non-fiction

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Black Cell

Life in a Chinese detention centre – by Dylan Levi King

 

I left Guangzhou in a mess. I had rolled in a year before, coming from Shanghai on a thirty hour train with no seat, slumped beside the bathroom door, but had picked myself up and scraped together a near-perfect life: a job doing nothing, a girlfriend, an apartment in a luxury compoud and trips to Hong Kong on the weekend. But had trashed it all in the space of a few weeks. I became nocturnal, haunting the clubs downtown. I would wake up in the apartment of my dealer, huddled up with a girl and a blister pack of pills, or sleep it off in a spa and wake up at noon. That summer I looked up a friend of a friend, found an email that had been in my inbox for months, and lined up a job in Datong, Shanxi. I took the slow train headed north, carrying only a backpack with a change of clothes and my laptop.

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Ashes for Ashes

A Chinese funeral – by Kim Willcocks

 

It was a shock to us all when Lao Lao, my Chinese grandmother-in-law, died. She was 88, which was, as we say in England, a good innings. But she had been so hale and hearty until the end that most of her family felt sure she would reach a hundred. My wife was very close to her as Lao Lao had basically brought her up while my wife’s busy parents worked.

Lao Lao’s life offers a glimpse at how much China has changed.

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Red Mark

My childhood during the Cultural Revolution – by Jianguo Wu

 

In my early days at nursery school, in the late sixties, my teacher was Mrs Nian. She was a kind person. When the nursery school couldn’t offer any food to the children except boiled water, Mrs Nian sometimes brought fruit from her own home for us. But later she was denounced by the other teachers and was forced to stop teaching. I saw a meeting taking place in the school office, where Mrs Nian was standing at the front with a board hung around her neck.

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White Monkey

Living it large as a laowai performer – by Eli Sweet

 

I was already a rapper when I arrived in Chengdu in the fall of 2006. I had started rapping in high school, around when I started studying Chinese, and my identity back then was largely defined by those two hobbies. After I graduated college I recorded two hip hop mixtapes, which were released to underwhelming public response. Hip hop had begun to look like a long shot; China seemed increasingly promising by contrast. So at the suggestion of a former study-abroad classmate I hopped a plane for Chengdu.

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Hutong Neighbours

The unbearable lightness of Beijing – by Alec Ash

This story was published in While We're Here, the Anthill anthology just out from Earnshaw Books 

 

Mrs Wang the widow has lived on Xiguan Hutong for thirty-five years. She's an old Beijinger, born in 1951, and has been within a cabbage's throw of the same vegetable market for most of her life. Her childhood home was in Daxing Hutong, in the same block; her primary school was in Fuxue Hutong, two alleys down; her early teens were in Nanluoguxiang, back when it was just another residential ginnel. In 1980 she married a man who owned property in Xiguan Hutong (reinstated after the Cultural Revolution ended). She worked in a small factory five minutes walk away, making musical instruments from flutes to French horns. When her husband died four years ago, her son moved in with his Mongolian wife. Mrs Wang took a bedroom at the back to live out her retirement watching Chinese soaps, coddling her infant grandson and complaining about how her daughter-in-law complains about her.

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