Chairman Mao once said, "Without destruction there is not construction. The destruction is the criticism, the revolution. The destruction comes first, it of course brings the construction.” In recent years this quote has been taken literally, and the character 拆 (chāi), which means to "tear down," adorns the entrances of many-a-doomed domiciles. The phenomenon has evolved so that the Chinese have nicknamed their country 拆那 (chāinà - get it?), referring to the daily razings that make way for growth.
It's been two weeks since the Uyghur rock star Perhat Khaliq took on The Voice of China, and the Uyghur Internet is still buzzing about the way he delivered his songs of loss and longing to a national audience.
Perhat surprised everyone with the painful tension in his voice. Strumming an acoustic guitar, he started his song in a low, almost spoken-word register that slowly evolved into a full roar.
On Friday, the first of August, we woke up to the sound of an explosion in the alley. It was a deep resonate boom: not a firecracker, not a gunshot. It was a window-rattling explosion. We knew immediately what it meant: mangled bodies, screaming women, terrified children, a suicide bomber. But when I leaned out the window, I saw a young man with a fire extinguisher putting out a few small fires next to a mangled three-wheel cart.
The giant 41-meter Buddha faces due west. It seems to embrace the construction on the other side of Bright Red Mountain on the northeast periphery of Ürümchi. Behind him, the constant ring of hammers and the roar of Bingtuan Construction Engineering Company trucks rise from the still-unfinished wing of the new Hilton hotel and the alien-looking international expo center. Every few minutes the low industrial roar is punctuated by the “dong” of a giant bell. Chants of A-mi-tuo-fo are carried intermittently on the breeze.
A lot of people turned out for the final day of the Xinjiang Art Biennale on July 20 at the International Expo Center. The massive complex, situated next to a giant Buddha and Hilton Hotel in the city's northeast, echoed with the sounds of an original score by Philip Glass called “Encounter on the Silk Road.” Indeed, exhibition was heavy on spectacle. Giant video screens, paintings, and sculptures drew the largely Han crowd into massive spaces lit by natural light. Smartphone cameras were often raised at the mesmerizing objects, which called the viewer to contemplate Xinjiang as “a land of many colors.”
It's Friday night just past midnight. You're standing on a curb in Sanlitun after a pint/dinner/book talk/whatever looking for a cab. You see a green and yellow car driving your way, the little red light in the windshield beckoning. Already thinking of that book on your bedside, you raise your hand high and step forward in anticipation.
Thank you to all who attended Flash Fiction for Charity on July 13 at Great Leap Brewing. We collected 2,450 RMB for Educating Girls of Rural China.
We'll be posting our five readers' entries this week, culminating in a podcast of the full event on Friday. To start, here's Daniel Tam-Claiborne, author of the novel What Never Leaves, with his short story "If Not for the Melon."
Okay folks, here's your final reminder that Flash Fiction for Charity is happening this afternoon at 2:30 pm at Great Leap Brewing's Original No. 6. All the details you need are here. On a semi-related note, while Beijing Cream will still post over the summer (Beige Wind on Thursdays, in particular), I'll personally be scaling back for about two months starting next week (travel, etc), so come by and say hi and I'll let you know how you can help us keep going.
Our charity for tomorrow's community fiction event is Educating Girls of Rural China, which provides financial aid and other support for deserving young women from rural areas (principally Gansu province, but also Qinghai and Guizhou) to continue their educations. Since its establishment in 2005, EGRC has awarded 435 university and high school scholarships. The organization boasts a 100 percent graduation success rate.
Disclaimer: We can't be certain this oil being extracted from a gutter in Shanghai's Tianzifang, a trendy "historic district" filled with kitschy shops and overpriced restaurants and bars, will be used on hotplates and woks and pans. But it sure is possible, isn't it?
Sing their praises: Jiiiiianbing. Guaaaanbing. Shen jian bao! Tian youtiao! GIMMAY GIMMAY GIMMAYYYY.
We're two days away from Flash Fiction for Charity at Great Leap Brewing's Original No. 6 (friendly emphasis: that's the courtyard/hutong location). The doors will open at 2:30 pm, with the event kicking off shortly thereafter. If you're interested in a seat, we have just a few spots still available for reservation: please email email@example.com. (We'll also take walk-ups, but you might have to stand/lean.)
Time to meet the official Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympics mascot – Nanjing LeLe, the meaty-tongued phallus.
According to the organizers of this August event, one of his favorite foods is duck blood and vermicelli soup, he’s a Sagittarius with Type O blood, and his least favorite thing to do is “play alone.”
Called "the stupidest movie of the year" and "one of the most atrocious movies I have ever seen in my life" -- so bad that even Peter Travers, a man who loved King Kong, urged viewers to not watch it -- Transformers: Age of Extinction just might be the frontrunner for worst movie of the year. Funny thing: it's also the frontrunner for highest grossing movie of the year, after Chinese audiences just made this film the No. 1 movie in China of all time.
On Saturday morning, a middle-aged man boarded Bus No. 7 in Hangzhou and lit a package of flammable liquids. The ensuing flames injured at least 32 passengers, with 24 in critical condition. You can watch the frightening scene above, and also check out the scene from the street, outside the flaming bus.
Thank you for answering the call, Beijing writers. I've anonymized all entries and sent them over to our judges, who now have the truly unenviable task of choosing just five. We'll reach out to each writer individually later this week (Thursday at the latest). Important note: if you submitted but did NOT receive a confirmation email, PLEASE EMAIL US AGAIN as soon as possible. We had an untimely server hiccup over the weekend, but everything is now fixed.
We're extending our flash fiction deadline. Submit stories 500-700 words before 11:59 pm this Sunday for a chance to read your piece over beers at Great Leap Brewing's Original No. 6 courtyard on Sunday, July 13. If you need any inspiration, check out the piece that just went up on the Anthill about the heartache of being alone in a city of 21 million.