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

Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps 1
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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.”

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.

Dispatches From Xinjiang: The “Real” Hong Qi, Bob Dylan, And Ürümchi

Hong Qi
Hong Qi discovered Bob Dylan in 2001. That was the year he heard "The Answer Is Blowing in the Wind" for the first time. Speaking in an interview a decade later, he said he liked Dylan's confidence -- the feeling he evoked with his broken voice. Although Hong Qi says his English is "very bad," the imagery in Dylan's lyrics touched him deeply. Over the past decade, he says he has become a Dylan fan. “I like all his songs, his fascination with all images. I respect his political stance. My songwriting is influenced by him.”

Red Bean Paste: Flash Fiction

Red Bean Paste
Perhaps you've heard, but we're organizing a community flash fiction event on Sunday, July 13 at Great Leap Brewing's Original No. 6 location, and we're seeking writers who want to read their work. All you have to do is submit an original piece of fiction between 500-700 words on the theme of "Beijing" to fiction@beijingcream.com before July 4; we'll pick at least five people to read. How easy is this? Let us demonstrate.

How China Was Betrayed At Versailles: An Interview With Paul French

Betrayal in Paris, by Paul French
In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of World War I, Penguin China has released a seven-book series on China-focused Great War history. It tabbed Paul French, author of the popular and award-winning Midnight in Peking: The Murder That Haunted the Last Days of Old China, to contribute Betrayal in Paris: How the Treaty of Versailles Led to China’s Long Revolution.... I sat down with the author (over Skype) to talk about the "betrayal," Japan's role in it, and how it might have been tipped by -- of all things -- America's Jim Crow laws.

Lost And Found: Tiananmen Square Photos Discovered 25 Years Later

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There are those moments when you feel the weight of history pressing on you -- that awestruck realization that a great moment happened here, and now you're bearing witness. Maybe you've ducked into a tower while on the Great Wall. Or you're standing just inside the Lincoln Memorial. The thing is, I never expected to have that feeling while standing in my basement, squinting up at an unidentified roll of film. But that's what happened to me last Sunday, as I was searching through an old shoebox from my parents labeled "photos."

The People’s Republic Of Amnesia, Reviewed

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Today marks the 25th anniversary of a turning point in modern Chinese history. In the run-up, around 20 key intellectuals and campaigners have been been detained, and security around Beijing heightened. And who knows how many warnings and threats have been issued to the family and friends of conscience-driven citizens across the country.

A Project Worth Your Attention: Ivan Xu’s Ride For Ultimate Frisbee And Charity

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In a recent discussion held as part of the inaugural Lean In Beijing Mentorship Event, a college student in my circle noted, “In China, it’s so difficult to stand out sometimes. We all pursue the same goals, we all do the same things, we all study hard and we all have similar experiences and ideas. In order for us to stand out and be unique, I really think we have to be unafraid to be different.” It’s true, especially in a country of 1.4 billion people. But it’s not common to see young Chinese doing what's necessary to stand out: pushing themselves to their limits and going beyond their comfort zone. Which is why Ivan Xu's project, the Ultimate Ride, is interesting:

Why Is The Beijinger So Callous Toward Sanlitun Drug Dealers?

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Because it's politically expedient to do so -- proven by Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, etc., to work -- Beijing conducted a drug investigation that recently culminated in a bust of street-level slingers in Sanlitun. This news doesn't affect the vast majority of Beijingers, foreign or local, which is to say, there's little reason any of us should cheer. If anything, we should cringe, knowing these "crackdowns" almost always disproportionately affect those on society's fringes who are most powerless to defend themselves.