Welcome to the blog that I launched more than a decade ago, and have hosted since. Granted, it has undergone a number of iterations — Ethnic Chinalit: Writing by & about non-Han Peoples, 非漂 [Fēi Piāo], AfroLit4China, and more recently Altaic Storytelling — but 300+ original posts dating from 2009 to present can still be found here.
As of 4Q 2022, I am transitioning from a long stay in Turkey — I am Penang-bound — and two major book-length translation projects that are now complete: <我心归处是敦煌> (My Heart Belongs to Dunhuang), the autobiography of the tenacious female archaeologist, Fan Jinshi (樊锦诗), who devoted her career to the preservation and documentation of the Buddhist-themed Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, Gansu Province; and
Professor H.K. Chang’s <丝路文明: 15 讲> (Silk Road Cultures: 15 Lectures). Topics include Zhang Qian Pioneers Exploration of the ‘Western Regions’; Kumarajiva Supervises Translation of the Buddhist Canon; Sogdians on the Silk Road; Paper-making Know-how Migrates West; Islam’s Debut in the Middle Kingdom; Rise of the Turkophone Tujüe; and Maritime and Land-based Communications under the Mongols.
I am making use of this relative leisure to do three things (besides putting the finishing touches on my translation of Professor H.K. Chang’s <文明地图> (Mapping Civilizations):
- To answer questions about the reception of African fiction in the People’s Republic of China for a Q & A that will appear in a new book entitled Circulations littéraires afro-asiatiques: écrire, publier et traduire après Bandung. This will be based largely on the bilingual mini-database I have compiled, 非洲文学：中文译本 African Writing in Chinese Translation.
- Preparing a zoom session for Ohio U students of “Ethnic Minority Literature in China” taught by Professor Mark Bender. Altaic Storytelling: Motifs, Censorship and Translation is my proposed topic.
- Drafting a review of the new English translation of the biography of the China-based reciter of his people’s oral epic, Jusup Mamay, Master Performer of the Kirghiz Manas Epic. Both the Chinese original (《玛纳斯》演唱大师：居素普·玛玛依评传) and English version offer insight into how the literary bureaucracy seeks to appropriate the epic for China.
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Like to learn more about my published literary translations — including full-length books and magazine articles — as well as synopses and excerpts for marketing use? Click here.
My (serendipitous) Timeline
- Re-launched: My rendition of Last Quarter of the Moon (额尔古纳河右岸), Chi Zijian’s account of the tragic 20th-century twilight of the reindeer-herding Evenki in the Greater Khingan Mountains of Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang. This time as one of a collection of 8 “eco-fiction” novels from Penguin, Vintage Earth, that includes Ian McEwan’s Solar.
- My tourist visa mercifully extended to the official limit of 180 days, I leave Corona Era Paradise — Taiwan, which has seen just 7 deaths — for Erdoğanistan, oops, Türkiye. At that time in 3Q 2020, to attract tourists neither Corona test results nor quarantine were required upon entry. After a month or so in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu, I move to a tranquil tiny seaside town on the Aegean, and get down to the work that pays the rent: Translating the autobiography of female archaeologist Fan Jinshi <我心归处是敦煌> (excerpt), who devoted 50+ years to the preservation and documentation of the Buddhist-themed Mogao Caves at Dunhuang, and . . . my on-again-off-again Turkish studies.
- Instead of my customary visa run — Tainan-Penang (台南 – 槟郎屿) or Tainan-Kuching (台南 -古晋) — I opt instead to check out Dar es Salaam (坦桑尼亚的达累斯萨拉姆) in East Africa. Very hospitable, the Tanzanians, and I enjoy my brief study of Swahili, a Bantu language that is a national tongue in DRC, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. My choice of a tutor from Kenya, however, brings wry smiles to the face of many a Dar es Salaamite, doubtless due to this adage: Swahili was born in Zanzibar, grew up in Tanzania, fell sick in Kenya, died in Uganda and was buried in Congo.
- Since the authorities have made learning Uyghur in its spiritual homeland (Xinjiang’s Kashgar, 喀什) impossible, I study elementary Turkish in Istanbul. Both Turkic tongues, Uyghur and Turkish share similar sentence structure and vocabulary. Useful in translating Uyghur author Alat Asem’s Confessions of a Jade Lord.
- Published: My rendition of Last Quarter of the Moon (额尔古纳河右岸), Chi Zijian’s account of the 20th-century tragic twilight of the reindeer-herding Evenki in the Greater Khingan Mountains of Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang.
- Host one-day, intensive export management training sessions in as many as 8 cities monthly in China, and eventually train 8,000+ export professionals how to prioritize incoming queries, maximize earnings from existing clients, and exhibit overseas. At times, a blurry string of cookie-cutter airports and business hotels leave me wondering which city I might be in, but I quickly ascertain my approximate location in the People’s Paradise when the first handful of eager attendees pipe up in their dialect-mangled Mandarin.
- Robbed by a knife-wielding thug in Shenzhen, I awake in a hospital hallway — now People’s Hospital Number 2 — where staff advise amputating my right hand. Immediately. I decline, protesting that I intend to keep it for future use. Check out One of the People (遭遇深圳) for the saga.
- Browsing in 季风书店 bookstore at Shanghai’s Shaanxi Subway Station entrance, I buy a copy of 上海宝贝 (Shanghai Baby) featuring cover selfie of Wei Hui’s sultry lips. My rendition becomes a best-seller in Hong Kong and Singapore.
- Supervise English-to-Chinese translation of 世界经人理文摘 (World Executive’s Digest) — now a popular online portal — China’s first monthly management magazine not targeting lobotomized party cadres.
- Arrive in Taipei all hyped up about my China adventure, only to discover that Ilha Formosa ain’t exactly the People’s Republic. But it is under martial law, it is a one-party state, and several famous dissident writers are in prison.
- Mum, who learned Russian and German to earn her PhD in French lit, teaches me elementary Deutsch that summer using 1st-year university textbook. My first reads not long after: Hesse’s Siddhartha and excerpts from Lutherbibel.