Category: China

  • Year of the Pig

    I am a pig. In the colloquial sense but also according to the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese assign a different animal to each year in a cycle that runs for 12 years. Starting 5 February 2019, it’ll be the Year of the Pig. That sounds like a long way off but in China, new year’s…

  • Made in China

    There isn’t much Chinese art in my home. A scroll we bought at a museum in Xi’an. Some Concession Era posters and maps. A cane by youngest son bought at the Great Bazaar in the old walled city of Shanghai. Reproductions, every one, albeit made in China. But isn’t that what it means to be…

  • Lantern Festival

    When I was a kid, my mother would string Chinese lanterns through our Christmas tree. There were maybe a dozen of those little white lights, each one painted and tasseled. I think they blinked, too. I remember sitting in front of that tree celebrating my very own lantern festival. Traditionally, Chinese lanterns are made with…

  • Maps of China

    Two maps of Shanghai hang on the walls of my study. One is an 1875 reproduction. Frenchtown curls around the Chinese City while the International Settlement sprawls on top. The other map is handmade, enlarged so that it covers my bulletin board. I’ve superimposed the names of the past onto the streets of the present.…

  • The Cop and the Showgirl

    The Cop and the Showgirl sounds like a hard-boiled detective novel. Or a screwball comedy with lots of feathered costumes. But this blog post is about Meng Hongwei, the supercop, and Fan Bingbing, the starlet. They are the most famous victims to date of China’s newest form of repression: liuzhi. liuzhi Human Rights Watch calls…

  • Truth or Consequences

    The people of Thebes are dying. They beseech King Oedipus to save them, as he had once freed them from the clutches of the Sphinx. The oracle promises the plague will pass if Thebes finds the murderer of old king Laius. So Oedipus Rex vows: I will begin again; I will find the truth. Last…

  • Sweet Dream

    My dream trip is to go around the world. No schedule. No itinerary other than a general direction: east, west, north or south. I’ll go pretty much anywhere as long as it’s a place I’ve never been before. To me, travel is all about the unknown, whether that’s a culture or a people or a…

  • #ricebunny

    #ricebunny is a homophone, an emoji and a stealth weapon, all in one. Feminists across China use it instead of #metoo. Why? Because of the Chinese censors. the great firewall of china We all know about the army of censors employed by the Chinese government. Some censors are machines that monitor Weibo. That’s the Chinese…

  • Orient Express

    The first time I crossed China by train was 1984. I was on a group trip organized by the Smithsonian Institute, the start of a lifelong obsession with Shanghai. This particular train took our group from Xi’An to Luoyang. Back then, the journey lasted for 8 hours. These days, you can take a bullet train…

  • Propaganda

    The Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre is a tourist attraction. TimeOut calls it one of Shanghai’s best museums and a “must-see”. This is the description from my dog-eared 2008 guide: a stunning collection of original posters from 1949 to 1979 [with] images of ruddy-cheeked Chinese peasants crushing imperialist Uncle Sam underfoot. The museum sits in…