non-fiction

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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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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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