non-fiction

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The Book of Changes

Twenty five years in Chinese jazz – by David Moser

 

Ed: This story is from the Anthill anthology book While We're Here, published today by Earnshaw Books. Buy the book on Amazon

 

“What do you miss most about the US?” asked my friend Chen Xin, pouring me another beer.

“Nothing,” I said. It was 1993, and I was living in Beijing, yet even when drunk I was never homesick for America.

“There must be something,” she said, licking the excess foam off my glass.

“Jazz.”

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I'm Not a Communist, But I Play One on TV

Life and times of a token white guy – by Jonathan ‘Cao Cao’ Kos-Read

 

The guy with the world’s biggest dick was on Howard Stern once.

Everybody was fascinated. Who wouldn't be? His dick was 14 inches long, as thick as a baby's arm. And everyone had questions: could he get it all the way in? Had he ever fucked a guy? Did erections make him light-headed? Pressing, important burning questions. But all the guy wanted to talk about was his novel – a long thing about intergenerational conflict and the struggle between morality and family and … or you know, something. Nobody was listening. They just wanted to know about his dick.

And honestly, I often feel the same way. I have a job that people think is interesting – both in an amusing way, but also as an odd sideways window into Chinese culture.

I play white guys in Chinese movies.

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Roots and Leaves

A journey back to origins – by Courtney Han

 

Six of us were driving to my dad’s hometown. My eldest cousin, age forty-five, was at the wheel of his new Audi. I sat in the front seat, with three cousins and my five-year-old niece in the back. The car was brimming with opinions. My youngest cousin recently turned down a potential suitor that my Fifth Cousin’s husband found in his danwei. Her rejection was subject to intense debate. Family doesn’t let you get away with anything.

“But he’s a bad singer,” she protested. “What if we’re invited to karaoke? He’ll embarrass me.”

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Shower Business

Last days of a Beijing bathhouse – by Robert Foyle Hunwick

 

Hong Sheng, qigong master, can perform nude splits on a bridge of cracked tiles in a sauna the temperature of Mount Doom like a man half his age. That’s how some guys like to roll in China: the backslapping, the baijiu toasting, the bonobo displays of power. Beijing’s last old-style bathhouse isn’t the kind of place to worry about stray hairs, clean towels or a brace of someone else’s overripe cherries.

Just shy of a century old, the Shuangxingtang bathhouses in the far south Beijing suburb of Fengtai is one of the capital’s toughest buildings. So far it has survived a republic, various warlords, a full-scale occupation and a bitter civil war, followed by everything the Communist Party could throw at it. It’s fitting that property developers are most likely to finish this place off. A shame – there aren’t many hide-aways where one can escape from decorum so cheaply. Napping, grumbling, smoking and masculine displays are all being pushed out to the suburbs.

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Father's Day

Climbing generational walls – by Mia Li

 

One Wednesday in early June my father called me at work and said, “I heard it’s going to be Fathers Day soon.”

Alarmed, I sat up in my chair and tried to make sense of this. My father had always said that the invented foreign festivals were decoys imported from America to sell cakes and carnations to China’s new middle class gullibles. Even still, in recent years it had become customary for Chinese children to buy their parents gifts on Fathers and Mothers Day. Pressure from both Confucius and the consumer industry had become insurmountable, let alone guilt trips from mum and dad. Starting the year I got a job, each year my mother dropped hints about what gift she wanted (at least she didn’t make me hand over a portion of my salary like some other Chinese mothers do). But my proud father would never ask me for anything, so I thought.

“I’d like to get you a gift!” I said, in what I hoped was the right response. “What would you like?”

“I’d like an Astrill account,” he replied, not skipping a beat. “I need to get over the firewall.”

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