non-fiction

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Beijing beatdown

Why not to quibble over a bill in Sanlitun – by Tom Sampson

 

It was December 31st – New Year’s eve!

Most of my friends at Beijing Language and Culture University had gone home for the holidays. The foreign population on campus had declined dramatically. The grounds were covered in untouched snow. The bare branches of the trees were as defenceless and vulnerable as I would feel later in the night.

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The art of guanxi

Or how to get a visa, Sichuan style – by Tom Sampson

 

I first set foot in Xichang, in southern Sichuan, to teach English in spring 2009. Xichang is the capital city of the Yi minority group, surrounded by rugged mountains and with blue skies all year round. I felt like a real explorer. There wasn’t anything in particular that I wanted to learn or take away from the place – but that was out of my hands. After my time there, I am now a highly qualified back scratcher, trained in the dark arts of creating and maintaining guanxi.

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The Good Earth

Pearl Buck, a country wedding, and how to cook pig guts

 

This spring festival, I read Pearl Buck’s 1931 novel The Good Earth in the perfect location – the farmlands of Anhui, where the book is set. (Read my LARB co-blogger Maura Cunningham’s take on the book here.)

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The Dumpling Party (part two)

In which the limits of our hero’s stomach are tested, and he has a nap

 

Ed: Previously on The Dumpling Party: Our fearless narrator vanquished an unsavoury surprise at breakfast, daringly negotiated conversations with his Chinese host family, and braved the villainous monotony of shopping at The MegaStore. And now, the shocking conclusion you've been waiting for ...

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The Dumpling Party (part one)

In which our hero battles a salty egg, and is tortured by Chinese muzak

 

Ed: Richard wrote this Chinese homestay saga shortly after first coming to live in Beijing. I hope his close encounters with salty eggs, excessive hospitality and mutual unintelligibility will prepare the uninitiated, and remind those jaded old hands that they too had a first time in China

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