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Black Shadows

Harrowing new evidence from the underworld

 

Geng Longyue is 6.8 years old and says she has exactly 26 secrets. I met her during the long, middle stretch of an 18-hour train ride from Kunming into Sichuan where she and her parents were going to visit Chengdu for the first time. Longyue and I sat opposite a small, plastic table beside the window and gazed out at the morning landscape – rubble-strewn mountains, rice paddies, damp red-brown clay trails and leather-skinned peasants bent over in the muck. The rail line between the provinces weaves through countless tunnels and it was after one of those 30-second dips into darkness, as Longyue and I squinted at each other back in the sunlight, that she asked if I had ever heard of a Black Shadow.

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Chinese Tuesdays: 房东

 

I have always wondered why the word for landlord (房东 fáng dōng) has the character for East (东) in it, making it look like “room East”, along with similar words like to host (做东 zuò dong) or shareholder (股东 gǔ dōng).

It turns out that in ancient times the host would stand to the East and the guest to the West, leading to the host being called East.

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Chris Patten: my first sight of China

 

Following on from Rana Mitter, here's another video interview I've drudged up from my archives, this time with none other than Chris Patten.

He describes his own first sight of China, in 1979, looking out from the northern territories of Hong Kong into Shenzhen – then nothing more than a "sleepy fishing village", now "Adam Smith out of Hieronymus Bosch".

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The Boss of Houhai

 

A hutong mafiosa in pajamas – by Tom Pellman

 

He sits on a wooden bench outside the hot dog and burger stand at the corner of Nanluoguxiang and Jingyang hutong, near Houhai lake, dragging hard on his cigarette with the coolness of a Mafia boss. He’s wearing flannel pajamas, flip-flops and a thick gold chain around his neck, a pack of Yuxi’s drooping low in his breast pocket. His nose looks like it’s been broken and he has a prominent black mole that extends from the corner of his right eye like a fat tear.

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Chinese Tuesdays: Tolkien’s hanzi

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