Bruce Humes 徐穆实

worldcat | academia |


Native English speaker who has hosted his own blog since 2009.

He specializes in two niches: translating Chinese fiction by non-Han authors into English, and translating books about ancient Silk Road culture and history. He also offers consulting services to authors, translators and literary agents keen to market foreign language rights to publishers.

As of 2021, he has been commissioned to bring the autobiography of the tenacious female archaeologist Fan Jinshi -- who lived and worked in the desert for half a century in order to preserve and document the Buddhist-themed Mogao Caves of Dunhuang -- to an English-speaking readership. Entitled 我心归处在敦煌, its working title in English is Daughter of Dunhuang.

Newly created posts include translated excerpts from Guo Xuebo's novel Moŋgoliya and Alat Asem's novel Confessions of a Jade Lord (时间悄悄的嘴脸), and a bilingual "mini-database" of African literature in Chinese translation 非洲文学中文译本.

Published book-length, Chinese-to-English translations: The Last Quarter of the Moon (额尔古纳河右岸,迟子建著), by Chi Zijian; Shanghai Baby (上海宝贝,卫慧著), by Wei Hui; Chinese Dress & Adornment through the Ages (中国历代服饰艺术,高春明著) by Gao Chunming; and three co-translations: Confessions of a Jade Lord (时间悄悄的嘴脸); The Most Beautiful Chinese Classical Paintings (最美的中国古典绘画); and The China Tea Book (中国茶书).


Read Now: Around the Web

The Mongol Would-be Self-immolator by Guo Xuebo The Asia-Pacific Journal
Urho (excerpt) by Hong Ke Ethnic ChinaLit
The Embassy’s China Bride by Jiu Dan Ethnic ChinaLit

Book Publications

The Last Quarter of the Moon cover

The Last Quarter of the Moon

Chi Zijian

April 03, 2012

All Translations

Short story (4)

Novel (2)

Excerpt (5)

The Paper Republic database exists for reference purposes only. We are not the publisher of these works, are not responsible for their contents, and cannot provide digital or paper copies.


Japanese Colonial Era Dorms Designated "Taiwan Literature Base"

By Bruce Humes, January 20, '21

A group of historical buildings in Taipei has been given a new lease on life and rechristened as the Taiwan Literature Base (台灣文學基地).

One of its functions: Writers in Residence Project. Hopefully, this will eventually evolve into one where translators can meet up with local authors.

Comprised of seven Japanese-style edifices, the 1,157-square meter complex used to house dormitories for Japanese officials in the colonial period before the facility was repurposed to become a hub for literary exchanges.

Taiwan generally refers to the 1895-1945 period of rule by the Japanese as 日治台灣, while on the mainland, the same period in Taiwan is often referred to using the adjective 日據.

Click here for a tour in English.

The project appears to be co-sponsored by Tainan's Literature Museum (台灣文學館), where I happily worked on translation projects 5-6 days weekly during 2019-20.

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Q&A with Tibetan Writer and Cineast Pema Tseden

By Bruce Humes, December 13, '20

In this interview, Pema Tseden --- who writes in both Tibetan and Chinese, and is the first director to shoot a major film entirely in Tibetan --- calls for wider distribution of films that focus on China's ethnic minorites.

"Art film enriches film culture and creativity. If we don’t support it, we’ll only see movies of the same type. A vicious circle will form, wherein audiences think this is what movies are like and cinemas think audiences only accept a certain kind of movie. Ultimately, that will harm the whole industry — creators won’t persist if the market is always like this."


Nov 24 Webinar: "Uyghur Poetry in Translation"

By Bruce Humes, November 20, '20

"Uyghur Poetry in Translation" live online November 24, 2020 (12:00-13:15, Eastern Time, US)

Opening remarks: Mark Elliott, Harvard’s Vice Provost of International Affairs
Poets performing: Tahir Hamut and Rena Yashar Aybal
Translators to speak: Dr Gülnar Eziz (Harvard Preceptor in Uyghur and Chaghatay), and Dr. Joshua Freeman (Princeton’s Department of East Asian Studies)

Register here

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Nov 13: Chinese LIterature across the Borderlands

By Bruce Humes, November 7, '20

This workshop aims to explore the shifting definitions of the borderland as a territorial gateway, a geopolitical space, a contact zone, a liminal terrain, and an imaginary portal. To this end, participants will explore the intersection of ethnic, linguistic, cultural, and ecological dynamics that inform the cartography of the Chinese borderland, from the Northeast to the Southwest, from Inner Mongolia to Tibet, and from Nanyang to Nanmei.

For workshop speakers/themes, click here.

To register and receive a Zoom link, please click here.


Yanshuo Zhang (University of Michigan): Shen Congwen’s Idealized Ethnic: Borderland, Ethnicity, and the Spiritual Enchantments of a Modern Master

Christopher Peacock (Columbia University): “Unsavory Characters: Forced Bilingualism in the Tibetan Fiction of Tsering Döndrup”

Mark Bender (Ohio State University): “Treading Poetic Borders in Southwest China and Northeast India”

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Diaspora lit: A review of K-Ming Chang's 'Bestiary'

By Bruce Humes, October 1, '20

At the same time that it lays bare the ground that shaped this particular family, “Bestiary” also paints a portrait of Taiwanese identity, poking at the various histories and horrors that built the island and its citizens. A place where “Ma doesn’t measure her life in years but in languages: Tayal and Yilan Creole in the indigo fields where she was born … Japanese during the war, Mandarin in the Nationalist-eaten city. Each language worn outside her body, clasped around her throat like a collar.” From pirates to soldiers and those who came before, the men who claimed Taiwan and the women who sustained it, the country’s evolution is as much a part of the book’s collection of beasts as is the tiger spirit.


Xi’an Sep 20 Live Events: Aku Wuwu, Xi Chuan & Jia Pingwa

By Bruce Humes, September 17, '20

To celebrate its opening in Xi’an, Fangsuo Xi’an Creative Union (西安方所创联中心) will host a month or so of cultural forums/salons during mid-September to mid-October.

Poets Aku Wuwu (阿库乌雾) and Xichuan (西川) will appear together Sunday Sep 19 at 15:00-15:30, and Aku Wuwu will recite his long poem 《火颂》in the Yi language. Renowned Shaanxi novelist Jia Pingwa (贾平凹) is scheduled for some time during 16:00-18:00, if I interpret the poster correctly . . .

Venue: 西安市 莲湖区 星火路 22 老城根 G-Park 商业街区 1-F 68 商铺

For more on all the events during Sep-Oct info in Chinese visit here.

If that link downloads too slowly, you can try this one, but both are slow due to heavy load of graphics.

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Contemporary Fiction from China: Must it Be Penned in Mandarin?

By Bruce Humes, August 1, '20

A few years back I posted a piece entitled A Resounding “Yes” to Mother-tongue Literature — but for Whom and about What?

(Caption: Tempête rouge --- an example of a novel translated direct from the Tibetan)

In this context, “mother-tongue” referred to indigenous languages other than Mandarin. This topic may be of interest to Paper Republicans who perceive “Chinese literature” as encompassing writing in Tibetan, Uyghur, Mongolian, as well as oral literature (口述文学) for peoples who do not have a script widely used in the PRC, such as the Evenki, Zhuang and many others.

In my essay, I posed this question: Who is going to write in their native language — or read what is written for that matter — if they cannot receive a decent education in it?

For full text --- including update on China's "bilingual" education policy in Inner Mongolia, Tibetan regions and Xinjiang -- visit here.

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Travelogue: A Poetic Journey through Western China

By Bruce Humes, May 17, '20

Anna Sherman’s travelogue, in which she traverses parts of the Silk Road while retracing Xuanzang’s pilgrimage from Chang’an to India, has become a major talking point on Twitter since it was published May 11.

The essay, with stunning photographs of desert sites in Gansu and Xinjiang, cites a host of Chinese poets such as Du Fu, Bai Juyi, Wang Wei and Yu Xin, as well as fiction writers Tung Yueh (The Tower of Myriad Mirrors), Pu Songling (Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio), and the Buddhist pilgrim Xuanzang (The Great Tang Dynasty Record of the Western Regions). Indeed, her piece is entitled A Poetic Journey through Western China.

A major point of controversy: Where are the Uyghurs of today, or yesteryear for that matter? In fact, they were patrons of the famous Dunhuang Grottoes whose murals often feature Uyghur culture and personages, for they were Buddhists (and practioners of Zoroastrianism and Manicheanism) before they converted to Sufi-inspired Sunni Islam.

The word “Uighur” occurs just 8 times in the 5,800-word piece, and they are described as a “minority ethnic group.” The only major reference to them is this: (Today, Xinjiang is the site of hundreds of mass internment camps, where more than a million individuals from China’s Uighur and other Indigenous ethnic groups are being held indefinitely without trial by the government.)

With the exception of Li Bai, Sherman’s main literary reference points appear to be Han writers who have been frequently (and somewhat famously) translated into English. Is this narrative simply the result of her preferences? Due to a lack of translations from other languages along the Silk Road? Or?

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Excuse Me: Confucius said . . . what?

By Bruce Humes, April 23, '20

Ever notice that enigmatic renditions of Chinese text find their way into current China-related news?

In Missing Wuhan citizen journalist reappears after two months, one finds this closing quote:

The human heart is unpredictable, restless. Its affinity to what is right is small. Be discriminating, be uniform so that you may hold fast

Please advise: To which "Confucian" text is the author referring, and is there a better translation out there somewhere?


Yoko Tawada: On Writing in a Foreign Language -- as a Woman

By Bruce Humes, April 15, '20

A number of emigrée authors are consciously choosing to write in a foreign language, rather than their mother tongue. For instance, among Chinese from the PRC, there are Xiaolu Guo in the UK and Yiyun Li in the US. Some because they believe -- rightly, I'd say -- that this will help shorten overall time-to-market. But others for different reasons.

I found this conversation between two writers, Japan's Yoko Tawada, now living in Germany and writing in German, and Madeleine Thien, daughter of a Chinese couple who moved to Canada, to be interesting from this perspective:

Madeleine Thien: When your narrator makes the leap onto the train, it’s a big leap. Maybe, in some ways, before, women in literature, when they make a big change, it must be a leap. It’s a somersault. The forces are so intense that you have to have so much propulsion to risk another life. Whereas maybe men can sort of blur from one position to another, or there’s more shading from self to self. I have the feeling that women, for a long time, if they wanted to make that jump, it was a deep cut. A break.

Yoko Tawada: Yes, that’s right. Today my friends, my male friends, do not want to go abroad or live in Europe. For a certain time, or if they’re working for a Japanese company, then it’s okay.

Madeleine Thien: But your women friends do?

Yoko Tawada: Yes.

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Silk Road Update: GoogleTranslate Now Does Uyghur

By Bruce Humes, February 28, '20

GoogleTranslate offers translation to/from several of China's indigenous languages, the latest being Uyghur.

Others are Kazakh, Korean, Kyrgyz and Mongolian.

Turkmen and Tatar have also just joined the club -- and Turkish had long been available -- so Google Translate is doing a decent job of adding Turkic languages.

But in terms of written scripts used by a large number of PRC citizens, one stands out as missing on this list: Tibetan. It appears that its inclusion is underway, but I don't have any details.

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Marketing Translated Literature: High-cost but Compelling Approach

By Bruce Humes, February 5, '20

Just got the following email from a publisher of translated contemporary Arabic literature:

Email content

Pretty impressive: One-click access to video of author speaking (in Arabic with English sub-titles) about the novel; lengthy English-language extract; background info about the author; link to publisher's blog where one can find some authors personally reading their work, etc.

Has any publisher of Chinese literature in translation done something along these lines?


Two New “Ethnic” Novels from China for 2020

By Bruce Humes, January 27, '20

Two potentially controversial novels — one by a Uyghur author, and the other by a Tibetan — have recently been published in English. They are part of the Kaleidoscope Series of China’s Ethnic Authors sponsored by China Translation & Publishing House, a dozen or so novels by authors that highlight tales in which non-Han culture, motifs and characters play a key role (民族题材文学).

Patigül’s Bloodline (百年血脉) relates the semi-autobiographical tale of a Xinjiang native, daughter of a Uyghur father and Hui mother, who marries a Han, and struggles to bring up a family in mainstream Chinese society. Told in the first person, it unflinchingly describes her mother’s mental illness, her brother’s agonizing death from an STD and tribulations of a “mixed” marriage. For an English excerpt, visit here.

Tsering Norbu’s Prayers in the Wind (祭语风中) narrates the subsequent life of a Buddhist monk who attempts — unsuccessfully — to exit China in the wake of the 1959 Tibetan uprising and the Dalai Lama’s flight to India. For an excerpt, visit here.

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