XJP’s China Dream: What about the Empire’s Borderland Peoples?

In Pankaj Mishra on the Hong Kong Protests, the author points out that the CCP faces challenges as it tries to “overhaul” the societies of its minorities and now, those stroppy HKers down there in Guǎngdōng guó too:

Q: You’ve written about the peripheries of China and their importance to Beijing. We’ve seen strong rebellions in Tibet and Xinjiang, and now in Hong Kong. What is your take today on how China is managing the aspirations of people in its far-flung regions? Are the problems China is facing the same ones that empires had before? Do you see potential political solutions to these problems that would be consistent with the ethos and behavior of the Communist Party?

A: I don’t think it has been sufficiently recognized that the C.C.P. has been incredibly adaptive since the days of Mao. The fact that it has not only survived great disasters but also grown and strengthened itself by including people from all sections of Chinese society shows that it has the capacity to absorb and defuse many apparent contradictions. But it has yet to demonstrate that it can deal with challenges from outside its circle of influence — the ethnic minorities and, now, Hong Kong. The usual method of incorporating local elites through bribery and coercion into the network of capitalism and modernization doesn’t work. The Tibetans, for instance, still feel trampled upon, their dignity defiled, their identity dishonored. I am still waiting to see a new initiative from Xi Jinping in this regard. And this is a bigger problem for Beijing than the ones faced by empires like the Qing or Ottoman. The latter were not asking their minorities to radically overhaul their societies and lifestyles or forcing changes in their identity. Even British and French imperialists left many minorities alone for the most part.

Historian Queries: What Is a ‘Uyghur’?

The LA Review of Books has published an extract of the newly published Sacred Routes of Uyghur History by Professor Rian Thum, entitledSacred Routes of Uyghur History What Is a Uyghur? In the book, Thum “argues that the Uyghurs – and their place in China today – can only be understood in the light of longstanding traditions of local pilgrimage and manuscript culture” (Loyola U biography).

In the piece excerpted in LARB, Thum cites an anonymous 1934 article in Kashgar’s New Life in which the author claims the term “Uyghur” for his people:

The children of Adam living across the whole face of the earth are divided from one another into sects [maẕhab] and also separated into several peoples [qawm] and tribes [urughlar], for example Arab, Turk, English, French, Italian, Russian, Indian, Chinese, and the like. . . . Because most of our people here are in ignorance and unconsciousness we have forgotten what tribe we are from. If someone is asked what tribe we are from, he answers, “We are Muslims.” It is correct to say of us that we are Muslims, but in terms of descent and tribe, it is surely also necessary to know what tribe we are from. Is it not futile for a man’s child, upon forgetting his own father’s name, to ask it of another person? So enough then. We are the children of the Uyghurs. Uyghur means our noble national [milliy] name.15

XJP Models Umbrella in Occupy Central: Time’s 2014 Best-dressed Man of the Year?

Good to see a mainlander doing the right thing!

Good to see a mainlander doing the right thing—and so fashionably attired to boot!



A bit of low-cost, high-comic value brought to us by PhotoShop . . .

Annual Fund: Xinjiang Spending to Inspire Translation, Writing in non-Han Languages

In 新疆双翻工程 (Xinjiang Two-way Translation Project), Kyrgyz female translator Saina Yiersibaike (赛娜·伊尔斯拜克) introduces a well-funded project based in multi-ethnic Xinjiang. A few factoids from the article:

  • 2011: Project founded by the Xinjiang government to stimulate mother-tongue writing in languages spoken in Xinjiang other than Mandarin + translation between those languages and Mandarin.
  • US$1.63m: Annual budget.
  • 2013: Project widened to facilitate “cross-fertilization” among different ethnicities, i.e., translation of writing between non-Han languages of Xinjiang.
  • 2014: 173 works published to date (100 original works, 73 translations)

Cultivating Uyghur Writers and Translators

Uyghur editionAs I’ve reported before (Sessions), the editors at China’s very official Nationalities Literature Magazine (民族文学), which appears in 5 languages plus Mandarin, are heading up a nationwide series of “rewriting/editing training courses” (改稿班). The latest took place in Urumqi in late September, and brought together more than 30 Uyghur writers and their translators, along with editors of the Uyghur edition of the magazine.

Among the participating writers and translators were:

As I tried to research these writers and translators online, I was struck by [Read more...]

New Guidelines for China Literary Awards: You Don’t Need a Weatherman

In Art and Literature Awards to Evaluate ‘Social Benefits’ of Works, Nectar Gan reports that in the wake of Xi Jinping’s speech on the arts last week, the Ministry of Culture:

. . . will now develop a set of criteria for the evaluation for arts and literature according to the demands of Xi and party [said Zhu Di, head of the art department of the ministry].

The guidelines will focus on social benefits, artistic standards, aesthetic taste and popular acclaim instead of solely relying on commercial success, critical acclaim and online popularity.

“I Am Malala” and China’s Nobel Prize Complex

Readers in Taiwan were reading I am Malala a year ago — in Chinese (我是马拉拉), if they wished.

So why is it that people living in China still can’t get their hands on a version published in simplified Chinese?

As usual, you aren’t going to find out via the mainstream media in China. Several items have appeared lionizing the Sichuan People’s Press for我是马拉拉 its “timely” purchase of the rights to publish it in China, and its damn near herculean efforts to get it out to consumers by . . . the end of this month (我是马拉拉 “四川造”).

Given that the China version is based on the Taiwan one — same translator, 翁雅如 — translation time was obviously not a major factor in the year-long discrepancy in publication times. [Read more...]

China Censorship Update: GAPP’s Latest Publication Ban and Watch-list

I have learned that works by Yu Ying-shih (余英时, historian), Leung Man-tao (梁文道, social commentator), Xu Zhiyuan (许志远, newspaper columnist), Ye Fu (野夫), Chen Ziming (陈子鸣, democracy activist), Mao Yushi (茅于轼, economist), Zhang Qianfan (张千帆, legal expert at Beijing U) and Xu Xiao (许 徐晓) can no longer be published in China, according to a publishing professional who attended the October 11 meeting where this was announced by GAPP (广电局), which wields the nation’s censorship taser.

It appears one reason behind this is that some of these personalities have come out in support of Hong Kong’s ongoing Occupy Central campaign [Read more...]

Trend: Chinese Fiction Writers Opting to Publish First Outside the Mainland

Death FugueJoining popular contemporary fiction authors such as Feng Tang (不二), Yan Lianke (四书) and Murong Xuecun (various essays), female writer Sheng Keyi has chosen to publish one of her latest works first in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Death Fugue (死亡赋格) has also been translated by Shelly Bryant and published in English in Australia.

In Chinese Writer, Tackling Tiananmen, Aims for Work with “Power to Offend” (Oct 10 NY Times), Jane Perlez reports:

Publishers in China, including Penguin, which released an earlier novel by Ms. Sheng, “Northern Girls” [北妹] about the sexual exploits of young women who migrate to the cities, passed on “Death Fugue.” Chinese editors decided the story line was too controversial. Penguin, she said, failed to give her a response. The novel has appeared in Hong Kong and Taiwan in Chinese, and last month, it made its English-translation debut with a small Australian literary imprint, Giramondo.

“Last Quarter of the Moon” Long-listed for Banff Mountain Book Competition

Banff Mountain FestivalI’ve just learned that Last Quarter of the Moon, my translation of Chi Zijian’s 《额尔古纳河右岸》, has been nominated for the “Mountain Fiction and Poetry Award.” Winners will be announced November 6, 2014 at The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival in Banff, Alberta.

Annoyingly, my name is not listed as translator of the novel, despite the fact that it couldn’t have been nominated if I hadn’t rendered it in English . . .

Narrated in the first person by the aged wife of the last chieftain of an Evenki clan, the Last Quarter of the Moon (or Right Bank of the Argun, as it is dubbed in Chinese)  is a moving tale of the decline of reindeer-herding nomads in the sparsely populated, richly forested Greater Khingan mountains (大兴安岭山脉) that border on Russia.

At the end of the twentieth century an old woman sits among the birch trees and thinks back over her life, her loves, and the joys and tragedies that have befallen her family and her people. She is a member of the Evenki tribe who wander the remote forests of northeastern China with their herds of reindeer, living in close sympathy with nature at its most beautiful and cruel.

Over the last three centuries, three waves of outsiders have encroached upon the Evenki’s isolated way of life: the Russians, whose warring and plundering eventually pushed the Evenki down from Siberia across to the southern (“right”) bank of the Argun River, the tributary of the Amur that defines the Sino-Russian border; the Japanese, who forcibly recruit their men into the ranks of the Manchukuo Army; and the Han Chinese of the People’s Republic, who fell the forests that are crucial to the survival of reindeer, outlaw hunting, and eventually coerce the Evenki to leave the mountains for life in a “civilized” permanent settlement.

If you’re interested in how the Evenki christened the peaks, rivers and settlements among which they lived for centuries, check out Evenki Place Names Behind the HànzìFor dozens of marvelous photos of Evenki handicrafts, and the Evenki in the wild herding their deer, hunting and so forth, see Northern Hunting Culture. In her Afterword to the novel— in English here — author Chi Zijian recounts how she grew up near the Argun River and mountains inhabited by the Oroqen, close relatives of the Evenki.

Created 39 years ago, the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival showcases films, books and photographs on mountain subjects – climbing, culture, environment and natural history, exploration and adventure, wildlife, and sport – and attracts personalities in mountaineering, adventure filmmaking, and extreme sports as presenters and speakers. More than 80 films will screen during the nine-day festival, and an international jury will award over $50,000 in prizes.