The Tree Rises Again
By Eric Abrahamsen, published
Last week, a friend called me up and told me to show up at such-and-such a place, at such-and-such a time, and to have my nice pants on. It had something to do with the Banyan Tree, one of China's oldest literary websites, but beyond that I frankly didn't catch the drift.
So this morning I went, and here's the deal: The Shanda Company, an online literature/media company which is eating up everything in sight, recently bought the Banyan Tree (榕树下, róngshùxià). The Banyan Tree was started in 1997, early days for the Chinese internet, and in the late nineties and early oughts it was the place to go for Chinese literature online. It's been pretty quiet for the past five years, but as part of Shanda's campaign to own mostly everything (someone offhandedly mentioned purchasing Paper Republic over lunch, good lord), they bought the Banyan Tree and are bringing it back to life. It was a large and loud event, attended by dignitaries such as Wang Meng, Ai Weiwei, Hong Ying, Feng Tang, Xu Xing, Lu Jinbo and a host of other half-writer, half-journalist chimeras.
As it turns out the friend who called me, whom I've always known as a highly-intelligent, deeply cynical journalist and inveterate rager against many machines, is the new head editor of the Banyan Tree. As soon as I've figured what the hell he's up to I will post in more detail, but I wanted to get this up here now, because when you go look at the Banyan Tree website (http://www.rongshuxia.com/) there's just a great big countdown clock to midnight tonight (Beijing time), at which point presumably something magical will happen. So here's this for now, watch the clock, and we'll get you something a little meatier when the fireworks are over.
EDIT: Well it wasn't immediately magical; it looks like most other online literary sites. We're on vacation at the moment, and will have a talk with the editors when we get back in early January. More then!