Yun Sheng

Yun Sheng is a contributing editor at the Shanghai Review of Books.

A typical​ Chinese millennial hipster will turn up to see you wearing a snug designer jacket, really saggy jeans or super-tight leggings, and white sneakers. They’ll be carrying an eco bag: not any old cotton tote, but one that’s trending on Instagram – the LRB tote perhaps. Baseball caps and dramatic eyewear are among the most popular accessories. Unlike the urban...

Eileen Chang​ is probably the most talked about, studied and emulated writer in modern China. She made her debut as a prodigy in the 1940s in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. After she emigrated to the US in the 1950s, she was canonised in the 1960s by C.T. Hsia in his History of Modern Chinese Fiction, where he called her the ‘best and most important writer’ in mid-20th-century...

Diary: Husband Shopping in Beijing

Yun Sheng, 11 October 2018

At weekends public parks in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai function as matchmaking venues. Anxious parents put out advertisements for their single children – printed on sheets of paper or hung on boards – noting their age, appearance, height, salary and skills, while scouting around for suitable matches. Men should be equipped with a house or an apartment, a solid job and a decent salary; women should be young, good-looking, healthy, have a sweet/gentle/nice character, and some education but not too much (a BA would be adequate; an MA a bit too much; a PhD absolutely intimidating).

I was born in 1980, the year China implemented the one-child policy: I don’t have siblings, and neither do my peers. Whenever a Westerner learns that I’m an only child, the facial expression is a give-away: ‘You must have been terribly spoiled’ or ‘You must have been terribly lonely.’ Stanley Hall, the pioneering child psychologist, referred to the condition as ‘a disease in itself’. Our generation were known as ‘little emperors’ here in China.

Sniffle: Mai Jia

Yun Sheng, 11 September 2014

Mai Jia’s success​ in the West comes as no surprise to his readers in China: we like our airport novels as much as anyone else. It’s odd, though, to hear Decoded – a thriller with a genius cryptographer as its hero – praised as a serious work of literature, which is how the Economist greeted it when the English translation appeared this year: ‘finally, a great...

Many people are eager to know when Dai Congrong, the Chinese translator of Finnegans Wake, is going to produce the rest of the book. To date she has only published one third of her version and dropped no hints about when we might see the rest. A while back, quizzed by a reporter, she said: ‘May God give me the courage to finish it’ – which is surely a good call, even if...

From The Blog
11 November 2014

Xu Lizhi threw himself from a Foxconn workers’ dormitory building in Shenzhen on 30 September. He was 24 years old, a migrant worker and a poet: neither line of work looks promising in China at the moment. In the 1980s ‘poet’ was a prestigious job-description, and did wonders for your love life. Now none of the papers would waste space on a poem, even as filler; if a self-advertised ‘poet’ turned up on a dating site there’d be no takers and plenty of eye-rolling: poets must be weird or poor, or both. Modern poetry was more or less buried, along with China’s golden 1980s, in the year we’re not suppose to mention.

From The Blog
3 October 2014

I didn’t expect to see Occupy Central on the streets when I arrived in Hong Kong at the end of September. Like most tourists from the mainland, I went down to Central with a couple of friends for a close-up look at one of the world’s greatest consumer cultures in action, but the protest had been brought forward. On the subway there were dozens of teenagers wearing yellow ribbons in support of the cause. My friend in Hong Kong, who knows a little Cantonese, overheard one of the girls saying the boy she had a crush on had gone to the protest and she wanted to join him. They got off at Admiralty station, close to the demonstration. Love is the handmaiden of revolution. Later on TV we saw the pepper spray and tear gas, and we heard rumours – it turned out later they were orchestrated – of rubber bullets and armoured vehicles on the streets, yet there was calm for the most part, despite the odd flurry of projectiles and an attempt to shove through a barrier. The police reaction seemed guaranteed to bring more people out.

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