An anonymous letter that appeared in this week’s Shanghai Review of Books (a supplement to the Sunday Oriental Morning Post) starts off with a standard “long-time reader” intro before accusing the publication of treason:
“Enter” or “Invade”?
For the two-and-a-half years since its launch, the Shanghai Review of Books has been consistently remarkable. Each issue is a must-read for me, and I’ve kept practically every one. However, the language in an interview that appeared in issue #131 on March 20 left me flabbergasted. The first section of the article “Xiao Bai Talks About Concessions” contains the following line: “Still six months away from the total entry of the Japanese into Northern China.” Here, the author commits a grave error of basic history: the author does not write “invasion” but uses “entry” to gloss over it. And instead of writing about the “total entry” of the “Japanese army” into Northern China, the author writes of “the Japanese.” Does the author mean to imply that ordinary Japanese at that time were coming to Northern China to engage in full-scale trade or tourism? This is no simple factual mistake. Everyone knows that right-wing politicians in Japan revised textbooks for the express purpose of turning the word “invade” into “enter.”
— An ordinary person
Concession 《租界》 by Xiao Bai (小白) is set in Shanghai in 1931 and first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2010 novel supplement to Harvest magazine and has just been published in standalone form by People’s Literature Publishing House.
Reading through my Douban groups this morning, I came across a twist on the typical online time-travel romance serial:
Ming Empire 1937
A five-day tour of the Great Ming Empire. One day in the present, one year in the Ming. But when our hero reaches the Ming, he discovers that the time is all wrong: 1935?! And to the North is the domain of the Qing….
The Northern Qing, a centralized monarchy, set its capital a thousand miles from the border. The capital of the Southern Ming, a constitutional monarchy, lies just one thousand meters from the frontier. But the Ming possesses our hero.
What did the people of the 20th Century Ming Dynasty wear? How much money did they make? What were the 20th Century Eastern Depot and Silk Brocade Guard like? Who was in charge, the imperial family or the cabinet? How were tank battles fought between the Ming and Qing? How did Ming submarines seal off the islands of Japan?
This synopsis suggests something similar to the early 20th Century futurist political fantasies of Liang Qichao and others: imaginative and even visionary at times, yet static and not all that fun to read.
In a comment to a microblog post by cartoonist B. Kuang (atop the image at right, he notes, “Thirty years of thought and a morning of drawing. I need a title. Thanks”), another microblogger asks:
Let me ask the OP: What aspects of drawing should a fifteen-year-old girl who has never studied drawing before but wants to be able to draw comics in the future study? What first? And what next? I await your instruction. Thanks.
First, you’ve got to have a grounding in sketching so your skills will match your ambition. So many cartoons in this country covered in textual notes because the expressiveness of the drawing is insufficient. Second, read widely, increase your life experience and heighten your consciousness, for without a deep experience of life, your work will only be superficial.
And then start a microblog. This is an ocean of knowledge, so go on and receive “education” and edification from all corners, and strengthen your citizenship, and then your work will have life. Don’t you realize that many truths of history are not contained in our textbooks? I have gained much here, and I am grateful…
Kuang’s work is immediately recognizable when it is published in the print media or reposted online. His drawings are detailed, but they also contain bold, easily understood elements which, per his instructions, don’t require much captioning at all.
There’s been an interesting series of conversations on Sina’s microblog service this week about works of classic literature translated in the 1980s — before China signed on to international copyright conventions.
Janson Yao writes:
Today I read an article by Huang Luo about the translation of short detective fiction in Taiwan, and it looks like the situation in Taiwan and the mainland is pretty much the same. Early on, copyright wasn’t observed, and works were translated at will. By the nineties, under copyright restrictions, translations declined. Huang noticed that there have been some mystery anthologies published in recent years, but it seems like most of them are anthologies from an individual author. In collections of works by multiple authors, rights must be obtained separately for each piece. The cost is high, and it takes time.
Wu Yan comments:
I read that the translator of Walden Two said that when he took the very first edition to get Skinner’s autograph, he had to cover it up because he didn’t have the rights, lest the author see what book it was.
Ning Caishen (宁财神), the writer behind the hit TV comedy My Own Swordsman (武林外传), posted the following update to his Sina microblog:
After a while in the business, you meet more and more people, and even if you’re not working with them, they’re the sort that you see around all the time. Watching a stinker, I’m embarrassed to say anything, but it’s so painful to hold it in that I have to bitch about it to my friends privately ~ and all the time I dream of the day when a distant relative will suddenly leave me a giant inheritance, and I’ll retire immediately and write a movie review every day, 30,000 characters of pure rant that doesn’t let a single detail off the hook, because who cares if I piss everyone off!
Jin He Zai (今何在), who like Ning got his start in net-lit, replied:
Now do you see why I don’t want to get into the screenwriting biz? Writing a script means you’ve got to worry about all those levels of examination. To pass the censors, pretty much everything gets cut out, and passage doesn’t necessarily mean it will get screened. If you look at what does make it, is that the script you first wrote? And you’ve got your name up there so you get attacked along with it.