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Yaxue Cao, September 14, 2017     It’s said that when Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波) won the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2010, one of his friends wept. But he wasn’t shedding tears of joy. “He will never get out alive,” the friend said. At the time, the 55-year-old Liu had just begun his 11-year sentence at the Jinzhou Prison in Liaoning Province. The prediction that he won’t make it out alive was a difficult one to credit even for the most pessimistic observers of China’s political system (of which, in China, there is no shortage). Anything can happen in 11 years. Many more people — in particular Liu’s large group of friends — were able to bite their tongues until the day Liu was to […]

Duanwu Jie (端午节), or Dragon Boat Festival, is said to have originated in commemoration of the noble suicide of poet/official Qu Yuan roughly 2,300 years ago. The villagers who witnessed his death so respected the man that they raced in their boats to retrieve his body. Others threw balls of glutinous rice (Zongzi) into the river to distract the fish, and keep them from eating his body. According to my co-workers, “It’s just a holiday,” and they struggled to tell me even this much about the festival. Later they added that “Qu Yuan was very patriotic,” in that he loved his country so much he would rather die than see it destroyed. The story of Qu Yuan’s death isn’t only about patriotism; the poet had […]

This week we offer an assortment of Weibo items for your thoughts: the mysterious but all-powerful Above, China’s new land reform, China’s AIDS exiles, journalists as propaganda workers, free turnips, and more. Click on date below item for link to the original. 黎学文在北京/Li Xuewen in Beijing/(Writer, publication planner)/:【The  invisible Above】There is an absurd black hole in [China’s] current power operation: In each of the wrongful convictions, there are enforcers but no one is in charge. The enforcers say, this is the decision of the Above. But no one knows who is the Above and who you can take legal action against. As the source of evil, the Above is shrouded in a fog. There are evil doers but no one can be held accountable for […]

In China I often hear opinions stated as facts, so today I present to you: The two best Chinese poets, Li Bai and Dufu. These two are known by virtually all Chinese people, regardless of their level of education. I have chosen a few of their best short poems for you to read today to introduce you to some of the finer things in Chinese culture. A few things you should know about Chinese poetry before reading these is that: 1. Poets were usually travelers 2. Poets typically will express Daoist (Taoist) ideals, often through images of nature 3. Poets were usually inspired by simple events, and wrote hundreds of poems 4. Poets were often drunk Dufu, who lived just up the street from me […]

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