Ian Johnson reports from Beijing and Berlin. His new book, The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao, will be published in April. His essay in the January 19, 2017 issue was supported by a travel grant from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. (January 2017)
The Killing Wind: A Chinese County’s Descent into Madness During the Cultural Revolution
by Tan Hecheng, translated from the Chinese by Stacy Mosher and Guo Jian
In August and September 1967, more than nine thousand people were murdered in and around China’s Dao County. Some were clubbed to death and thrown into limestone pits, others tossed into cellars full of sweet potatoes where they suffocated. But most victims were simply bludgeoned to death with agricultural tools—hoes, carrying poles, and rakes—and then tossed into the waterways that flow into the Xiao River.
by Liu Xia, translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern, with a foreword by Herta Müller and an introduction by Liao Yiwu
Steel Gate to Freedom: The Life of Liu Xiaobo
by Yu Jie, translated from the Chinese by H.C. Hsu
Day and night, I copy the Diamond Sutra of Prajnaparamita. My writing looks more and more square. It proves that I have not gone entirely insane, but the tree I drew hasn’t grown a leaf. —from “I Copy the Scriptures,” in Empty Chairs …
Hu Fayun: I do not take as much direct action as some. Ever since being a sent-down youth in the Cultural Revolution, I’ve feared hardship and fatigue. But in important actions, if I feel I should express myself, then I try to pick up my courage.
Ai Xiaoming: I believed in the goodness of human nature. I believe this is naïve. Actually, human nature in this totalitarian society has become very vile. This power has changed Chinese people’s psychological makeup. Most people, very many people, are really terrible; they’re afraid of losing things.
Every Olympics seems to bring with it a doping scandal, and the Rio games are no different. The games have long been a proxy for national glory. Over the past decades, countries from Australia to united Germany have poured money into sports to improve their rankings on medal tables. But what we are seeing now is rules-twisting by national governments that mirrors a broader turn toward flouting international law.
The exiled Chinese author Liao Yiwu, the International Literaturfestival Berlin, and a group of prominent international authors are jointly appealing for an international reading in support of the imprisoned Chinese author Li Bifeng.