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Tag: Chinese history

A story about the cultural revolution

The Bund, view from Pudong
The Bund, view from Pudong

My cousin in Shanghai was two years old when his mother, an architect, was taken away by the Red Guards, a student-led paramilitary movement, during the Cultural Revolution. All he remembers is his mother suddenly disappearing; his father, a doctor, had also gone missing days earlier. For what felt like an eternal darkness, he and his elder brother, who would have been five or six around that time, were left alone in their flat. He doesn’t remember how they survived those days. Maybe neighbours came by and brought food. Maybe an extended relative checked in on them. After what felt like forever, his mother returned, but she was a completely different woman.

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Criticising China

Who has the right to criticise China?

We need to unpack this question, because there is a power relationship deeply embedded in that question: that the West has developed political, economic and social systems that are superior, ergo they are in a position to instruct less developed societies still emerging from the constraints of feudalism, ergo they have earned the right to criticise China.

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Tiananmen and my father 天安门与我父亲

My first memories of Tiananmen were formed in London: I was six, it was June, 1989, we were in a small hotel room, and it was my first family vacation. My father was in London for work, we had tagged along. I climbed a tree for the first time at a family friend’s orchard; I was so shocked to discover apples and oranges grew on trees. Then: one morning, my father watching the news. His face, creased with worry. I crawled out of bed and peeked at the television:

People. There were so many people on the screen they filled it completely. Flags, banners, people shouting, people angry. My father, his face creased with worry.

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Translating Yu Hua 翻译余华

One result of writing not being my main career: I’ve written lots of things over the past two decades and frankly they’re all over the place. Here is an interview I did with my professor and mentor at UC Berkeley, Professor Andrew Jones, who happens to be 余华 Yu Hua’s translator. Yu Hua did a sabbatical at Berkeley while I was there, and Professor Jones arranged for him to meet us and conduct a series of readings. It was written more than 15 years ago (!!) and published in a Chinese literary magazine in 2003 (I searched high and low but couldn’t find a copy of the magazine…)

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