- Penguin China Specials
At the turn of the twentieth century, students returning from abroad introduced Beethoven to China. The composer’s perseverance in the face of adversity and his musical genius resonated in a nation searching for a way forward. Beethoven remained a durable part of Chinese life in the decades that followed, becoming an icon to intellectuals, music fans and party cadres alike, playing a role in major historical events from the May Fourth Movement to the normalisation of US-China relations. Jindong Cai, whose love for the musician began during the Cultural Revolution, and culture journalist SheilaRead more »
Dongzhou City needs a new mayor. Devious plots, seduction, blackmail and bribery are all on the table in a no-holds-barred scramble for prestige and personal gain as the city’s two vice-mayors compete for the top honour. At the centre of it all is a humble witness to events, a notebook whose pages contain information they should not …
Penned by a former insider, The Civil Servant’s Notebook is a political page-turner that offers a glimpse into the complex psyches of those who roam the guarded halls of Chinese officialdom.Read more »
Qian Xiaohong is born into a sleepy village far from China’s headlong rush towards development. A scandalous love affair launches the buxom but unwordly sixteen-year-old on a journey to the southern boomtown of Shenzhen. There, released from the stifling conservatism of her rural upbringing, Xiaohong must navigate a strange new world with unfamiliar rules and values, and learn to go on in the face of great adversity. Along the way, Xiaohong finds support and solace from her fellow ‘northern girls’, with whom life’s challenges and pleasures can be shared.
Northern Girls explores the inner livesRead more »
The story of Shakespeare in China is one of cultural blending and reinvention. Peopled by devoted evangelists, theatre directors and dogged interpreters intent on bridging divisions of language and politics, it tracks the trajectory of modern Chinese history and the development of theatre arts. Four hundred years after Shakespeare’s death, Nancy Pellegrini pulls back the curtain on how the Bard of Avon rose from inauspicious Chinese beginnings to become the People’s Bard, exploring traditional opera-style Shakespeare productions, decades of Marxist interpretations, revolutionary translationRead more »
In this avant garde novella, memory and time are subjective. A writer named Ge Fei retreats to the beautiful solitude of the Waterside to finish his novel inspired by the Revelations of St. John. He perceives ominous and portentous signs in the natural landscape around him, particularly in a flock of brown birds that flies periodically past his window. The arrival of a mysterious woman named Qi magnifies his anxiety and sense of temporal disorientation, calling into question his grasp on reality.
Ge Fei is one of China’s foremost writers of experimental fiction and currently serves as ProfessorRead more »
Mandarin, Guoyu or Putonghua? ‘Chinese’ is a language known by many names, and China is a country home to many languages. Since the turn of the twentieth century linguists and politicians have been on a mission to create a common language for China. From the radical intellectuals of the May Fourth Movement, to leaders such as Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong, all fought linguistic wars to push the boundaries of language reform. Now, Internet users take the Chinese language in new and unpredictable directions. David Moser tells the remarkable story of China’s language unification agenda and its controversialRead more »
Wang Daifu is blind and works as a practitioner of tuina, a traditional form of pressure-point massage, in the burgeoning metropolis of Shenzhen. His is a uniquely coveted skill, yet it is one of the few options open to the visually impaired in China. When he loses his life savings on the stock market he returns to his provincial hometown, fiancée in tow, to work for an old classmate. But the transition is not easy as Wang struggles to deal with his own career frustration, his brother’s gambling troubles, and the pressures of pleasing his wife-to-be.
His fellow workers have their own stories:Read more »
It is a little known fact that during the First World War Russia received the majority of Chinese wartime labourers working overseas. Despite assurances that they would not be involved in the war, thousands of Chinese workers dug trenches and carried ammunition for troops on the Eastern Front under brutal conditions. Then, in 1917, life for the Chinese worsened with the Bolshevik Revolution’s arrival. Some of the workers signed up to fight for the Red Army and many were left stranded in Russia, unemployed and destitute. Their plight has been described as the most tragic episode in 400 years ofRead more »
At the conclusion of ‘the war to end war’, the victorious powers set about redesigning the world map at the Paris Peace Conference. For China, Versailles presented an opportunity to regain territory lost to Japan at the start of the war. Yet, despite early encouragement from the world’s superpowers, the country was to be severely disappointed, an outcome whose consequences can still be felt today.Read more »
After 1914, between tiffin and a day at the race track, the British in Shanghai enjoyed a life far removed from the horrors of the Great War. Shanghai’s status as a treaty port – with its foreign concessions home to expatriates from every corner of the globe – made it the most cosmopolitan city in Asia. The city’s inhabitants on either side of the conflict continued to mix socially to mix socially after the outbreak of war, the bond amongst foreign nationals being almost as strong as that between countrymen. But as news of the slaughter spread of the Far East, and in particular the sinkingRead more »