a quiet littoral town with an alpine tinge. The island was kind to a slow-going solo traveler like me, showing itself off in hidden valleys, milky coastlines and green mountains that looked like English hills.

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