Chinese Literature in Translation

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Pathlight Magazine

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A quarterly literary journal featuring translations of the best contemporary Chinese fiction and poetry.

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Zuo You

Zhou Xiaotian

Mei Yi

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Beijing Book Fair: Literary Salons

For the second year in a row, Paper Republic is working with the Beijing Interational Book Fair to organize a small literary festival around the fair itself. In Beijing, August 20–28. Click here for this year's program.

Read Paper Republic

Between July of 2015 and July of 2016, Paper Republic publishing one free-to-read short translation on the web every week. Click here to see the full list.

Archives: March 2012 most recent posts

Maxine Hong Kingston, Timothy Mo, Amy Tan

At the China Inside Out event in London yesterday, someone asked what readers are looking for? Nicky suggested that they are often looking for something familiar, but a bit different/exotic, adding that readers sometimes seem to prefer the works of Chinese authors who have lived overseas. I wondered... what has become of the authors Maxine Hong Kingston, Timothy Mo and Amy Tan, whose books I enjoyed back in the 1980s? Where are they now?


By Helen Wang, March 30 '12, 10:59a.m.

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What is the best Chinese novel?

Someone (not me) has just put this question on Yahoo. So far, there are 3 replies: Harry Potter in translation; Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong, and Mao's 'Little Red Book'. You have 4 days to voice your opinion.

By Helen Wang, March 30 '12, 10:43a.m.

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Italian Sweep

A bit of good publishing news: the Italian publishing house Sellerio recently announced the purchase of three excellent Chinese novels to publish in Italy:

  • Concession (租界) by Xiao Bai (小白)
  • Tui Na (推拿) by Bi Feiyu (毕飞宇)
  • Running Through Zhongguancun (跑步穿过中关村) by Xu Zechen (徐则臣)

Excellent choices, and Paper Republic is pleased to have played a role, in a sort of back-room, smoke-wreathed, under-the-table kind of way.

By Eric Abrahamsen, March 29 '12, 12:34p.m.

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Language log

Language Log is a group blog on language and lingustics started in the summer of 2003 by Mark Liberman and Geoffrey Pullum.

The wonderful world getting lost and found (lust and fond?) in translation...

By Helen Wang, March 29 '12, 2:34a.m.

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The Cambridge Quarterly - focus on literature

The Cambridge Quarterly has recently published a special issue entitled Cambridge English and China: a Conversation.

This issue focuses on literary criticism, literary discrimination, the teaching of literature and literature's place in a wider culture, and the degree to which these things have been shaped and influenced by relations between Cambridge and Chinese literary academics.


By Helen Wang, March 28 '12, 3:27p.m.

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Children's fiction in China

At last week’s China Fiction Book Club, in London, Nicky brought along two Chinese children’s books that she’s been reviewing: Wu Meizhen’s The Unusual Princess (translated by Petula Parris Huang) and Shen Shixi’s Jackal and Wolf (translated by me).


By Helen Wang, March 27 '12, 7:12p.m.


Translating Cao Naiqian (26 March 2012)

Tonight, in Paris, an evening devoted to Cao Naiqian, with readings and discussion by translators Francoise Bottero, Fu Jie and Annie Bergert-Curien.


By Helen Wang, March 26 '12, 4:45a.m.

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The real fiction about Foxconn

Real facts about Apple’s supplier Foxconn are in short supply (in spite of the best efforts of Mike Daisey and This American Life) since both Chinese and Western reporters are kept out. So perhaps it’s time for fiction to open the factory gates and give us an imaginative look inside. Chinese novelist and poet, Han Dong, was commissioned to write something for the inaugural issue of GQ (China) Magazine in 2010. In response by the first spate of Foxconn suicides, he wrote this tongue-in-cheek fairy-tale/love story. It's all here: the monotonous hard work, the rule-bound life, the manipulative reporter, the profit-driven bosses and their sycophantic sidekicks....


By Nicky Harman, March 25 '12, 3:17p.m.

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Chinese science fiction's subversive politics,0,1961563.story

The genre has largely been forced to move underground, where tales of powerful totalitarian governments and their brainwashed citizenry find an eager audience. By Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2012.

By Helen Wang, March 25 '12, 9:40a.m.

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The Mao Dun Literary Prize Winners 1982-2011

Who are the winners? And which of their works have been translated into English?

I've created a list under Resources for Translators... It took me quite a long time to put this together and it was harder than I thought it would be. I was trying to put together the original Chinese titles and the English titles for those that exist in translation. If you can improve on it, please do so!

By Helen Wang, March 25 '12, 3:15a.m.

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This is the bilingual website (French and English) of Bertrand Mialeret, who also has a regular column in the ‘Chinatown’ section of the French website Rue 89.


By Helen Wang, March 24 '12, 3:13a.m.

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Li Er's new book

Li Er's latest anthology of short fiction The White Raven was published in January.

By Helen Wang, March 23 '12, 6:36a.m.

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Weibo ciphers and argots

Almost overnight, everybody on Sina Weibo becomes part of a “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” reality show – they look for traces of truth in every rumor, and in their hands lies a secret code book...


By Helen Wang, March 23 '12, 6:30a.m.

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What children learn about China

In repsonse to the recent post "Chris Livaccari on Overcoming Misconceptions about China"...

The little that schoolchildren know about China is usually what they learn from school and family (and advertising, TV, commercial stuff etc). Lots of primary school activities relating to China at school are projects about dragons, lanterns and lots of red, so no wonder this is their response.


By Helen Wang, March 23 '12, 3:25a.m.

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China’s Best-Selling Fiction for 2011

By the Editor, Viola tricolor, Gaines Post:

On February 16th, 2012 the Beijing Open Book IT Corporation published its 2011 annual retail book market best-seller rankings for the fiction category. The following are the Top 15 on the rankings as well as an introduction...

By Helen Wang, March 22 '12, 5:21a.m.

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Chinese Literature Today

Chinese Literature Today, a title from award-winning World Literature Today, produced its inaugural issue in the summer of 2010. It is based at the University of Oklahama.


By Helen Wang, March 21 '12, 5:38a.m.

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Crime Fiction Writer Mi Jianxiu

Well, this came as a surprise! I spotted an article about crime fiction in Le Monde diplomatique written by Michel Imbert, then wondered who Monsieur Imbert might be. It turns out he is Mi Jianxiu, the author of five crime fiction novels. His books are listed as written by Mi Jianxiu, translated by Michel Imbert.


By Helen Wang, March 19 '12, 5:32p.m.


Karate chopping bananas

The BBC's new Lingo Show (aimed at pre-schoolers) launched recently, and its first show, with the title Chop Chop, featured Wei, the Mandarin-speaking bug, who karate chops bananas. Whoever thought that one up?

Watch it here...

By Helen Wang, March 18 '12, 12:04p.m.


The Scramble for China

The Scramble for China: Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914 by Robert Bickers
as reviewed this week by P.D. Smith in The Guardian
as discussed (in an interview with the author) by Jeffrey Wasserstrom in The China Beat
and as reviewed by Chris Patten in The Financial Times

Robert Bickers' books are always really well researched and a pleasure to read ... as are the websites he develops - Visualising China is a stunning collection of photographs of China, 1850-1950.

By the way, I know that this is not fiction, but he's such a good writer and he knows his stuff. And the historical photos are a brilliant resource for translators - for example, if you ever need to know what Bubbling Well Road looked like in 1919 you can find it on the website and on the blog.

By Helen Wang, March 17 '12, 4:20a.m.

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Hot New Releases in Chinese Literature (Spring 2012)

Here they are, as recommended by…

  1. Guide to Capturing a Plum Blossom by Sung Po-jen, Red Pine, Lo-Ch’ing
  2. The Changing Room: Selected Poetry of Zhai Yongming by Yongming Zhai, Andrea Lingenfelter (Jintian series)
  3. Skeleton Women by Mingmei Yip
  4. June Fourth Elegies: Poems by Liu Xiaobo, Jeffrey Yang
  5. The White Pony: An Anthology of Chinese Poetry by Robert Payne
  6. Bright Moon, White Clouds: Selected Poems of Li Po by Li Po, J.P. Seaton (Shambhala Library)
  7. The Monkey King’s Amazing Adventures: A Journey to the West in Search of Enlightenment by Timothy Richard, Wu Cheng’en, Daniel Kane
  8. A Phone Call from Dalian: Selected Poems of Han Dong by Dong Han, Nicky Harman (Jintian Series)

By Helen Wang, March 15 '12, 6:05p.m.


Fact or Fiction?

Paul Mason is not the only senior person at the BBC who is writing fiction. Jill McGivering, senior foreign news correspondent, has been writing novels too: The Last Kestrel and Far From My Father's House.

In her review of Mason's Rare Earth Julia Lovell writes 'Reading the passages rich in masochistic sex, you easily imagine Mason joyfully kicking free of BBC fact-checkers...'

This reminded me of something I'd seen somewhere else...


By Helen Wang, March 15 '12, 3:35a.m.

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Rare Earth – novel set in China by Paul Mason (BBC)

Paul Mason is BBC Newsnight Economics editor. His first novel Rare Earth is set in northwest China:

"All of this is imagined, of course. 'I wrote Rare Earth,' Mason says, 'because I got tired of trying to tell the China story as fact – with so much of the political reality hidden from view, it would be easier to tell it as fiction.'"

Read Julia Lovell’s review of Rare Earth in The Guardian


By Helen Wang, March 15 '12, 3:07a.m.

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How to find out if something has been translated already?

Ages ago, when I asked this question, Bruce recommended

MCLC stands for Modern Chinese Literature and Culture

This resource center contains, among other things, bibliographies of mostly English-language materials on modern and contemporary Chinese literature, film, art, music, and culture and is maintained by Kirk A. Denton at the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, The Ohio State University, in conjunction with the journal Modern Chinese Literature and Culture. Send comments and suggestions for entries to The Center also publishes articles (see "Publications") and book reviews (see "Book Reviews"). Clicking the MCLC logo at the top of each page will return you to this page. Join the MCLC Discussion List (see "MCLC List" below). Donate money to support MCLC and the MCLC Resource Center. MCLC is also on Facebook and Twitter.

By Helen Wang, March 14 '12, 8:15p.m.

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Tiananmen Fictions Outside the Square

Tiananmen Fictions Outside the Square: The Chinese Literary Diaspora and the Politics of Global Culture by Belinda Kong

Compelling us to think about how Chinese culture, identity, and politics are being defined in the diaspora, Tiananmen Fictions Outside the Square candidly addresses issues of political exile, historical trauma, global capital, and state biopower…

Read more about this book… on

By Helen Wang, March 14 '12, 6:42p.m.

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China in Ten Words: Yu Hua Pulls Out the Big Guns

Never forget class struggle! The Proletarian just came back from two events at the Bookworm: a conversation with crime novelist Mai Jia (yours truly translating) and Yu Hua's second introduction of his most recent book, China in Ten Words (十个词汇里的中国, supposedly masterfully translated by Alan Barr), featuring Eric as interpreter. The Mai Jia event was passably interesting, but Yu Hua damn near brought the political house down, and so while it may contain elements of mainstream sensationalism, we're going to talk about him.


By Canaan Morse, March 14 '12, 11:10a.m.


Call for Chinese Playwrights

National Theatre of Scotland & National Theatre of China -
First UK season of New Writing from contemporary Chinese playwrights in 2013

An international new writing project is being launched in both China and Scotland on 8th March 2012 with the aim of discovering six new Chinese writers to develop their work with the assistance of National Theatre of Scotland practitioners. Successful playwrights will have their work produced as part of Òran Mór’s A Play, a Pie and a Pint Chinese Season in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2013.

For more information and application forms

By Helen Wang, March 14 '12, 3:13a.m.

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Watch Your Language?

From The International Herald Tribune:

Watch Your Language! (In China, They Really Do) by Mark McDonald

Scaling the wall. Buying soy sauce. Fifty cents. A mild collision. May 35. Mayor Lymph. River crab. - These words — mild, silly, inoffensive — are part of the subversive lexicon being used by Chinese bloggers to ridicule the government, poke fun at Communist Party leaders and circumvent the heavily censored Internet in China. A popular blog that tracks online political vocabulary, China Digital Times, calls them part of the “resistance discourse” on the mainland.


By Helen Wang, March 13 '12, 7:40p.m.

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Working Titles: Chinese Novels About Work

From The New Yorker:

Working Titles: What do the most industrious people on earth read for fun? by Leslie T. Chang

What do the Chinese read in their spare time? Novels about work. The seventh volume of “The Diary of Government Official Hou Weidong” was published in July, with an initial print run of two hundred thousand copies. Zhichang xiaoshuo, or workplace novels, have topped best-seller lists in recent years. “Du Lala’s Promotion Diary,” by a corporate executive writing under the pen name Li Ke, is the story of a young woman who rises from secretary to human-resources manager at a Fortune 500 company. The books have sold five million copies...


By Helen Wang, March 13 '12, 7:06p.m.

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Don’t miss Brian Holton, Yang Lian, W.N. Herbert, Nicky Harman and David Constantine

"Bringing Chinese poetry to the UK" Literary Translation Centre, London Bookfair, 18 April.

The blurb for this session asks "How important are promotional events or readings, if at all?" If you've ever heard Brian Holton, W.N. Herbert and Yang Lian you will know the answer to this question. If you haven't, see the links below. I single out these three, because I have seen and heard them perform live and it's just not the same as reading the words on the page!


By Helen Wang, March 12 '12, 5:35p.m.

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Paper Republic Challenge

In a rash moment, I offered to post a new entry on Paper Republic every day until the London Bookfair. Now Nicky suggests that I come clean and say who I am and why I’m doing this!


By Helen Wang, March 12 '12, 2:12a.m.


Editing Chinese fiction

Kate Griffin has just written a piece about editing Chinese fiction for the Writers' Centre, Norwich:

“On the way back from Australia in December 2011, I spent a week in Shanghai and Beijing talking to Chinese writers, translators and editors about the editing culture in China (or lack thereof) and its impact on translation, and about support for writers. After a few days of intense conversation I gained a fascinating glimpse into the writing life in China today. All those I spoke with agreed that there is both a serious need for more professional editing as well as a shortage of experienced editors within the Chinese publishing industry…” Read the full article here


By Helen Wang, March 11 '12, 6:31p.m.

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Yan Lianke and Cindy Carter nominated for Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012

The judges this year are Boyd Tonkin (The Independent), Hephzibah Anderson (writer and critic), Nick Barley (Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival), Professor Jon Cook (Director of Creative and Performing arts, University of East Anglia) and Xiaolu Guo (who was shortlisted for this prize for her novel Village of Stone). There are fifteen on the long list. The winner will be announced at the London Bookfair on Monday 16 March [sorry, this should be Monday 16 April]. See the article in The Independent (


By Helen Wang, March 11 '12, 4:50a.m.

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Podcasts of Chinese stories and poems

The recent podcasts of Han Dong’s A Loud Noise (poem) and Deer Park (short story) prompted me to look for more. I found a few things – see below. It would be great to know if there are any good websites out there with podcasts of stories read in Chinese?


By Helen Wang, March 9 '12, 3:39p.m.


Shanghai International Literary Festival, 2-18 March 2012

M-on-the-Bund 米氏西餐厅

Speakers include:
- Geremie R. Barmé: West Lake: A World Made by Literature and Politics
- Ouyang Yu: Speaking English, Thinking Chinese and Living Australian. Living and writing between different worlds and languages
- Shan Sa: The Art of Literature. With the artist, poet and novelist (The Girl Who Played Go)
- Xu Xi: Creative “I”: A Writing Workshop in Narrative Prose (creative non-fiction & fiction)
- Amy Tan: On Shanghai, Life & Writing
- Xu Xi, Ovidia Yu: The New Asian Character. Addressing the Asian transnational experience. Moderated by Nury Vittach
- Li Er: The Magician of 1919. One of China’s most influential contemporary fiction writers on dreams, imagination and history
- Ovidia Yu: Chinese Mouth, English Words. The author of Chinese New Year Murders on why it feels strange yet natural to write in English about being Chinese

The full programme…

By Helen Wang, March 8 '12, 4:23p.m.

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Gao Xingjian’s "Of Mountains and Seas: A Tragicomedy of Gods" at the Hong Kong Festival

The Hong Kong Festival has commissioned Gao Xingjian and theatre director Li Zhaohua [LIN Zhaohua, thanks btr] to create a new production of Gao’s "Of Mountains and Seas: A Tragicomedy of Gods" based on the Shanhaijing (山海经). It is the first time they have worked together in 30 years. In the 1980s Lin produced three of Gao’s plays: Absolute Signal, Bus Stop and Wild Man. For more info...

By Helen Wang, March 7 '12, 6:07p.m.

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The February Paper Republic Newspaper, or, Online Literature about Online Literature

The latest edition of Paper Republic's industry newsletter is done and making its way into subscribers' inboxes right now. Included in this edition are notes on the Cambridge China library, an update on the Writer's Alliance lawsuit, a toothy scad of new book descriptions and a very comprehensive overview of the state of online literature in the Pee Are See.

If you sign up in the next few hours here, you can still get in on the action.

By Canaan Morse, March 5 '12, 6:30a.m.

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