Posts by Anthill

We're back! (redesign and announcements)


It’s no joke – the Anthill is back!

We all know April Fool’s day originated in China, but now it’s past noon you can take us seriously when we say we’re coming out of our long winter hibernation. I’ve been travelling and finishing a project, so it’s been kind of hectic. Now we’re up and running for a new season and a fresh start.

This year we’re tightening our focus, to find and publish original narratives about China that go beyond the news ticker. As such, we’re sunsetting the Chinese Tuesdays feature, after two years and 80 posts since it started in 2013 with crossposts from Sam Duncan (big thanks to Sam). Narrative non-fiction is still our first love, and we’re aiming to publish a new non-fiction sketch each week, on Fridays. There’ll also be some short stories (edited by Tom Pellman) and poetry (edited by Anthony Tao), plus photography and translation creeping in around the sides.

First, some exciting news and announcements:

Redesign   That’s right, we’ve got a new face. It’s lots of little changes – higher cheekbones here, a new font there – rather than any big ones, plus contributor profile pages (see the full list here) and categories. Huge thanks to my brother Thomas Ash (check out his meta-charity work at Charity Science) for patiently doing the redesign in Drupal. If you have any feedback, post a comment below.

Writers night   We had such a crazy good time at the first Anthill storytelling night last April, with the theme of Writers and Rum, that we’re doing it again this year. The provisional theme is “Scotch and Stories”, with a mix of writers and whiskies to sample, and it will likely be at the end of this month or beginning of May. Watch this space.

Anthology book   Looking back over the last two and a half years of posts at the Anthill, we realise we’ve published enough compelling stories to put them together between two covers for posterity. So we’re going to do it. How exactly that will work we’re still figuring out, and the anthology will only be out at the end of the year, possibly October in time for our third year anniversary.


In hibernation (coming out soon)


It's been an interesting year for China, with signs in how Xi Jinping has used his power (from fresh meddling in the arts and opinion, to diplomatic posturing and stonewalling of protests and dissent) that I think are pretty unequivocal predictors for what to expect in the next several years. Meanwhile, life goes on with all the humanity and energy which is why I still love this place. The Anthill has always been about finding and telling some of those stories, which we think speak more to what a country is than the news ticker can.

It's been a good year for us (some popular post and stats here). Now we're going into hibernation over Christmas, and up until the Chinese new year. We'll be back with a vengeance in the year of the pleasant sheep, with an exciting announcement. In the meantime, I'm putting out a call for submissions for stories from new and old contributors, including fiction, poetry and translation – see our guidelines for more.

Until then, the colony wishes you a very merry Christmas and happy new years!


Chinese Invention Tuesdays: Longlist


It's an old saw that the Chinese invented most everything, including saws. But how many can you name to impress people at dinner parties? The four big ones are paper, printing, the compass, and gunpowder (while trying to create an elixir of immortality, ironically). Lesser known are golf, wheelbarrows, helicopters and – logical when you think about it – toilet paper.

We thought it would be interesting to list one Chinese invention for each letter of the alphabet. Most of these are well established, some are a stretch from the current version of the thing but the original idea was Chinese, or so they claim. Pity they didn't invent copyright.


Chinese Invention Tuesdays: Brush

Edited from Fuck Yeah Chinese Myths!:

Meng Tian (蒙恬 Méng Tián) was a general under the first Emperor Qin Shi Huang, and distinguished himself in campaigns against the Xiongnu or Huns. Legend also credits him with inventing the writing brush (毛笔 máobǐ).

The thing is, Meng Tian had to report back to the Emperor a lot, and back then you could only write by carving on bamboo slips. Which sucked, because it took a long time to write anything. So one day, Meng Tian took his sword tassel, dipped it in ink, and wrote on the bamboo. It was so much faster, and after that Meng Tian’s soldiers hunted animals for their fur. They tied the fur ends to bamboo or wooden sticks, and the brush was born.


Chinese Invention Tuesdays: Paper

Edited from Fuck Yeah Chinese Myths!:

One of the inventions the Chinese gave to the world is paper, and it’s helped everyone loads, because before paper books were written on bamboo strips, rolled up and tied with string. The thing is, these books were really heavy and a hassle to transport. Some of them were said to weigh 120kg, and others were 3000 bamboo slips long. Yikes. (Ed: silk was also used, but was too costly.)

Enter Cai Lun (蔡伦 Cài Lún), 50-121 AD, a eunuch working under the Emperor in the Han dynasty.