non-fiction

Post
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.

READ ON...

Post
Graffiti Capital

Check yourself before you WEK yourself – by Cutler Dozier

 

A skinny 21 year old Beijinger with shoulder length hair, wearing baggy jeans and a worn tshirt, stares through his paint-speckled glasses, transfixed by the stack of multi-coloured graffiti cans arranged in front of him. He goes by the name WEK, and is deciding what colours he will use to paint his name on various walls and shop fronts around the city. He is part of a booming graffiti scene in Beijing and is possibly the most prolific graffiti writer in mainland China today.

Graffiti writing was first introduced to China by Zhang Dali, the so-called “godfather” of Chinese graffiti. In the early 90s, he spray-painted outlines of giant heads on partially demolished buildings to mark a rapidly changing city landscape.

READ ON...

Post
Baijiu, Baby

Drinking in a yurt isn’t child’s play – by Nick Compton

 

Ed: This is one of the stories read out at Writers & Rum night on Wednesday. More to follow next week ...

Some people say that every type of alcohol, in proportional quantity, results in the same drunk. I’m not sure. Baijiu, or Mongolian baijiu at least, doesn’t give you the same heady buzz as a few beers, a glass of wine, or a snort of whisky. With baijiu, inebriation comes on like a freight train, hard and hollering. Your throat and belly are warmed and your mind becomes at once both lucid and completely fucked. As I polished off the first bottle, I knew I would soon be ripped.

The Han Chinese paid to dress as Mongolians and dance around our tables continued to clap and chant, but I could sense that dinner was winding down. Now warm and imminently drunk, I didn’t want it to stop.

Post
In Search of Peach Blossom Spring

Arcadia with an entrance ticket – by Dean Barrett

 

The drive is not particularly picturesque, and some of the risks the driver takes seem almost suicidal, but no more so than the other drivers who barrel straight for us around dangerous curves. I lean forward to suggest to the driver’s wife that just possibly they might want to actually use their seatbelts. The suggestion is greeted with a smile of incomprehension.

I am reaching what could be the end of my journey in search of Peach Blossom Spring, China's mythical arcadian paradise, the ultimate unspoiled community, possibly the product of a poet’s imagination – or possibly real.

READ ON...

Post
Life Underground

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? – by Alec Ash

 

One of Dahai's simple pleasures is a cold bottle of Yanjing beer, or two, and a Zhongnanhai brand cigarette, after a long day's work underground. Born Yu Hai in 1985, his nickname means "Big Ocean", and he would drink an ocean of cold Yanjing beer if the restaurant opposite his work site only stocked it. Over the course of the last six years, he possibly has.

Dahai is building a tunnel. When it is completed at the end of this year, all going well, it will connect Beijing West Train Station to Beijing Train Station, 9 km away, and an express underground train line will run between the two. Construction began in 2005, and Dahai joined in 2008, right after graduating.

READ ON...