The Singing of the Bluebird

A short story by Yuan Jinmei, translated by Kevin McGeary


The bluebird called. Its singing was cheerful and crisp as water flowing into pale blue rock, notes spun as sweet as mints.

The bluebird's singing would always start before the man and the woman woke up. Upon hearing the bluebird, the man awoke. He reached out but the woman wasn't there. The man turned over to look around and saw the woman leaning against the window looking at the bluebird, her golden hair reaching down to her waist.

He walked over and started caressing the woman's locks, whose colour he adored. She turned her face to him and looked at him with eyes that were as blue as the singing bird and said: "It has laid four eggs."


Father's Day

Climbing generational walls – by Mia Li


One Wednesday in early June my father called me at work and said, “I heard it’s going to be Fathers Day soon.”

Alarmed, I sat up in my chair and tried to make sense of this. My father had always said that the invented foreign festivals were decoys imported from America to sell cakes and carnations to China’s new middle class gullibles. Even still, in recent years it had become customary for Chinese children to buy their parents gifts on Fathers and Mothers Day. Pressure from both Confucius and the consumer industry had become insurmountable, let alone guilt trips from mum and dad. Starting the year I got a job, each year my mother dropped hints about what gift she wanted (at least she didn’t make me hand over a portion of my salary like some other Chinese mothers do). But my proud father would never ask me for anything, so I thought.

“I’d like to get you a gift!” I said, in what I hoped was the right response. “What would you like?”

“I’d like an Astrill account,” he replied, not skipping a beat. “I need to get over the firewall.”


The Mountain Spirits are Laughing

On the trail in Yunnan – a travel diary by Jeremiah Jenne



Day one

I am barely surviving Shangri La. I’m standing on an observation platform 15,000 feet above sea level, on Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in Yunnan province. Known to the local Naxi people as Satseto, the mountain rises to over 18,000 feet and has only been summited once. I am in no shape to climb anything today and instead ride the gondola up. Just two days before I was in Beijing, and I am adjusting poorly to exertion at altitude. It takes a very specific act of concentration to not lavishly soil myself with every step.



A poem by Eleanor Goodman


Men don’t play these wild games of mahjong.

A search for sanctuary

brings the women to the fourteenth floor

where communal breezes


come from the hall

and the open doors are draped

with torn sheets for the July

heat to escape. 


Karst Away

Photography from the Li river – by Daniel Rickleman


The famed stretch of the river Li in Guangxi, lined with jutting tooth-shaped limestone hills, is one of the most iconic landscapes in China. Millions visit each year; the 2o yuan note sports its image; and even President Clinton came for a look in 1998.

Every day, thousands of tourists cruise this river. They float as small groups on faux bamboo rafts, powered by what look like lawn-mower motors, or on long low ferries that carry over a hundred. The beehive hills cloaked in green crowd the banks of the river, forming not just a tourist site but a terrain, a landscape the edges of which a visitor cannot guess at.