Zafar Anjum writes about his Shanghai trip in 2011
Initially I was not sure if I was going to Shanghai at all, but the visa came through. I had tried once before but was not lucky enough to get the visa (in that instance, the paperwork was not complete and so on; it’s a long story). I was totally unprepared for the journey this time. This was one of those rare journeys which I undertook without reading anything about the city that I was visiting. I think there was some innocence about this unpreparedness, this ignorance. I took Shanghai as she revealed herself to me. I didn’t go there with any fixed images, so I was neither overwhelmed nor underwhelmed when I stepped into Shanghai.
Before going to Shanghai, one of my colleagues had shown me pictures of his visit to the city nearly ten years ago. In his collection, there were pictures of skyscrapers, the famous Bund, and some Chinese temples. In the pictures, the sky looked muddy, overcast with smog. Only that image of a smog-laden Shanghai stayed with me. Avoid the beggars in Shanghai, my colleague warned me. There will be plenty of them and they will approach foreigners like you, he said. I noted his advice. From my Indian experience I knew how to avoid beggars, so I was not worried about encountering them.
Every holiday is accompanied by reminiscences of one’s kith and kin.
Knowing from afar, the heights one’s elder and younger brothers have scaled;
Side Wearing Cornus officinalis, there is one soul less, amiss.
This poem has been written by Tang dynasty poet Wang Wei (701-761CE), who was known both for his poetry and paintings, in celebration of the ninth month festival, Chong Yang, which coincides with the Indian Navratriand Durga Puja, the Korean Jungyangjeol, the Japanese Chōyō or Chrysanthemum festival.
China Writer’s Association announced five winners of the highest literary award in China called the Mao Dun literary awards.
Mao Dun was the pen name of Shen Dehong, a 20th-century Chinese novelist, cultural critic, and the Minister of Culture for his country from 1949 to 1965. He initiated this award in 1982.A four yearly affair, the prizes will be given out in Beijing this October.
The award winning novels and writers are The World by Liang Xiaosheng, The Story of Leading the Wind by Xu Huaizhong, Beishang by Xu Zechen, The Protagonist by Chen Yan and Brother YingWu by Li Er.
Little Fen’s funeral took place three days later. I walked woodenly among three dozen fellow villagers in a procession led by Widow Liu, accompanied by the sad tune of trumpet and suona horns. It was a cold spring day. The sun was shining without giving away much warmth.
It pained me to look at the mother of my deceased friend. A piece of white cloth tied around her head, like a bandage on a head injury. She was being supported on each side by a friend. Her grief had whitened her hair and aged her twenty years. And her thin form resembled that of a dried shrimp.
The funeral procession came to the village’s graveyard, which lay on a gentle slope of a mountain some twenty minutes’ walk from the village. Little Fen’s body was put to rest on the edge of it, next to a large plot with castor-oil plants. When the wind blew, millions of tiny castor seeds made disturbing noises. Black crows squawked, their cries echoing in the trees, like whimpers from those no longer able to speak.
China is in the limelight again with Beijing announcing a children’s books expo to be held there this week, from July 17th to 23rd.
The first bi-lingual version of the J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, will be part of the available fare. In this version, the left page will have the story in English and the right in Chinese. Earlier, they had a monolingual Chinese version.
A popular Chinese Children’s novelist, Professor Cao Wenxuan of Peking University, recepient of the 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Award, also called the “Nobel Prize for children’s literature”, will be presenting his new mystery fare. A collection of children’s classics spanning the last thirty years by well-known writer Yin Jianling will be nestling with other attractions presented in this expo.
In the 1860s, roughly 20,000 Chinese from the Guangdong province were shipped to America to labour at building the transcontinental railways. They came for the lure of gold. However, few of them moved outside their camp or learnt English. They faced a lot of hardships, breaking rocks and living for a pittance. What drove them there? What did they face?
Author Gordon H. Chang has uncovered the plight of these workers in his latest book, Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad. Chang is Olive H. Palmer Professor in Humanities at Stanford University. He has written a number of books on Asian-American history and US–East Asian interactions.
Washington Independent Review of Bookssays Chang “ has dedicated himself to speaking for a group that cannot speak for itself, even in absentia. He’s dubbed them the ‘ghosts’ of his title because, while the work they did was about as tangible as it gets, their individual identities have evaporated.
China has for the first time compiled Mongolian literature, including incantations, from the province of Inner Mongolia, spanning the last eight hundred years.
Eight hundred year ago, the Mongolians had invaded large parts of the world and Kublai Khan, grandson of the conquerer Genghis Khan had established the Yuan dynasty which not only popularised the paper currency yuan (that is what Chinese currency is still called though renminbi does replace it within China often), but also hostedMarco Polo, the first European who left written accounts of China.
The Mongolians founded the Yuan dynasty and ruled for nearly a century. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem Xanadu immortalised the Yuan dynasty reign in verse in the nineteenth century.
“The number of China’s readers and the total time Chinese spent reading saw a significant increase in 2018,” read an article in China Daily based on a new report from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. The number of Chinese readers increased by almost 30 million.
Despite studies projecting that millennials may prefer reading paper books over e books, China Literature, a pioneer online literature company, is tying up with Singtel to bring literature to readers online.
China Literature, a unit of Tencent Holdings and China’s largest e-book and online publishing website, boasts 9.6 million e-books from 6.4 million authors and they plan to grow bigger with the merger.
“We are the biggest owner of intellectual property (IP) in China, but that’s not the end of the story,” said vice-president Luo Li of China Literature. China Literature earns its income by charging readers for their services. Last year it generated an annual profit of 30.36 million yuan. However, Mr Luo Li stated that online readers would be charged lesser once the income from the IP business rose.
China is under severe criticism again — not from Trump this time but from PEN America, an organization that hovers between human rights and literature.
That there are re-education camps in China where millions of Uighurs and residents of Xinjiang get re-educated is a fact that is coming under focus now. This time, it seems they sent seventy-year-old Nurmuhammad Tohti, a Uighur writer for re- education and he died.
According to his grand daughter who lives in Canada, he was not treated for his medical condition, diabetes and heart disease.