Archives for posts with tag: China

Hales Harding1
Renamed
by Marianne Hales Harding

My Chinese name (Ma Lian) fit me about as well as I fit Taiwan.
Two years old and blonde,
Round, green eyes framed by long eyelashes.
When the seven of us went out for a walk
We turned heads in every direction and more often than not,
I was the one snatched up to pass around for inspection:
to see if hair really came in that color
or if vain Americans really put false eyelashes on their baby
(they didn’t).
All of America in one small package,
A glimpse of the exotic, unseen West.

We lived there for three years,
Americanized the name to Molly,
Learned what little Chinese a child needs
(Nihao, Bingchiling, Haitze),
Loved faces and homes and food not even remotely like my own,
Became Chinese enough to earn my name.

A Chinese artist painted me once with almond shaped eyes
Jarring at first, it grows on you and becomes the perfect depiction
Of an American girl renamed
For that most Chinese of arts—
Finely carved jade—
Ma Lian.

Long returned to America and American names,
My Chinese name is tucked away like a treasure,
A reminder of those foreign formative years
Where I grew into a name that no one calls me,
But, still, it fits.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My father was the mission president for the LDS (Mormon) mission in Khohsiung, Taiwan, and this painting was commissioned by the elders working in the mission office to celebrate our first anniversary in the country. We don’t have any record of who painted it (from a picture the missionaries had) and only know that he was a Taiwanese man they knew. It was painted in July 1977, and the people pictured are, from left to right: Reid Hales (blue stripes), Boyd Hales (striped tie), me (yellow dress), Michelle Hales (red dress), Lisa Hales (red and blue stripes), Lyona Hales (blue blouse), Betsy Hales (baby, known exclusively as Sabai, her Chinese name, until she went to kindergarten).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marianne Hales Harding is a poet and playwright living in Utah. She cofounded Provo’s Speak For Yourself creative writing open mic, and is a member of the Rock Canyon Poets. Though she hasn’t set foot on Chinese soil since 1978, she hopes to return someday.

Miodrag Kojadinovic  Guangzhou Tower, monsoon midst

PHOTOGRAPH: “Canton Tower” (Guangzhou, China) by Miodrag Kojadinović. At 1,969 feet, Canton Tower is the third tallest tower and the fifth-tallest freestanding structure in the world.

Miodrag Kojadinovic

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Miodrag Kojadinović writes, teaches, and looks at the world with his eyes wide open, which includes taking photos. Had he lived in Holland or Flanders when he was 24 to 38 years old, or in Portugal ever since, he would have been happy. But the Great Mother Goddess did not find it to Her liking to love him more and fulfill this small, innocent heart’s desire of his. She sent him on a penurious, tedious journey through the Pacific Coast of the Americas, back to Central Europe, and onwards to East Asia. He lives in Guangzhou and hates it, albeit not as much as he hated Vancouver, and is dying of saudade, yearning for glorious, beloved Lisbon.

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Mei Mei, Little Sister: Portraits from a Chinese Orphanage 

by Richard Bowen

Introduction by Amy Tan

(144 pages, published by Chronicle Books in 2005)

ABOUT THE BOOK: The Chinese believe an unseen red thread joins those in this life who are destined to connect. For photographer Richard Bowen, that thread led him to China’s state-run welfare institutions, where there are thousands of children, primarily girls, growing up without families to take care of them. Mei Mei presents a poignant glimpse of just a few of these remarkable children. Composed against neutral backgrounds, these portraits capture the girls inner lives, away from their often bleak surroundings. The images show an almost endless range of expressions: small faces filled with longing and hope, joy and sadness, humor and mischief, defiance and despair. Through the camera’s eye, these young children are no longer orphans, but individuals whose personalities are as vital, distinct, and beautiful as any mother’s child. When that unique human being comes into focus, the connection is made and the red thread becomes visible. And once seen, the bond can never be broken. Find Mei Mei: Portraits from a Chinese Orphanage at Amazon.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR/ PHOTOGRAPHER: Richard Bowen, with his wife and other adoptive parents, founded Half the Sky Foundation, which seeks to enrich the lives of children living in Chinese orphanages. A director, producer, and director of photography in film and television, his credits include Cinderella Moon, In Quiet Night, The Little Rascals, The Wizard of Loneliness, Head Above Water, Article 99, Belizaire the Cajun, Flags of Our Fathers, The Kite Runner, Wyatt Earp, Havana, and Deep Rising. He lives in Berkeley, California with his wife Jenny and two daughters, Maya and Anya.

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“I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.”

JOHN STEINBECK

PAINTING: “Green Dog No. 10″ by Zhou Chunya

Editor’s Note: Several years ago, I saw the above painting from Zhou Chunya’s Green Dog series at a Chicago art exhibition, and was awestruck by the huge canvas (18 feet wide by 23 feet high — no, that’s not a typo!). Most of the canvas was blank and the image of the dog appeared in the lower right. As I recall, this painting’s price was over $200,000. Thinking this was a typo, I asked the woman in charge of the booth the cost of the painting, and she confirmed the price. Since that time, I’ve learned more about Zhou’s Green Dog paintings and his touching relationship with his dog Hei Gen (Black Root), who died in 1999. Find out more about this fascinating artist and series of paintings here.

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SNOW RIVER
by Liu Zongyuan (Translated by Henry Hughes)

A thousand mountains without a bird
Ten thousand miles without seeing a soul
A boat and an old man in a straw raincoat,
alone, fishing in the icy river of melted snow.

Photo: Chris McLennan (detail), National Geographic photo of the day, 8/31/2010.

“Snow River” is found in The Art of Angling: Poems About Fishing, Edited by Henry Hughes. This beautiful — and highly recommended — book is available at Amazon.com.

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SNOW RIVER

by Liu Zongyuan (Translated by Henry Hughes)

A thousand mountains without a bird

Ten thousand miles without seeing a soul

A boat and an old man in a straw raincoat,

alone, fishing in the icy river of melted snow.

Photo: Chris McLennan (detail), National Geographic photo of the day, 8/31/2010.

“Snow River” is found in The Art of Angling: Poems About Fishing, Edited by Henry Hughes. This beautiful — and highly recommended — book is available at Amazon.com.

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BALZAC AND THE LITTLE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS

Novel Excerpt by Dai Sijie

We crept up to the suitcase. It was tied with a thick rope of plaited straw, knotted crosswise. We removed the rope and raised the lid in silence. Inside, piles of books shone in the light of our torch: a company of great Western writers welcomed us with open arms. On top was our old friend Balzac with five or six novels, then came Victor Hugo, Stendhal, Dumas, Flaubert, Baudelaire, Romain Rolland, Rousseau, Tolstoy, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, and some English writers, too: Dickens, Kipling, Emily Brontë…

We were beside ourselves. My head reeled, as if I’d had too much to drink. I took the novels out of the suitcase one by one, opened them, studied the portraits of the authors, and passed them on to Luo. Brushing them with the tips of my fingers made me feel as if my pale hands were in touch with human lives.

“It reminds me of a scene in a film,” said Luo. “You know, when a stolen suitcase turns out to be stuffed with money…”

 “So, are you weeping tears of joy?” I said.

“No. All I feel is loathing.”

“Me too. Loathing for everyone who kept these books from us.”

 Hearing myself utter this last sentence frightened me, as if there might be an eavesdropper hidden somewhere in the room. Such a remark, casually dropped, could cost several years in prison…

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THOUGHTS ON THE NOVEL

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001) takes place in China during the Cultural Revolution of the early 1970s – when educated young adults from the big cities were sent to do hard labor in rural areas to learn about “real life” and rid them of Western influences.

The novel follows the fortunes of a young male narrator and his friend as they try to navigate an unfamiliar way of life, while maintaining their love of art and literature. The village headman recognizes their storytelling skills and once a week sends them to another remote town to view a propaganda film, then return and recount the movie scene by scene to the villagers — who listen with avid attention and emotional engagement.

Based on the author’s re-education experiences, this brilliant novel is about our need and our hunger for stories – stories are what keep us human, what keep us connected to other people. Stories are food for our souls. When the book’s main characters uncover a stash of hidden novels from the West in Chinese translation, as described in the above excerpt, they risk torture and imprisonment to feed their hungry souls.

The little seamstress in the title is a beautiful young woman the thieves take into their confidence – reading the smuggled books to her, and introducting her to the outside world.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is a short novel (less than 200 pages) with a huge impact – bringing home our deep need for stories and storytellers.

Highly recommended — an all-time favorite! Find beautiful hardcover editions for just one (1!) cent (plus shipping) at Amazon.com.

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Congratulations to author Mo Yan for winning the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature. Born Guan MoyeMo Yan (which means “don’t speak” in Chinese) is the first Chinese citizen to receive the honor. The Nobel Committee lauded the 57-year-old writer for his work that “with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary.”

A few months ago at a used book store, I purchased a pristine copy of Mo Yan‘s novel The Garlic Ballads (1988), which The San Francisco Chronicle has called, “A work of considerable political power and lyrical beauty.” I have been meaning to read the novel, but have decided to borrow it from the library — so that I can celebrate Mo Yan’s Nobel prize by mailing my copy to the first person (U.S. only due to postage rates) who leaves a comment about this post. 

Again, congratulations to Mo Yan! 

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Viv from Live.Grow.Nourish.Create was the first to comment on yesterday’s post about Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, a novel by Dai Sijie — and wins her very own free copy, compliments of Silver Birch Press.

On her blog, Viv calls herself “a constantly evolving work-in-progress.” Right now, she is all about art, quilts, education, books, dharma, nature, motherhood, community, poetry, music, love, friendship.

Hope you enjoy the book, Viv!

READERS STAY TUNED FOR OUR NEXT BOOK GIVEAWAY! 

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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie is one of my favorite novels — it’s a book about the power of stories. Every time I see a copy at a thrift store, I buy it and give it to someone I think will enjoy the novel.

Here’s the blurb from the Amazon PageBalzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is an enchanting tale that captures the magic of reading and the wonder of romantic awakening. An immediate international bestseller, it tells the story of two hapless city boys exiled to a remote mountain village for re-education during China’s infamous Cultural Revolution. There the two friends meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress and secretly devour these banned works, the two friends find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined.

Note: A few days ago, I found a pristine-condition paperback copy of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress at a thrift store. With this post, I am initiating a new feature of the Silver Birch Press blog — the book giveaway. I will mail Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress to the first person (sorry, U.S. only — because of postage rates) who comments on this post (“Mail me the book.”). I will send a follow-up email for mailing information.