King Cobra

A poem by Tim Tomlinson


The dog’s barking woke them –

a cobra had entered the house


and now, reared up, hood flared,

the snake stared down the barking dog,


who snapped and pawed and feinted. 

Roy, from Chicago, froze.


Giveaway: A Yi's new novel (Bookworm lit fest special)


Those of you in Beijing will know we're in the middle of the Bookworm literary festival – two weeks of wordsmithery and ink hijinks. Look out for the Whisky and Writers event on Saturday 26th March at 8pm, which will pick up the bottle after the Anthill's Scotch and Stories boozefest last year, and where I'll be one of the writers reading a story. There have also been some great events showcasing Chinese writers, which is always what makes the festival special, from speed bookclubbing by the folk at Paper Republic to a panel with A Yi, who I've long thought is one of the most exciting authors in China today.

If you're not in Beijing, you can still feel a part of that conversation. A Yi's publisher One World is giving away five copies of his new novel in English, A Perfect Crime, to five Anthill readers based in the USA. All you need to do is write to colonyemails[at] with your name and US postal address, and in the body of the email tell us what is your favourite book about China and why. The first five who get in touch will be sent a copy of A Yi's novel.

If you're curious to know more about A Yi read my Q&A with him in the LARB China blog. Also check out our top ten list of contemporary Chinese fiction for more inspiration for novels in translation.

That's all for now – regular posting will begin this time next week – and a big thanks to One World for this generous giveway. Now get reading, and hope to see some of you at Whisky and Writers! - Alec


Portrait of a Beijinger: Woman of Tai Chi (video)


Ed: After a long winter hibernation, the Anthill returns in time for spring. We hit a high note at the end of last year with the publication of our anthology book While We're Here, paper copies of which are now available internationally on Amazon as well as on Kindle. Now we have a fresh batch of stories lined up (and my own book is published in June). We're going to try to hit one new nonfiction or fiction narrative at the end of each week, alongside extra poetry, photography and bonuses. In the end, the Anthill is a labour of love around the edges of our other work, and there is only so much time we can put into it. But so long as there are writers with stories to share, we'll be a platform for it and keep bringing you good reads, while we're here. Do spread the love, share and submit.

We're kicking off with a bang, with this fourth and final instalment in "Portrait of a Beijinger", a short documentary series for the Anthill by Tom Fearon and Abel Blanco who find ordinary Beijingers with extraordinary stories. This video profiles Lü Yan, a tai chi master who went to martial arts academy with Jet Li. The video is on Youku for those of you shouting at your VPN during the NPC along with the rest of us, and also on Vimeo as embedded below, along with Tom’s write-up of Lü Yan's story.



While We're Here (in hibernation)


From 2012 the Anthill has published stories from China to bring this quicksilver and wonderfully various country to life. Since then we've put out 330 posts, hosted three events and been shortlisted for an award, with over a hundred writers in the colony and 11,000 monthly unique visitors. Now we also have an anthology, While We're Here, available on Kindle (print edition on Amazon in Feb), in the Beijing Bookworm and Garden Books in Shanghai, or from the publisher. (All proceeds to charity.)

We're not going anywhere, and will be bringing you more new and surprising narratives in 2016, including from a laowai rapper in Chengdu and a detention cell in Datong. But for now we're in hibernation this winter, while Tom and I focus on a couple of other things. We'll be back in March, and will try to post reasonably regularly. My own book comes out in the summer, and more on that later.

If you want to join the colony and publish your own story here, submit! We're looking for narrative non-fiction, fiction, poetry, photography and translation (crossposts welcome). For more info check out our submission guidelines, and ideally please aim to submit before Feb 29.

For the time being we're leaving you with links to ten of the best stories from this last year, in case you missed them. Happy reading, and happy 2016.


Old Chokey Christmas

Winter in Beijing – festive verse by Kaiser Kuo


Ed: This poem appears in While We're Here, our anthology published this month by Earnshaw Books. Listen to editors Alec Ash and Tom Pellman talk to Kaiser Kuo about the Anthill, the book and China writing on this week's Sinica podcast


In winter all’s still, and the sun’s scanty rays

Filter downward in pewter and silvery grays.

I find myself strolling down memory hutong

To Beijing in winters when life was more putong.