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News: Drunk woman breaks airplane window with fist causing emergency landing

Binge drinking, breakups and air travel don’t mix, people. HSK 6 and up.

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Essay:《打人》Hitting Someone by Zhang Ailing (Eileen Chang)

An essay from Chinese lit diva Zhang Ailing about a scene of police brutality she witnessed in Shanghai in the 1940s. HSK 6 and up.

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Novels: Start reading Chinese gangster novel 《一半是火焰,一半是海水》by Wang Shuo

In my most challenging post yet, you’ll read the first chapter of controversial literary bad boy Wang Shuo’s dark plunge into the criminal underbelly of Beijing. HSK 6+, not suitable for children.

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Political speech: Deng Xiaoping addresses the Hong Kong handover in 1984

In June, 1984, thirteen years before the Hong Kong handover, he gave this speech, addressing critics of the “One Country, Two Systems” (一个国家,两种制度)policy, which determined China’s approach to the handover. The policy maintained that different political systems would concurrently be implemented under one government. In other words, that mainland China would remain socialist, and that Hong Kong would remain capitalist (until 2047, anyway), but both would be ultimately overseen by the CCP. It was a radical notion at the time, and it still is in many ways. His words here are a fascinating look into the past.

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Mythology: 女娲补天 – Nvwa Mends the Heavens

Doesn’t it seem like humankind has a collective memory of some prehistoric natural disaster built into our DNA? So many cultures have ancient myths about close calls with total destruction, be it Noah’s Ark, or the story of Atlantis, or in China’s case, “Nvwa Mends the Heavens” (女娲补天).

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Novels: Start reading Chinese sci-fi novella 《赡养人类》by Liu Cixin

Assassins and spaceships and evil doings! Start reading Chapter One of the novel Support Human Beings by Liu Cixin, author of China’s most famous sci-fi Three Body Problem.

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Folk tales of real people: 《岳飞纹字》Yue Fei’s Tattoo

Song dynasty warrior-poet and folk hero Yuefei (岳飞) gets a tattoo to remind himself of his duty to his country. This is an “advanced” post for three reasons: one, there are some words in here that can’t be found in the dictionary, two, there are quite a few proper names, and three, to understand this, you need to know a little bit about Song history.

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Letter: Ba Jin’s Correspondence with “Young Friends Searching for Ideals” – Part II

In Part II of this two-part series, we’ll read acclaimed author Ba Jin’s reply to the 10 elementary school students who wrote him a letter asking him for moral guidance in 1987. I’m not a super weepy person, but I legit cried reading this. This is a noble, elevating piece of writing, and reading it, I’m reminded that in all societies, there are those who struggle with the materialism that engulfs us.

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Essay: 《丑石》The Ugly Rock by Jia Pingwa

Jia Pingwa (贾平凹) is one of China’s modern literary greats, and in this short story, it shows. I don’t know how this guy crammed so many insights on the human condition into a few paragraphs about a rock, but he undeniably did.

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Letter: Famous 20th Century author Lu Xun writes to his friend in 1926

Lu Xun (鲁迅) lǔ xùn was one of China’s great 20th century writers and thinkers who felt that the heart and soul of the Chinese people had been sickened by the depravity and corruption that ran rampant after the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912.

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Novels: Start Reading “To Live” 《活着》by Yu Hua

Yu Hua (余华) is for sure my favorite author of Chinese modern lit. He writes the lives of ordinary village people, and like pretty much all great Chinese village-based fiction from the 20th century, the stories are full of vulgar realism, as you will soon see. But Yu Hua’s work is also tinged with bittersweetness, and for anyone with an HSK 5-6 vocabulary, his novels are surprisingly approachable.

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Modern Chinese Poetry: 《雨巷》by Dai Wangshu

Hey guys. Been a while. I’m studying Chinese IRL, so I’ve got less reason to focus on the blog, but I have been getting all the letters – thank you all. I’ve also received two guest posts that I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t put up yet. Apologies, it may be a while, but they’re […]

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Science: Why are some peppers different colors?

Science! A quick paragraph about why peppers come in so many hues. Though the sentence structure here isn’t too bad and the article is very short, I’m classifying this as ‘advanced’ since several of the words are quite chemistry-specific.

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History: The History of the Pencil

Woo, I’m on a roll this week. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the history here, not being a pencil history expert myself, but this read has a lot of good words for larnin’. I’d put this in the lower-advanced spectrum, as the sentence structure isn’t over-the-top literary, but there are a ton of [...]
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News: Snowstorm has caused 15 deaths and 2000 flight delays or cancellations

In the spirit of the holiday season, which is winding to a blissfully overweight close, I give you an article about something you may or may not have just struggled through if you flew home for the holidays (which I did).

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A Probe into the Work-Life Balance of Chinese Policewomen

Gonna lay it on a bit thick today with something nice and serious. This is an abstract of an academic paper from the Gender Studies Network authored by Zhou Ying.

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Novels: Tiger Team – Ghost Hotel

This excerpt is one of the Tiger Team supernatural mystery novels for adolescents. The Tiger Team series was originally created in German by author Thomas C. Brezina, and features a band of young detectives: Jupiter Katz, son of a supernatural researcher Erasmus Katz, Jupiter’s cousin Vicky and Vicky’s little brother Nick. This is listed as […]

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Martial Arts Mastery: Put Yourself at a Disadvantage

In this essay you’ll learn to read Chinese martial arts words – well, a few, anyway – but it’s not really the vocabulary that places this in the “advanced” category. It’s more that most of the text is full of wax-on, wax-off Karate Kid statements, as the martial arts master talks about how putting oneself […]

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News: Malaysia Unveils Special Taxis for Women Only to Warm Welcome

This news story covers a new government initiative to help protect women from sexual harassment by providing special women-only taxis in the capital city Kuala Lumpur.

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Love Our China: A Patriotic Speech

Welp, you can’t get more forcefully patriotic than this. This transcript of a student’s classroom speech reads like a political call-to-action and includes rousing images of bloody soldiers, strong Chinese athletes and Chinese workers throwing off the yoke of imperialist might. This might be upper intermediate level reading, but I’m classifying it as advanced, as […]