The Roast Duck Killer

Halloween flash fiction by Carly J Hallman


Ed: This story is the winner of the That's Beijing Halloween flash fiction competition, beating off some very impressive competition, including skin-crawling stories of misdelivered heads, ghosts in the rain, and a poem by an 11 year old. Congratulations to Carly, and we're looking forward to reading her novel Year of the Goose when it's out this December. Happy halloween all, and make sure you check what the meat is if you're having Peking duck for dinner ...

I parked my scooter at the west gate. A minute passed before Mr. Wang approached. Tall. Thin. Wire-rimmed glasses. I sized him up as an engineer or programmer, something in Zhongguancun with a high salary, good benefits, occasional trips overseas.

He squinted. “Detective Li?”

“Please,” I said. “Call me Granny Li.” As Beijing’s #1 Senior Citizen Private Investigator for three years running, I had better things to do than nurse an ego.

Mr. Wang led me into the children’s playground, past swings and slides, and filled me in. Around seven a.m., his daughter and her nanny had happened upon a gruesome discovery. He wasn’t impressed with the official investigation thus far, and he’d heard I was just the detective to make things right.


Cat Lady

A poem for national cat day – by Alicia Lui


Today a yellow-brown cat dashed across

As I walked with wind on my ears.

Surely you must be cold, I thought.

What a pity to be a stray!


My three cats at home sit and watch

As I latch the windows on approaching gloom.

Together they cry

Another Beijing winter to bloom.


Roots and Leaves

A journey back to origins – by Courtney Han


Six of us were driving to my dad’s hometown. My eldest cousin, age forty-five, was at the wheel of his new Audi. I sat in the front seat, with three cousins and my five-year-old niece in the back. The car was brimming with opinions. My youngest cousin recently turned down a potential suitor that my Fifth Cousin’s husband found in his danwei. Her rejection was subject to intense debate. Family doesn’t let you get away with anything.

“But he’s a bad singer,” she protested. “What if we’re invited to karaoke? He’ll embarrass me.”



In(ner) Mongolia – a photo essay by Daniel Rickleman

Ed: We may be a writers' colony, but words all too often speak louder than words, so we're running this photo essay by Daniel Rickleman without any gloss or introduction. Also check out his previous photography for the Anthill from the Li river, Karst Away


Friends Hospital

Fiction by Bradford Philen


“No, not figuratively dimmer, actually dimmer.” 

With that, professor Zhi Xun nodded to the student in the audience who had asked the question. He was a doctor actually, professor Zhi Xun: an esteemed Doctor of Philosophy in Chinese history. The student was Bill Hurley, an American, from Dover, Indiana, studying and working in Beijing on a Fulbright scholarship. Bill figured he was nearly fluent in Chinese, but thought maybe he was missing something. 

The panel discussion Life after Mao and Mao in the After-Life had just ended. There were artists, politicians, government officials, writers, and scholars on the panel. Mostly Chinese men. Zhi Xun was taking a few questions.

“It is a scientific fact,” Zhi Xun continued. “When Chairman Mao died in 1976, we have astronomical measurements that the sun grew dimmer.”

His face didn’t move or twitch and his eyes didn’t wander to see the audience react. It was as if he’d said something so known to be true, speaking it had little value. Chinese eat rice with chopsticks. True always and always true. The birth of Mao brought the shining sun in the Far East. True and true and true.