non-fiction

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What Can We Do?

A Chinese student volunteers with migrant workers – by Crayon

 

Ed: Most writers on the Anthill are foreigners, so we thought to hear from a Chinese voice for a change. 蜡笔 (là bǐ) or “Crayon” is the pseudonym of a 20 year old student of English at Wuhan University, in her home province of Hubei.

Last year, in the run up to the spring festival, Crayon volunteered to work with migrant workers in the southern factory city of Shenzhen. She was there for a week, and her experiences affected her deeply. She wrote about it (in English), and quite by chance I stumbled across the essay. With her permission, the Anthill is publishing an edited version.

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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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Get Enlightened Quick

Beijing's worst Buddhist retreat – by Nona Tepper

 

After one prostration too many, the weak among us fled the Buddha Room in order to catch some sleep, steal breakfast from the Snack Room, and walk from Longquan Monastery to the foot of Phoenix Mountain, where they shivered in the February darkness to wait for the earliest bus.

It was 4:30am on the final morning of a three day Six Steps Buddhist Retreat, a free workshop near Beijing’s summer palace established to spread knowledge of Buddhism. Twelve of us had signed up for the retreat, having been promised that we would “feel less tired,” “be sick less often” and live “without any stress”. Instead, for the last 48 hours we had listened to lectures on the “Holocaust, dharma-ending time” (how and why the world is ending), kitchen advice on how to please your Buddhist man – and had performed endless prostrations, the spiritual answer to burpees.

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The Road to Tibet

Climbing the highest plateau on earth – by Jeff J Brown

 

Leaving pullulating, steamy Chengdu and heading up to the Land of Snow is a great way to start the day. Up to over 3 km above sea level, up to the remoteness, isolation and naked beauty of the Tibetan plateau, where the air is pure and evanescent, and the sky as translucent as crystal. Up to an emptiness which defies the statistics that so many people live in China.

But you don’t just get on an escalator and saunter effortlessly to the Roof of the World. You have to fight your way up, and my samurai warrior today is an engaging and friendly man named Peng. His sword is a loosey-goosey steering wheel; his war saddle a well-worn driver’s seat; his stirrups an aged clutch, bad brakes and a sticky accelerator pedal; his reigns a cranky, grinding stick shift; and his mighty steed is a fully depreciated rust bucket of a bus that holds about twenty restless souls.

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It was 1989

The Tank Man in Beijing’s Military History Museum – by David Moser

 

I was in Beijing, and it was 1989. This fact did not seem at all remarkable to me at the time, of course. It was January, I was on the campus of Peking University, and there were no telltale signs that the coming spring would be such a momentous one, though in retrospect numerology provided an omen with the confluence of all those auspicious nines – 1919 for the May Fourth movement, 1949 for Liberation, even 1789 for the French Revolution.

There was, to be sure, something in the air – a feeling of seismic shift. Deng Xiaoping’s decade had unleashed a torrent of creative chaos, and students felt a growing sense of impatience and empowerment.

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