That Old Chinese Black Magic

China, destined perhaps to be the world’s last Leninist state, was awash with rumors after the Tiananmen killings of June 4, 1989, that the aged leader Deng Xiaoping was about to die. In Beijing sullen survivors of the massacre symbolically broke small bottles (xiaoping) homonymic with the dictator, and residents …

All the Rage in China

For the past six months in China and among Chinese-speaking communities abroad there have been circulating videotapes of a six-part television series, He shang, which was broadcast in the People’s Republic last summer. The series soon became the most talked-about television documentary in recent Chinese history. The writers of the …

Up Against the Great Wall

Returning to China this September, I happened to meet the translator Hsu Kai-yu in the San Francisco airport seeing off a delegation of Chinese authors who had been attending the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Professor Hsu introduced me to Xiao Jun, whose 1934 novel Village in August had so powerfully depicted …

Chinese Ghost Story

Although Maxine Hong Kingston’s China Men is partly about the tense and ambivalent relations between women and men, its main theme is the experience of becoming Chinese-American, a process as filled with risk and ambiguity as the relationship between the sexes. The very title of the novel is calculated with …

The Genius of the Red Chamber

Of all the classic Chinese novels, The Story of the Stone (Shitou ji) is indisputably the greatest masterpiece. It is also—unlike The Water Margin or The Journey to the West, which crystallized popular tales and folklore—an individualistic work of fiction, clearly expressing the artistic vision of a single literary genius[^1] …

The Monkey King

In February, 1966, a secret struggle within the Chinese Communist Party erupted into public conflict. Frustrated by his rivals’ efforts to transform fundamental political issues into mere academic debates, Chairman Mao Zedong decided to mobilize public opinion behind him in order to inspire a popular insurrection against party and state …

Lost China

The Face of China is the result of an exhibition mounted last spring at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It consists of more than 120 beautifully reproduced photographs with historical commentary and captions. Many of these pictures were taken by photographic pioneers like Felice Beato and John Thomson, who had …

The Real China

Six years ago Richard Nixon paid his first visit to the People’s Republic of China. His handshake with Mao Tsetung—the two men profiled by the photographer’s flashbulb against the door of the Chairman’s book-lined study—set the seal on a new era in Sino-American relations.[^1] In 1960, during his televised debates …

The Lower Depths

The Hungarian Sinologist Etienne Balazs once remarked that in imperial China, “History was written by officials for officials.”[^1] The dynastic chronicles were monopolized by emperors and their ministers, by statesmen and literati. The common folk hardly appeared at all in these records, other than as an abstraction: “the peasants,” “the …