Category: China

  • The Black Hands

    Hong Kong is entering its 9th consecutive week of protests against Carrie Lam. She is the Beijing figurehead appointed to govern Hong Kong. Her proposed extradition law sparked the protests. It would have allowed criminal suspects arrested on Hong Kong soil to be sent to China for prosecution. Hong Kongers believe — and rightly so…

  • The Devil’s Bargain

    Deng Xiaoping was a little guy, 5 feet tall though one observer said that was surely an exaggeration. Purged twice in the course of his long political career, you could say Deng is a survivor. The first purge was in 1966, at the start of the Cultural Revolution, for being a capitalist roader. He spent…

  • Banned Books

    When my Dad was a kid, he loved The Water Margin. It’s racy. It’s gory. His teachers probably banned the book from the classroom. The Water Margin stars a band of 108 bandits who wreak havoc in what is now the province of Shandong. Three of the bandits are women. They are as morally reprehensible…

  • Millet

    For Christmas one year, Son No. 1 gave me a copy of Cuisine & Empire: Cooking in World History by Rachel Laudan. Food often says a lot about the people who eat it and, by extension, the sort of society they create. This book opened my eyes to the role of millet in the Chinese…

  • A Boot in the Face

    On Sunday afternoon, 2 June 2019, the Asian Cha blog went dark. Owner Tammy Ho Lai-Ming panicked. This was the message that appeared. When the site went dark, Ho was busy uploading texts for a reading she was to moderate. There were less than 12 hours to go. She couldn’t delay the event. Its purpose…

  • Dead Men Walking

    Immortal Xia was a corpse dresser. She used to ply her trade around the coal mines near Jincheng. Whenever a mining accident occurred, Immortal Xia would appear dressed in strange robes like a witch. Some locals called her Queen Mother Guanyin, after the Buddhist bodhisattva of mercy and compassion. Immortal Xia didn’t mind caring for…

  • Cultural Revolution 2.0

    This month marks an ominous anniversary. On 16 May 1966, Mao Zedong unleashed the Cultural Revolution. For 10 long years, China was consumed by a political and social chaos, the complexity and brutality of which continues to astound historians today. How could such a thing happen? The entire country was caught by surprise. At the…

  • Fever & Famine

    I knew Dad had enlisted as a soldier in the Chinese Army during the 2nd Sino-Japanese War. He told me how very lucky he had been to escape seeing any combat. On my last visit to Los Angeles, he told my kids much more about his war experience. That his unit in Kunming was somehow…

  • Fun in the Dark

    Every year, CinemAsia puts on a film festival. For five days, you can take refuge inside an art house theater and binge on Asian films. This year, the festival featured movies from 14 countries and regions. Why? Here’s their mission statement. CinemAsia weaves Asian stories that help to enhance Asian visibility in culture and media,…

  • Uncle Xi Wants You!

    In the 1780s, Samuel Bentham got a job supervising workers on a Russian estate. To keep his eye on all of them, he made them sit in a circle with himself in the center. His brother, Jeremy, stole that idea and called it a panopticon. a central tower surrounded by cells. In the central tower…