Alec Ash

Alec Ash is a writer and journalist in Beijing, and founding editor of the Anthill

Posts by Alec Ash

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Dude, where are my socks?

The anatomy of a door-to-door Taobao delivery – by Alec Ash

 

If you live in China and are anything like me, you order a lot from Taobao. The last dozen items I purchased from the online shopping site are: foam ear plugs, a wooden moxibustion set, USB speakers shaped like a panda head, a hemp cushion with a union jack design (vote no, Scots!), a laptop stand, a wireless keyboard and mouse, a piano stand clip-on light, a fridge magnet that you can snap open bottle caps against, a bottle of Bruichladdich whisky, a portable iPhone battery charger, and a tai chi sword. I have just revealed too much about myself.

If you have lived outside of China and are anything like me, you are in awe of Taobao. First, there's the old saw that Taobao has everything.

READ ON...

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Stranger than Science Fiction

A Q&A with Chinese sci fi author Fei Dao – by Alec Ash

 

Up on the LRB blog is my new piece about science fiction in China. Whereas more realist Chinese literature is often toothless to convey the realities about China, I argue sci fi can fill the breach – because of less stringent censorship for a more roundabout form, but also because some of those realities in a country that has squeezed so much change into just a few decades can frankly seem a little sci fi.

I've dusted off an old Q&A I did with Fei Dao, a young Chinese science fiction writer, last year, orginally for the LARB China blog. Plus at the bottom I've included a small truckload of further reading, including stories in translation, if you want to go deeper down the rabbit hole.

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Love, or Nearest Offer

Finding a catch in the marriage market – by Alec Ash

 

Chinese Valentine's day, Qixijie, came and went. Roses were sold, promises told, single beds felt extra cold.

On the day, there were blind dating events for singles across the city. Some ladies who were more self-affirming about their singlehood performed in the Leftover Monologues. And the Global Times dusted off the old saw about materialism and romance in China (even quoting yours truly, to my embarrassment).

But for those who didn't find their soulmate by the end of the Saturday night, there was always a backup option the next morning – marriage market.

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How to Be a Male God

An afternoon with a Chinese Pick Up Artist – by Alec Ash

 

Xia'er, a 22 year old music graduate from Hunan province, is short, with a boyish complexion and no steady job. He is an average catch.

Cirl, professional Pick Up Artist, has a ripped body, the confidence of a God, wears sparkling jewelry and does magic. He is a ladykiller.

Cirl exists in Xia'er's mind, also known as studtown. In there, it's 24-7 happy hour on manmeat, and the ladies are queuing up like it's half-price prime-rib steak for sale in East Berlin. If you let Xia'er keep talking, you might make the same mistake of thinking he is Cirl. If you let him do his magic tricks on you, and have two X chromosomes, watch out, you'll be another notch on his wall the next morning.

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Life Underground

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? – by Alec Ash

 

One of Dahai's simple pleasures is a cold bottle of Yanjing beer, or two, and a Zhongnanhai brand cigarette, after a long day's work underground. Born Yu Hai in 1985, his nickname means "Big Ocean", and he would drink an ocean of cold Yanjing beer if the restaurant opposite his work site only stocked it. Over the course of the last six years, he possibly has.

Dahai is building a tunnel. When it is completed at the end of this year, all going well, it will connect Beijing West Train Station to Beijing Train Station, 9 km away, and an express underground train line will run between the two. Construction began in 2005, and Dahai joined in 2008, right after graduating.

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