Perry Link is Chancellorial Chair at the University of California at Riverside. His recent books include An Anatomy of Chinese: Rhythm, Metaphor, Politics and a translation of the memoirs of the Chinese astrophysicist Fang Lizhi, entitled The Most Wanted Man in China: My Journey from Scientist to Enemy of the State. (November 2016)


A Magician of Chinese Poetry

Eliot Weinberger, New York City, circa 2000

19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei (with More Ways)

by Eliot Weinberger, with an afterword by Octavio Paz

The Ghosts of Birds

by Eliot Weinberger
Some people, and I am one, feel that Tang (618–907 CE) poetry is the finest literary art they have ever read. But does one need to learn Chinese in order to have such a view, or can classical Chinese poetry be adequately translated? In 1987 Eliot Weinberger, who has written …

If Mao Had Been a Hermit

Cai Liang: Sons of Poor Peasants, 1964

The Big Red Book of Modern Chinese Literature: Writings from the Mainland in the Long Twentieth Century

edited by Yunte Huang

Dragon in Ambush: The Art of War in the Poems of Mao Zedong

by Jeremy Ingalls, compiled and edited by Allen Wittenborn
At the annual meeting of BookExpo America that was held in New York last May, to which most leading US publishers sent representatives, state-sponsored Chinese publishers were named “guests of honor.” Commercially speaking, this made sense. China’s book industry, with sales now reported at $8 billion annually, is the second-largest …

China: Novelists Against the State

Ma Liang: Postman, No. 1, 2008; from Jiang Jiehong’s An Era Without Memories: Chinese Contemporary Photography on Urban Transformation, published recently by Thames and Hudson

Death Fugue

by Sheng Keyi, translated from the Chinese by Shelly Bryant

A Map of Betrayal

by Ha Jin
Can writers help an injured society to heal? Did Ōe Kenzaburō, who traveled to Hiroshima in 1963 to interview survivors of the dropping of the atomic bomb on that city eighteen years earlier, and then published a moving book called Hiroshima Notes, help his compatriots to recover? Did Primo Levi, …

The Wonderfully Elusive Chinese Novel

‘Pan Jinlian (Golden Lotus) Humiliated for Being Intimate with a Servant’; from Illustrations for the Novel Jin Ping Mei, or The Plum in the Golden Vase, seventeenth century

The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P’ing Mei, Vol. 5: The Dissolution

by an unknown author, translated from the Chinese by David Tod Roy
During the four hundred years since it appeared, Chin P’ing Mei has been known in China as an “obscene book.” Governments have banned it and parents have hidden it from children. One widespread anecdote—a false story, but a true indication of the book’s reputation—is that it originated as a murder weapon: the author applied poison to the corners of the pages and presented it to an enemy, knowing that his foe would need to wet his fingertips with saliva in order to keep turning the pages fast enough.


The Mind: Less Puzzling in Chinese?

Edward Ruscha's I Can't Not Do That at Sotheby's, London, England, March 4, 2015

Are people who think in Indo-European languages better off because their languages lead them to a clear conceptualization of an important puzzle? Or are thinkers in Chinese better off because their language gets them through life equally well without the puzzle?

Mao’s China: The Language Game

The Farm Boy, a Chinese Communist propaganda woodcut, circa 1950

It can be embarrassing for a China scholar like me to read Eileen Chang’s pellucid prose, written more than sixty years ago, on the early years of the People’s Republic of China. How many cudgels to the head did I need to catch up to where Chang was in 1954 in understanding how things worked, beneath the jargon? In Naked Earth, Chang shows how a Communist land-reform campaign descends on a village like a giant cookie cutter. Eventually the farmers, like everyone else, figure out that their personal interests depend on correct verbal performance.

China: Inventing a Crime

Pu Zhiqiang, speaking to the press under close watch by plainclothes policemen, not pictured, at his office in Beijing,  June 1, 2009

After nearly eight months in detention, Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang has been informed that formal charges are now being considered against him. The crime? “Picking fights and causing trouble” on his microblog. It may seem odd to detain someone first and then go look for the reasons for the detention, but this is a well-established pattern.