Dispatches From Xinjiang: The Story Of The Production And Construction Corps

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A rifle and sword tied with a red flag over a meter of Gobi sand welcomes visitors to the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Museum in the city of Shihezi, 136 kilometers northwest of Ürümchi. This museum, filled with patched and dented artifacts and hundreds of large-scale historical photos, is the premier monument to the Han experience of the recent past in Xinjiang. It shows us the narrative of experience necessary to understand the history of the people who self-identify as “constructors” (jianshezhe) of Xinjiang. Read more »

Deep Trouble: On The Set Of China’s Most Expensive, Possibly Worst Film (Part 2)

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Editor’s note: Empires of the Deep, with a budget exceeding $100 million, was supposed to be China's Avatar. But as our correspondent, Dale Irons, found out on set, this extravagant 3-D epic was plagued from the beginning by incompetence and misfortune -- to say nothing of dangerous working conditions, a rampaging horse, and the tide. Five years after production began, there's little reason to believe this film will ever see a big-screen release. This is Part 2 of Dale's two-part diary from the set of what might be China's most expensive -- and worst -- movie ever. --RFH Read more »

Deep Trouble: On The Set Of China’s Most Expensive, Possibly Worst Film (Part 1)

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Editor’s note: Empires of the Deep is a much-delayed 3-D epic film that seems destined to disappear forever. Neither the film -- known rather generously as "China’s Avatar," starring Bond girl Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) -- nor the full story may ever be officially released. It’s now been five years -- an appropriate anniversary -- so, tired of waiting, we here publish the “production diaries” of a young Australian-British man, Dale Irons, who found himself back in 2009, for various reasons, on the set of allegedly the most expensive Chinese film ever made -- and possibly the worst. Big words? Read for yourself. --RFH Read more »

Naked Man Passes Out Spread-Eagle On Sanlitun Wicker Seat

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Occasionally a man needs to sleep off the heat of a midsummer afternoon. Occasionally a man needs to anchor himself under an opulent shade and forget the perturbations of his life trajectory, which might pull him into the vortex that is the world's collective agitation. Occasionally a man needs to do this while naked, save for one sock. This via an anonymous tipster: Read more »

Things That Taste Like Purple: A Baijiu Poem, Illustrated

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Last September, when Literary Death Match swung through Beijing, I performed a poem called Things That Taste Like Purple about the devilry of baijiu, a.k.a. sorghum liquor (dust of the attic, wine of the gutter... with a long finish into the fetor of fragrance). Unbeknownst to me, one of my friends in the audience, the artistic and talented Amy Sands, would go on to create a series of watercolors to accompany my words. The video, which she shot, I post here with deepest gratitude and humility. Read more »

The US Embassy In Beijing As Stage For Chinese Protests

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The people huddled at the front gates of the US Embassy in Beijing last November were not there to protest the flight of US bombers over contested islands in the East China Sea. Instead, they chanted slogans such as, “Beat down corruption!” and, “The Communist party doesn’t care about the common people!” Plainclothes police officers stood nearby, conspicuous in matching black and gray sweatpants. Read more »

Dispatches From Xinjiang: Liu Xiaodong’s “Hotan Project” And The Xinjiang Biennale

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In 2012 Liu Xiaodong was named the “most socially aware figure of the year” by Art Gallery magazine. He had just completed his Hotan Project in the deep south of Xinjiang. Utilizing his famously “plein air” method, Liu set up his giant life-sized canvases in the middle of a Hotan river floodplain and lived with Uyghur jade pickers. He spent the summer with them in the dust and the heat; in shelters made of stones and earth. In Art Gallery’s assessment of his project, he attempted to capture “the rhythms of people’s lives and the status of their survival.” Read more »

Italy’s World Cup Exit Leaves CCTV Commentator Sobbing On Set

Liu Yixi cries after Italy loss
We're not sure whether Liu Yuxi is a certified reporter, but she's been assigned to CCTV studio commentary for this year's World Cup, and judging by her Sina Weibo account, she appears to be a huge homer for front-runners and generally popular teams such as Portugal, Brazil, and Argentina (Messi, specifically). But Ms. Liu saves her true passion for Italy, which we know because -- donning the Azzurri blue -- she broke down and sobbed on live television tonight following Italy's 1-0 loss to Uruguay. Read more »

A Taxi Driver, Eunuch, Gay Love Affair, Etc… “The Incarnations,” Reviewed

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Growing up, Driver Wang’s father thought him a momma’s boy. “Send him to play outside more,” he complained. “The kid needs to get into some scrapes.” Little did Wang Hu know, his son had been through six lifetimes of scrapes. He’d been castrated by a sorceress, strangled by a lover, beaten by roving pirates, and tortured by Red Guards. Yet in his current life as a Beijing taxi driver, Driver Wang is unaware of this -- until a mysterious letter falls from his taxi’s visor one day. Read more »