On a crisp September 1st morning in Beijing, I stood before a locked iron door. On the other side was a hutong that led to the streets and eventually my university dorm. On my side was a scruffy courtyard home, a room with no couch and only one big bed – on which slept my Chinese boyfriend. It was dawn, and the hutong roofs were limned by a light morning mist, releasing the heat of the night into a new day. Inside, I was trapped, faced with an undesirable decision: to take a hammer to the door, or to return to the bed and have sex with a person I no longer respected.
You've probably heard the rumors of 4corners's demise, but are they premature? "Forced renovations" is how owners Tavey Lin and Jun Trinh describe their popular bar/restaurant/livehouse's impending (temporary?) closure. What this means for the rest of us is two huge parties, today and tomorrow. To get a preview, I sat down with Tavey and Jun on Wednesday. In addition to looking ahead, they couldn't help reminiscing a bit about everything, from parties to concerts to bathroom sex.
The Xinjiang Flying Tigers may have lost the CBA championship to the Beijing Ducks, but Xinjiangers around the world came away from the games with a powerful meme. It came at the end of Game 5, after the Tigers rallied and pulled off an improbable win in front of a hostile Beijing crowd of 18,000. Shiralijan, the star Uyghur point guard for the Tigers who had been tasked with defending Stephan Marbury -- the star of the Ducks (and best player in the league, according to Anthony Tao!) --threw the ball in the air and raised a twirling, emphatic fist:
Spring switches us from latent to active, and spring being the season of festivals in Beijing, it's one more reason to get up and busy (and stop marathoning shows on Sohu). Beginning next Tuesday, April 8, the six-day Beijing Improv Festival returns with shows and workshops featuring greater China's finest improv crews. Knowing almost nothing about the art, I spent time with the local bilingual group Plus One during one of their weekly Sunday rehearsals to get the scoop.
Blogging China was a March 18 Bookworm Literary Festival panel discussion moderated by Anthony Tao and featuring Jeremy Goldkorn (Danwei), Alec Ash (the Anthill), Mia Li (Sinosphere), and Tao Stein (WeChat: 石涛讲故事 / shitaojianggushi). In front of a full house, we talked about the characteristics of bloggers (journalists without credentials? writers without agents? mavens without business plans?), the purpose of blogs, particularly in relation with traditional media, censorship, curation / aggregation, Sina Weibo, and whether WeChat is the future of blogging -- among many other topics.
People still remember where they were the day Exmetjan died. It was Thursday, June 13, 1991. He was only 22 years old.
As is common with the death of an icon, many people refused to believe he was gone. Instead, rumors spread that thugs from a rival disco had knifed him in a back alley or that he had faked his death and gone abroad to marry a princess.
Communist Party cadres throw down rapper-level cash on luxury brands, especially in the name of "gifts of guanxi," but a shrinkage in the gift market has affected some key industries in the domestic policy game, like Moutai, which has seen sales plummet over the last year. Luxury darlings Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Cartier also have all seen a slump in demand.
Several more months of terrible air, bad publicity and one inspired brainstorm session with my friend Kyle convinced me that this was a movie that needed be made. Beijing right now is one of the most fascinating clusters of humanity in the world and yet it’s almost perpetually shrouded in a layer of physical and public relations pollution. I get that. I’ve read the history, I breathe the air, I eat the gutter oil, and yeah, that all sucks. But at the end of the day this place just has an energy that I’m in love with.
Last month we made an open call for poets to participate in a curated community event at the Bookworm Literary Festival, and the response was exceptional. Please consider this our official thank you to all who answered. The curators of Poetry Night in Beijing -- Canaan Morse, Helen Wing and Eleanor Goodman -- read nearly 200 poems before finally (painstakingly) choosing five writers whose works resonated with them in style and substance.
Memetjan Abla, a painter, teacher, husband and father, known for his subtle use of color in his elegant portraits of Uyghur urban life, was lost on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. He was 35.
Nick Bedard of Basketball Buddha is courtside on press row at MasterCard Center, aka Wukesong, for tonight's Game 4 clash between the Beijing Ducks (23-11 regular season, No. 4 in standings) and Guangdong Southern Tigers (30-4, No. 1). Thanks to an epic performance from Stephen Marbury on Saturday in an overtime win, Beijing currently has a 2 games to 1 lead in this best three-out-of-five series. We now join our regularly scheduled Bedard in progress.
"Festival Fever," declares the cover of relentlessly upbeat Time Out Beijing. Coming at the end of what might just be China’s worst week in recent history – starting with a massacre in Kunming and ending with 230 people, including 140 Chinese, seemingly disappearing into the Twilight Zone – it’s hard to share their enthusiasm.
...Sure, Hunan-based Better Life probably hung the portrait simply out of respect for their native son. But I would also believe it if someone told me that Better Life’s CEO is a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist who always believed Mao’s communist fantasies were folly and, now swollen with riches from selling jewelry and clothes to China’s ovine masses, has decided to take a victory lap by hanging a portrait where Mao’s weary, unblinking stare will forever be greeted by the former proletariat scrambling for earthly pleasures on the ruins of his communes.
We're rapidly approaching the March 1 submission deadline for those interested in reading at Poetry Night in Beijing, a curated community event on March 16 that's part of the Bookworm Literary Festival. If you're wondering whether you should submit, please heed the advice of Eleanor Goodman, one of our curators: "Submit! There’s nothing lonelier than a poem sitting unread on a laptop or in a notebook."
For those worried about peace and stability in East Asia, there is plenty to keep you up at night: an international pariah armed with nuclear weapons under the apparently tenuous control of a young adult of questionable maturity; messy historical relations between regional powers; and territorial disputes that tie up political capital, inflame public opinion, and increase the chance of hostilities. If it's Tuesday, there must be a flare-up in the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.
The temptation, when evaluating a poet gunned down by his government, is to start there, with the politics that led to his murder. But Wen Yiduo (1899-1946) was much too complex and heterodox to comfortably wear the martyr's robe, his works too nuanced and unsettled to be a paragon of any revolution. His poems explore religion and rickshaws, contain the chrysanthemums of Chinese folklore and the mud of contemporary times, and dare readers to challenge prevailing conceptions, even to render their own cynicism as hope.
The end of one year and the start of another lends itself to reflections and predictions. This year, the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, brings a special sense of foreboding. It’s been popular for more than a few years now to compare the 14 years preceding World War I -- a time of prosperity, globalization, and, at least in Europe, the seeming triumph of civilization over wickedness -- to the first 14 years of the 21st century. At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe drew a direct comparison between 1914 and 2014. The explicit question in this analogy is a terrifying one: is the world careening toward another bloody and futile war?
The ubiquitous red envelope may seem innocent enough, but accommodating a billion or so hongbao exchanges puts great pressure on the Chinese banking system. After experiencing several cash crunches in 2013, the People’s Bank of China very publicly injected 255 billion RMB (42 billion USD) into the system leading up to the holiday. You care, because the inflation this caused means your holiday (cash) bonus was just a touch undervalued.
A jet-black Audi A6 with government plates rolls down the streets of Beijing and stops at a school, mall or restaurant. Out steps a teenage girl, backpack in tow, who surely can't be a government official -- but just might be the daughter of one. Secretly, every pedestrian scoffs and/or hisses.
If last November’s Communist Party announcement about the procurement and use of government cars actually pans out -- eliminating all but a select number (取消一般公车) -- familiar scenes like these may no longer dominate urban landscapes.
In college, I came across the original diaries of two Fuzhou missionaries that had been gathering dust in our library for more than 100 years. I’ve now lived in China for four years, which seems like long enough to revisit the stories of Mary Allen and Carlos Martin.