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A man plus an ice cream cone is not the recipe for tension-filled drama unless the film is Stammer. This playful experimental piece by Chinese animator Shen Jie (b. 1989) reveals its story through a single repeating action that builds incrementally. The sound design adds the right touch of humor to complete the idea.
DreamWorks Animation is moving into live-action. At a Beijing news conference last week, Jeffrey Katzenberg announced a co-production agreement between Oriental DreamWorks and the Chinese state-owned China Film Group Corp. The deal will result in a movie franchise based on the bestselling Chinese book series Tibet Code.
Katzenberg said that the film will become “China’s Indiana Jones,” while China Film Group chairman Han Sanping proclaimed that the film’s “characters represent traditional Chinese culture and Chinese morality.”
How can we outline the discussion on the law and practice of international arbitration? What is the legal process for the drafting of the arbitration agreements or the enforcement of arbitral awards? Long-time international arbitrators Constantine Partasides, Alan Redfern, and Martin Hunters — co-authors of Redfern and Hunter on International Arbitration: Fifth Edition with Nigel Blackaby — sat down with the OUPblog to discuss the latest developments in their field. Watch the following videos to learn more about current views on international arbitration and what changes they expect to see in the future.
Nigel Blackaby, Constantine Partasides, Alan Redfern, and Martin Hunter are the authors of Redfern and Hunter on International Arbitration: Fifth Edition. Nigel Blackaby is one of the partners of the international arbitration group at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in Washington, DC. Constantine Partasides is a one of the partners of the international arbitration group at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in London. Alan Redfern is the barrister and international arbitrator at One Essex Court Chambers in London. Martin Hunter is currently a barrister and international arbitrator at One Essex Court Chambers.
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Growing up with no special interest in China, one of the few things I associated with the country was mix and match meal creation. On airplanes and school cafeterias, you just have “chicken or beef” choices, but Chinese restaurants were “1 from Column A, 1 from Column B” domains. If only in recent China debates, a similar readiness to think beyond either/or options prevailed!
I thought of this when Reuters ran an assessment of Xi Jinping’s first weeks in power last months that in some venues carried this “chicken or beef” sort of headline: “China’s New Leader: Reformist or Conservative?” Previous Chinese leaders have often turned out to have both reformist and conservative sides. Even Deng Xiaoping, considered the quintessential reformer due to his economic policies, held the line on political liberalization and backed the brutal 1989 crackdown. Mightn’t Xi, too, end up ordering from the reformist and conservative sides of the menu?
A Valentine’s Day for the books: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Vice President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China and members of a Chinese delegation in the Oval Office, Feb. 14, 2012, several months before Xi became the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Mo Yan’s Nobel Prize win last fall, which continues to generate controversy, led some foreign commentators into a similar “chicken or beef” trap—or, rather, an “Ai Weiwei or Zhang Yimou” one. The former is an artist locked into an antagonistic relationship with the government, the latter a filmmaker who has been choreographing spectacles celebrating Communist Party rule, including both the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Games and a 2009 gala staged to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. Since they are two of the only internationally prominent Chinese creative figures, some Westerners assumed Mo must be like one or the other.
In fact, the novelist shares traits with each but isn’t all that similar to either. Like China’s best-known artist, Mo has a penchant for mocking the powerful. And like the renowned filmmaker turned state choreographer, Mo works within the system, serving as a Vice-Chairman of the official writer’s association and recently agreeing to be a delegate to the Chinese People’s Consultative Political Conference. Unlike Ai Weiwei, though, Mo skewers only relatively safe targets, like the kinds of corrupt local officials that the central authorities don’t mind seeing satirized, and instead of railing against censorship, he has likened it to an inconvenience akin to airport security protocols. And unlike Zhang Yimou, one of whose best films was based on the novelist’s story “Red Sorghum,” Mo has consistently produced iconoclastic works.
If Column A choices signal compliance and Column B ones criticism, the artist and filmmaker now stick to opposite sides of the menu, while Mo Yan keeps choosing from both—and he’s not alone in this. Yu Hua, an author whose political choices I find more admirable, does this as well. He belongs to the official writer’s association and his novels, like Mo’s, generally satirize relatively safe targets. But Yu also pens trenchant essays on taboo topics, including the 1989 massacre. He’s frustrated that these can only be published abroad, but glad that they end up circulating on the mainland in underground digital versions.
A third debate, centering on the competing predictions made by “When China Rules the World” author Martin Jacques and “The Coming Collapse of China” author Gordon G. Chang, makes me think not of the value of combining Column A and Column B choices but of a different feature of Chinese restaurants that I only learned about as an adult. If you don’t like the options on the English language menu in some Chinatown eateries, you can ask to see a Chinese language one that lists additional dishes the proprietor doubts will interest most customers.
My problem with the Jacques vs. Chang debate is that I find neither pundit convincing. Jacques’ vision of China moving smoothly toward global domination glosses over the fissures within the country’s elite and the many domestic challenges its government faces. Chang continually underestimates the Communist Party’s resiliency and adaptability. His 2001 book said it would implode by 2011. Late in 2011, he told Foreign Policy readers that he’d miscalculated and they could “bet on” his prophecy coming true in 2012. In 2013, the Communist Party is still in control and somehow Chang’s still being invited onto news shows to make forecasts.
When asked whether Xi Jinping is a reformer or a conservative and whether Mo Yan is a collaborator or a critic, I can craft an answer that draws a bit from both Column A and Column B Being asked whether I side with Jacques or Chang is different. I’m left feeling like a hungry vegetarian who has been given a list made up exclusively of chicken and beef dishes—and hopes desperately that there’s another menu hidden in the back with some acceptable choices.
About a year ago, I reviewed Allen Say's autobiographical work Drawing from Memory and the effect World War II had on his life growing up in Yokohama, Japan. Ed Young's The House Baba Built is also an autobiographical work and describes his life in Shanghai, China during the war.
Ed Young's father was an engineer and realizing that war was coming to China, he decided he needed a safe place for himself, his wife and five children to live in. The safest place would be around the foreign embassies in Shanghai, known as the International Settlement. But land there was expensive and so Baba (an affectionate term for father) made a deal with a landowner - Baba would built a house on his land with the proviso that his family could live in it for 20 years. The family moved into the house in 1935 and for the first few years that they lived in Baba's house, life was good. There was a lovely swimming pool, where friends and family would gather in summer, there was lots of pretend playing, lovely gardens and even a roof that made a great roller skating area. Life wasn't rich in goods, but it was rich in so many other ways.
But when the Japanese invaded Nanking in 1937, Baba had to build an apartment where the kids roller skated because relatives from there had escaped to Shanghai to live. After that, the effects of the war began to be felt more and more. And in 1940 a family who had escaped Hitler's Germany, the Luedeckes, also moved into Baba's house.
The three families living in Baba's house were very fortunate. Even after things changed with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the loss of British and American protection, the house that Baba built was able to withstand the war, and even when bombs were being dropped directly on Shanghai, they missed the house completely.
When the 20 years were up, the Young family honored their contract and turned the house over to the landowner. By then, most of the children had grown, married and gone their own way.
It was during the war, living in Baba's house, that Young discovered his talent as an artist. Given crayons and paper to use while recovering from a cold, his first attempt at drawing was a cowboy that didn't quite match what was in his mind. But he sought guidance and the rest is history. For The House Baba Built, he used a mixed media, which gives it depth and texture. Young's family is shown in an interesting combination of old photographs and drawings, there are all kinds of collages (my favorite art form), and some of the pages fold out to reveal even more of the life of the Young family in Baba's house.
Most of the book consists of vignettes that are put together to resemble the collages, rather than a linear history of Young's early life. However, there is a timeline at the end which can help orient the reader if needed. And there is an extended section at the end of the book of later photographs, including Baba's house, as well as a diagram of the house and some facts regarding how the house was built to bombproof it.
All in all, The House Baba Built is an interesting book for all kinds of readers, but especially a reader who likes to explore each and every page of an illustrated book. This is a work that proves itself to be an insightful look at some of the early influences on a beloved author/illustrator.
This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was borrowed from the Webster Branch of the NYPL
Facts First! Nonfiction Monday is hosted this week by ProseandKahn
In a Chinese village, Bamboo, a simple farmer, falls in love with a peasant girl, Ming, and soon they are married. To celebrate the wedding, the newlyweds plant a grove of bamboo. When Bamboo goes to the New World to seek his fortune, his new wife is left behind to till the fields. Ming soon discovers that the bamboo she brought as a gift to her new husband is magic...
There’s a strong wave of indie animators emerging from Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, and China. The latter country’s indie scene is the focus of the documentary The Beginning directed by Jess Zou of NeochaEDGE. The film, which debuts in NY next week at the China Institute (125 East 65th Street, NY, NY 10065), features profiles of twenty Chinese animators and studios who are pursuing a more independent approach in their work. The 100-minute film is in Mandarin with English subtitles. Tickets are $8 and pre-registration is required on the Institute’s website.
Artists and studios featured in The Beginning include: Ray Lei (Beijing), Sun Haipeng (Shenzhen), Liu Jian (Nanjing), Mao Qichao (Magic Animation Studio, Chengdu), Pi San (Beijing), Anytime (aka: ANI7IME) Animation Studio (Zhang Chunli, Pu Junhan, Li Weikun, Su Jingxin: Guangzhou), Seen Studio (Zhang Naowen, Aspirin, Zeng Xun: Beijing), Song Siqi (Henan)/Wang Qing (Suzhou), Li Dongzhen (Beijing), and Beijing Film Academy student animation group (Sun Yiran, Wang Xingchen, Chen Xi, Zhang Yi, and Zhang Xiadian).
He's my favorite author and he's had Nobel hype for years. It's so exciting that he finally won!
The first book of his that I read was Red Sorghum. It was assigned for a Chinese Literature in Translation course. I was only auditing the class and could only read part of it before I had to turn my attention elsewhere. But, I liked it so much that I went back and finished it after the semester was over.
I prefer is earlier stuff to his later stuff. The shorter works are tighter and more accessible. His later works seem like a Nobel bid, but are still very good. Overall his writing is marked by a visceral lushness that I'm not used to seeing from Chinese prose, which is usually sparse in its descriptions. Many of his works are touched by a magic realism that brings to mind Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
AND! When writing up this blog post I see that many of his works are available for FREE for Amazon Prime members through the lending library and many are priced at bargain prices to own the Kindle version. Take advantage while you can, especially of the three titles I mentioned in this post.
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Today's Picture Book Roundup features older winners of the Caldecott Medal.
The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
In addition to learning much that I didn't know about art, I had the opportunity to encounter or revisit some Caldecott Medal winners that predate my career as a librarian. I have been working in a library since 2005, and received my masters degree and first professional librarian position in 2007. The Caldecott Medal has been awarded since 1938. Clearly, I had a lot of catching up to do.
Though I did not read them all, I did read many older winners. Here are some of my favorites from the years prior to 1990:
(In order by publication date - award dates are the January following the publication year)
Langstaff, John. 1955.Frog Went A-Courtin'. New York: Harcourt Brace. Illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky.
Richly detailed and expressive animals illustrate this favorite old folk song. (If you don't know the song, Frog Went A-Courtin', Burl Ives' rendition was a classic) This is my favorite of all the older Caldecotts.
Mosel, Arlene.1972. The Funny Little Woman. New York: Dutton. Illustrated by Blair Lent.
Humorous, with inventive illustrations, the funny little woman travels to a world beneath her simple home in Japan.
Yorinks, Arthur. 1986.Hey. Al. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux. Illustrated by Richard Egielski.
Generally disliked by most of my classmates, this quirky, surreal story about a man and his dog really grows on you.
Yolen, Jane. 1987. Owl Moon. New York: Philomel. Illustrated by John Schoenherr.
I have been fortunate enough to hear owls in the night many times, though the only ones I have been able to spot are the low-flying burrowing owls. In Owl Moon, the thrill of a night-time owling expedition is captured brilliantly in both illustration and prose.
Young, Ed. 1989.Lon Po Po:A Red-Riding Hood Story from China. New York: Philomel.
A masterpiece of danger, suspense and courage - a classic folktale. The only one of my picks written and illustrated by the same person, it's no surprise that it's a pitch-perfect pairing of text and art.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present the west coast premiere of the classic Chinese animated feature Uproar In Heaven on Wednesday October 17th. The screening is part of a city-wide China Onscreen Biennial which will include showings of rare mainland Chinese shorts and feature films at various venues including UCLA, REDCAT, and the UCLA Film and Television Archives. Now known as The Monkey King: Uproar In Heaven, this landmark feature by directors Wan Lai-Ming and Tang Cheng was originally released in two parts – the first in 1961, the second in 1965. I first saw it in New York in the 1970s (I even saved the ad from the newspaper (at left) all these years). It’s an incredible visual feast that is a must-see on the big screen – with crazy-wonderful art direction and animation (see trailer below). It’s based on the Chinese myth of the Monkey King set to a Beijing opera-orchestral soundtrack. The film has been digitally restored and converted to 3D – and will be screened in its original language with English subtitles.
The screening will be at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theatre on Vine Street in Hollywood – and it will sell-out. Tickets go on sale today. Preceding the feature will be a presentation on its digital restoration and 3D conversion by Tom Burton and Pierre Routhier of Technicolor. I highly recommend this film. For more information, check the Academy’s website.
Just released today it’s the book trailer to Grace Lin‘s newest novel Starry River of the Sky! Already receiving rave reviews, Starry River of the Sky is the companion book to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon which was awarded the prestigious Newbery Honor Award in 2010. Starry River of the Sky officially launches October 2nd but for those of you that just can’t wait to get a copy it is already available on Amazon or, if you reside near Cambridge, MA, you can attend the booklaunch this Sunday, September 30th and get a signed copy! Be sure to visit Grace’s blog on October 2nd and join in the online launch party! Grace will also be going on a short, 3 stop book tour in October to promote the book. Why such a short tour? Not only is Grace celebrating the launch of her new book, she and her husband just celebrated the birth of her first child, a daughter, a mere 4 months ago! Congratulations Grace!
NB: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was one of the books we selected to be included in our 2010 Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set. Each year we send carefully chosen books to particular schools and libraries in various parts of the world. The books chosen seek to provide “multicultural” or “trans-cultural” stories that promote awareness of, knowledge about, and positive acceptance of “the other” in ways children can learn and enjoy. We are convinced of the crucial role of literacy and reading in an education that fosters understanding and empathy. To learn more about our Outreach program click here and to read our recent announcement of the 2012 book set click here.
Lin, Grace. 2012. Starry River of the Sky. New York: Little Brown.
A companion book to Grace Lin's 2009, Newbery Honor book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Starry River of the Sky is much the same and yet very different. Like the earlier book, Starry River of the Sky contains Grace Lin’s beautiful artwork (see note), features folktale vignettes, and revolves around a journey. But while Minli’s journey in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, is an actual journey full of obstacles to overcome, main character, Rendi’s journey, in Starry River of the Sky, is an introspective journey of understanding and self-discovery.
The story opens with a miserable and distressed Rendi traveling as a stowaway in a merchant’s cart,
Rendi was not sure how long the moon had been missing. He knew only that for weeks, the wind seemed to be whimpering as if the sky were suffering. At first, he had thought the moans were his own because his whole body ached from hiding in the merchant’s cart. However, it was when the cart had stopped for the evening, when the bumping and knocking had ended, that the groans began.
Rendi’s story is tied inexorably to that of the moon, though it will take some time for him to determine why the moon is missing and why he, and he alone hears the moaning of the sky each night. He is discovered by the merchant and left in a dying town, the Village of Clear Sky. With no other prospects, he becomes the chore boy for Master Chao, owner of the local inn. Master Chao’s daughter, Peiyi, takes an immediate dislike to the sullen young boy. It is not until the mysterious Madame Chang, the inn’s only guest, arrives, that fortunes begin to change. Madame Chang is a beautiful and captivating storyteller, recounting age-old folktales that have particular significance to Rendi; the neighbor, Widow Yan, and her daughter; and Mr. Shan, an elderly, doddering dinner guest who frequents the Inn. As Madame Chang shares her stories and encourages Rendi to do the same, his protective layer of insolence is removed like layers of skin from an onion. Starry Village of the Sky is many-layered as well - each character has a hidden story that is coaxed out by the storytelling of Madame Chang.
This is a captivating story that, while holding deep meaning, may be enjoyed in many layers. A magical fantasy, a Chinese folktale, a tale of a boy lost and found, a love story, a mystery, a journey of self-discovery -- all may be found in the tiny and remote Village of Clear Sky.
“There is a great deal of noise on the stairs but nobody comes into the room.”
– John F. Kennedy
President Kennedy was referencing a Chinese proverb when he said that, making the point that it was easy to talk about problems, but much more difficult to fix them.
Kyle Zimmer, First Book’s president and CEO, is in China herself this week, addressing the World Economic Forum’s ‘Annual Meeting of the New Champions’ in Tianjin, the foremost gathering of business and nonprofit leaders in Asia. She’s there to talk about subjects near and dear to our hearts – social entrepreneurship and social impact investing.
Social entrepreneurship is a new way of doing business, a hybrid of traditional nonprofits and for-profit companies that uses market forces to create social change. (Click here to read a recent blog post by Kyle where she explains what social entrepreneurship is and how it can change the world.)
Social impact investing is a related concept; the idea of channeling investment toward mission-driven businesses and entrepreneurial nonprofits that are working to solve social problems.
Fundamentally there are holes on both the investor side and the social entrepreneur’s side of the aisle.
On the investor side, there is far more talk than there is traction. Certainly, a few funds have been established that focus on social investment, but it is difficult to see these as more than traditional charity, dressed up as investment.
Creative new designs in the financial category to address this need have been discussed for years, but few have made it to market. This lack of significant innovation by the investment community has been a major roadblock to the expansion of the social sector. Enterprises reach a certain level of growth and then choke from the lack of capital.
Like any new idea, there’s a lot of work to be done. But Kyle is hopeful about the future, saying: “There we were all in a room at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions – financial institutions and representatives of the social sector — talking about the challenges, which is a great step toward a cure.”
At First Book, we’re working towards a new kind of solution to an old and intractable problem – how to ensure that the 30 million kids in the United States living in low-income families get the books and resources they need to succeed. Click here to learn some ways you can get involved.
Ed Young, author-illustrator, text as told to Libby Koponen, The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China Little, Brown and Company, 2011.
Age 4-8 and up
Born in 1931 the fourth of five siblings, Ed Young spent the years of the great depression, Japanese occupation, and World War II in a magnificent environment thanks to his father’s building skills and negotiating acumen. The esteemed Young, a senior talent in the world of children’s literature, celebrates his baba’s loving care and his extended family’s safe passage through terrible times in this collage-illustrated memoir.
In exchange for building the house on a Shanghai property he couldn’t afford to buy (a safe suburb of embassy housing), Baba secured use of the home for 20 years. He designed a substantial two-story edifice with many outdoor spaces and even a swimming pool. (Empty most of the time, the pool was used for riding bikes.) Young’s large-format book with several fold-out pages incorporates many old family photographs, sketches of siblings and relatives, and detailed diagrams of the house that Baba built. At the close of the story, double foldout pages display a layout sketch of both floors of the house, with tiny images of people pasted in the various rooms. Thirteen rooms are depicted, plus outdoor decks and a rooftop playground.
Koponen shapes Young’s words into a lyrical account of family life, repeating the phrase “the house that Baba built” to poetic effect. Text is interspersed scrapbook-style amongst cutouts of Young’s sketches–household members on a see-saw, roller-skating on the rooftop, dancing in the large ground floor living room. Baba, who had received a graduate degree from the University of Michigan in 1917, was cultured and somewhat westernized, but like everyone in Shanghai, the family suffered food shortages and overcrowded conditions for many years. Bombs fell nearby towards the end, but the house withstood the attacks, thanks to Baba’s sturdy construction.
Back matter includes the location of the house on a contemporary map of Shanghai, a family time line from 1915-1947, and an author’s note describing his 1990 visit to the house and how this book came into being. A fascinating window into Shanghai history, Young’s heartfelt tribute to his baba will endear children yet again to his stunning visual imagery and, this time, to his personal story as well.
Elisabeth Gifford's The House of Hope is quite a story - one that I won't soon forget. It is the story of Robin and Joyce Hill, how they give up a wealthy lifestyle to instead, live frugally and minister to "the least of these." They choose to open a home for orphans needing urgent care and terminally ill orphans in China rather than live for themselves. This is one of those books that I just could not stop reading - it tore at my heart - but it made me smile too. The Hills are making a difference - they are pouring into lives that are sometimes looked at as "minor" or "unimportant" - they are LIVING Matthew 25:40, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
I highly recommend this book that will challenge you - and at the very least - encourage you to remember the Hills when you pray.
100% of the proceeds from this book go to fund the work at Hope Foster Home - another wonderful reason to purchase and read this inspiring book! To see others that are blogging about this book - visit the blog tour schedule.
Help spread the word! TWEET THIS or Share about the book on Twitter or Facebook and be entered to win a $50 Amazon gift card and a $50 donation to Hope Foster Name in your name!
TWEET THIS: Couple gives all to rescue babies in China! 100% proceeds go to #HopeFosterHome http://ow.ly/7qR3e RT 4 $50 to @amazon & $50 to #HFH
(must use hashtage #HFH to be entered)
FACEBOOK THIS: The House of Hope: One couple abandons a comfortable life to rescue abandoned children. Robin and Joyce Hill have helped over 1300 Chinese orphans with severe medical problems. Purchase a copy for everyone you know - the book is a gift that gives a gift. 100% proceeds to help support the work at Hope Foster Home! Learn more here: http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/text/13438821 Share this for a chance to get a $50 Amazon.com GC and $50 in your name to Hope Foster Home! Click For Details.
Holding more than 110,000 pieces of mail, the mammoth plane that weighed more than 52,000 pounds and had a 130-foot wingspan lifted from the waters of San Francisco Bay. The plane, the China Clipper, was beginning the first flight across the Pacific Ocean on November 22, 1935—just eight years after Charles Lindbergh had flown alone across the Atlantic.
Built by the Glenn Martin Company, the China Clipper was a giant seaplane, a design well-suited to its use. The plane had to be massive to carry powerful enough engines and enough fuel to cover the vast expanse of the Pacific. The size and weight meant the plane would need a large runway, uncommon in the 1930s when aviation was just beginning. A seaplane, though, could easily land on water.
Flying across the Pacific was the brainchild of Juan Trippe, president of Pan American Airways, the leading U.S. airline at the time. Trippe knew that even the largest, most powerful plane would not be able to cross the entire Pacific in one flight. He planned to make stops at Honolulu, Midway, Guam, and Wake islands before reaching the plane’s original destination at Manila, in the Philippines. He was there—along with Postmaster General James A. Farley—to send the plane off on its initial flight. Trippe meant the name clipper to evoke the romance of the fastest merchant ships of the days of sail, the clipper ships that for decades had carried on the China trade.
Pan Am added two other planes to its trans-Pacific fleet, the Hawaii Clipper and the Philippine Clipper. Trans-Pacific passenger service was inaugurated in 1936, and that same year the first trip to China took place. Later, the Martin seaplanes were replaced by even more powerful Boeing aircraft.
California animation studios have had satellite studios in Asia since the 1980s, when Disney operated out of Japan and Hanna-Barbera had Fil-Cartoons in the Philippines. It’s the same today, only the names of the companies have changed, like Lucasfilm with its studio in Singapore and Digital Domain in India. Now, according to this Reuters story, DreamWorks is aggressively pushing forward with its plans to launch a studio in Shanghai, a development that we first reported last September. The new studio, DreamWorks East, could be up and running by January, and its first feature is slated for 2015. DreamWorks and a consortium of Chinese companies will invest up to $2 billion over five years in the joint venture, and the studio will also develop theme park rides and distribute films.
Last week after I posted about Shaun Tan‘s book The Arrival being set to a musical score, I spent some time searching the internet to find out about other children’s books which had been set to musical scores. Interestingly enough the first event that came up on my search was for a January 2012 production of another Australian author’s book: The Race for the Chinese Zodiac by Gabrielle Wang. I had been just been in contact with Gabrielle a few weeks ago when we posted our review of her book The Garden of Empress Cassia so I quickly sent off another email to her and she provided me with the following details on the event which is taking place at the Melbourne Recital Centre in Melbourne, Australia:
The Jade Emperor has declared a great race: the first animals to cross the river will win a place in the Chinese Zodiac. Thirteen animals line up along the shore. But there are only twelve places to be won. Who will miss out?
The story of how the animals of the Chinese zodiac came to be is told through music and projected images. Learn about the story behind the Rat, the Snake, the Horse and other endearing characters of this traditional tale and discover the sounds of Chinese instruments.
CHINESE PAINTING WORKSHOPS FOR CHILDREN
Date: Sat. Jan 21, Sun. Jan 22. Click here for times and ticket info
Gabrielle studied Chinese painting at the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Art in Hangzhou, China. In this workshop she will teach children the four treasures of the painting studio and the basics of Chinese brush painting with plenty of hands on practice. Come join Gabrielle and leave with a finished Chinese painting of your own.
Date: Sat. Jan 21 Click here for times and ticket info.
Celebrate the new year of the Dragon by taking a special Dragon tour. Gabrielle Wang, award-winning author of The Race for the Chinese Zodiac, will teach you how to draw these mythical animals, and then make a scale to place on the dragon that will wind up the Chinese Museum’s staircase.
It all began in November of 2010 when the military regime decided to release opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi who, since 1989, had been on house arrest under charges of attempting to divide the military. A few months later in the March of 2011, former Prime Minister and military hero Thein Sein was sworn in as President of the rapidly changing government. Among the numerous bold moves President Sein has made since assuming his new role in the fragile nation, arguably the most shocking has been the discontinuation of the controversial $3.6 billion Myitsone dam, a project funded by eager Chinese investors to generate electricity for millions of Chinese. What’s more, the West, most notably the United States, has seen this move by President Sein as a clear sign that his countries relations with the Chinese are turning sour. This is one of the reasons the Americans recently sent Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the first American official to visit the country in fifty years, to speak with President Sein about a host of issues ranging from the severing of ties with North Korea to prolonged relief on economic sanctions girding the people of Burma. As America embarks on a new season of brinkmanship with the Burmese government, it is eminently important to understand the reasons why we are now so eager to embrace the new government while also studying the global implications of Burma turning a shoulder to their neighbors from the East, the Chinese.
Below is an excerpt from author David Steinberg’s book, Burma/Myanmar: What Everyone Needs to Know. Here, Steinberg details the economic and strategic interests China desires in Burma. – Nick, OUP USA
Although we can only speculate on Chinese motivation for the close relationship with the Myanmar authorities, strategic and economic issues seem paramount. Chinese influence in Myanmar is potentially helpful in any rivalry that might again develop with India, although Sino-Indian relations now are quite cordial. As China expands its regional influence and develops a blue-water navy, Myanmar provides access to the Bay of Bengal and supplements other available port facilities for the Chinese in the Indian Ocean in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka – called a “string of [Chinese] pearls.” Although the southern reaches of Myanmar are at the extreme western end of the Straits of Malacca, the free use of these straits are critical strategic concerns to China, Japan, Korea, and the United States. Some Chinese sources consider continued access to the straits to be a critical policy objective, and a close relationship with Myanmar is a potential advantage. Eighty percent of imported Chinese oil passes through these straits. To the extent that pipelines for oil and gas cross Myanmar and relieve Chinese dependence on the vulnerable Straits of Malacca, this is clearly in China’s strategic interests.
Access to energy sources is both a strategic and economic concern. Diversification of the supply of oil, natural gas, and hydroelectric power is an issue in which Myanmar looms large. The exploitation of offshore natural gas fields in Myanmar is important, as is the ability to transport that gas, as well as Middle Eastern crude oil, to China avoiding the Straits of Malacca, which is a strategic plus for China. China is helping construct some thirty dams, most of which will supply electricity to Yunnan Province as well as power and irrigation water to parts of Myanmar.
In Heart of Buddha, Heart of China: The Life of Tanxu, a Twentieth Century Monk, James Carter traces the life of Tanxu, an unknown but extraordinary Buddhist monk. Defined by a desire for a desire for an activist Chinese nationalism that maintained the nation’s cultural and social traditions Tanxu’s life story portrays twentieth century China from empire to republic, through war, famine, and revolution.
A century ago, Tanxu used his temples to establish physical links between Buddhism and Chinese nationalism. At the same time, though, he was guided by the belief that the physical world was illusory. The title of his memoir, “Recollections of Shadows and Dust,” uses a common Buddhist phrase meant to convey the impermanence and illusion of the material world, hardly the theological emphasis one might expect from a man who transformed cityscapes with his work in brick and mortar. I tried to understand this apparent paradox as I researched Tanxu’s career, but my connection to him remained impersonal, even distant, and strictly academic.
This all changed with the unexpected series of events that led me to the Bronx. My research turned up a commentary that Tanxu had written on the Heart Sutra (a Buddhist sutra is a sacred text, usually purporting to record the spoken teachings of the historical Buddha). This brief and very popular text includes the famous construction “form is emptiness; emptiness is form.” Tanxu’s commentary was translated into English and widely read by Western Buddhists. One morning from my office in Philadelphia I emailed the Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA), in New York, to request a copy. They were happy to comply, but more interesting was this aside in their response: “By the way…[our] Master Lok To is a dharma heir disciple of Master Tanxu.”
Tanxu and Lok To worked together closely during the 1950’s and Lok To came to North America with Tanxu’s encouragement. He settled in the Bronx at the invitation of local Buddhist laity, and established the Buddhist Association of the United States there in 1964. Ten years later, he moved to his current location, on Davidson Avenue and founded the Young Men’s Buddhist Association as a center for his translation work. There he has been for nearly forty years.
Sitting with Lok To, Lu Bin (a young nun), and Hoi Sang Yu (a lay Buddhist who would become one of my most important guides through Tanxu’s world), I share my interest in Tanxu, and what I know about him. I’ve been to Harbin, and Yingkou, and Changchun, places they’ve never visited. Had I been to Qingdao, they wanted to know? Not yet. But that was the Master’s most important temple – I had to visit there: they could arrange it. They could coordinate my travels to most of the important stops on Tanxu’s itinerary, including Ningbo, where Tanxu studied to become a monk, and Tiantai Mountain, where his sect of Buddhism was established 1,100 years ago. Lok To was formally the abbot of Chamshan Temple in Hong Kong, where Tanxu’s remains were interred. I was welcome there anytime.
The moment was exciting, but also unsettling. I am by training and disposition an academic: keen to observe, less eager to participate. Journalists are warned to report, not to become, the story. Was I not risking just this by accepting invitations to temples and posing before Tanxu’s memorial shrine? And there was the question of faith. I make no claims for or against the beliefs that Tanxu, Lok To, and the other monks shared. Did I belong here?
Five months later, I stand in a mountainside clearing overlooking Clearwater Bay in Hong Kong’s New Territories. A white stupa housing Tanxu’s earthly remains gleams in the tropical sun. It is a beautiful scene of green cliffs plunging into the azure waters of the South China Sea. As I contemplate the view, a monkey em
The king is dying and the princess isn't responding to her messages. The Ghost Dragon King sends Kai and Yun to the heart of the Phoenix Empire to bring the princess home from university. But there are forces that don't want Kai and Yun to reach the princess, and, once they do, forces that won't let her leave.
Magic + steampunk + court intrigue + a Chinese fantasy setting = OH YES.
The set up to this story is one that you'll love or hate, depending. Basically, it reads like a sequel, but it's not. Kai and his friends met the Princess a year ago, when they helped her find her heart's desire. It sounded like a basic fairy tale set-up, doing impossible tasks to win her hand, but her heart's desire was to study politics before taking the throne. No one got her hand, the street gang was rewarded handsomely and the princess got to go to college. Win win. But... this is the story about what happens next. The money has changed Kai and his friends. They used it to escape the streets, but their group has drifted and things have shifted and changed. For Kai, it seemed easier then.
I LOVED this. I've often wanted a story about what happens next or what about the other people caught up in some epic battle, not the hero? I like how we jumped in, between big adventures. But, I can see that some people might really hate the same thing.
I liked how it was magical steampunk. The technology felt like futuristic steampunk, but magic was what it ran on, plus standard fantasy magic. And spirit animals.
Oh yes, and China. That's always a major plus in my book. I do like China.
And the cover is awesome.
I will say it took me awhile to get into it. The first 100 pages were a bit slow, but I'll admit that might have been my mood when I read it. After that though, I had a hard time putting it down. Very fun.
Book Provided by... my local library
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Jeannie Lin is the author of My Fair Concubine, a Harlequin Historical with a oh so pretty cover. This is her third book set in during the Tang Dynasty. I get exhausted by the number of Regency romances released every month, so it’s exciting to see a historical romance that tackles a different time period, as well as a setting other than Europe or the American West. I was delighted when Jeannie took the time to drop by the virtual offices to chat about her book – check out what she has to say!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.
[Jeannie Lin] Twin mommy and ex-high school science/technology teacher turned romance author. I’m a bit of a geek and a sentimental fool.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about My Fair Concubine?
[Jeannie Lin] My Fair Concubine is a Tang Dynasty twist on the classic "My Fair Lady." In the 9th century, the Chinese imperial court would send "princesses" off to foreign kingdoms in a practice called heqin, which means peace marriage. What the barbarians didn’t know was that these princesses were often concubines or daughters of noble families rather than true royalty. In My Fair Concubine, Fei Long is a nobleman who’s been put into a difficult position and has to train a tea house girl to become such an alliance bride. During the process, the two of them start falling in love, of course.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
[Jeannie Lin] The My Fair Lady concept is a classic one for romance. It has wonderful elements of class conflict and commentary. For me, the idea actually revolved around first my research into the practice of heqin. Also, I knew that in Chinese opera, men traditionally played the female roles. I started forming this idea of a nobleman and his friends trying to train a commoner and a scene of a male actor trying to teach a young woman how to act, ironically, like a woman stuck with me.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the story?
[Jeannie Lin] This book was a little bit of a departure from my previous two novels. It was lighter in tone with some comic elements. I wanted to balance humor with deep emotion and historical detail. The sexual tension in the story was also understated and I wanted the right touch of romance. So the big challenge for me was how to execute this balancing act in a way that still yielded an emotionally satisfying and interesting story.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Yan Ling?
[Jeannie Lin] Hard-working, eager, lively
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Fei Long would never eat with his tea?
[Jeannie Lin] Hee hee… Crab Rangoon, General Tso’s Chicken, Crumpets (because none of these are Chinese)
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?
[Jeannie Lin] I’m hugely influenced by the wuxia genre, specifically the movie adaptations of the books of Jin Yong. I also read Chinese poetry translated in English to get a feel for how the language is translated. Very often, I’ll get inspiration from the poetry, either from the tone, the imagery, or the subject matter. Historical research gives me many ideas, of course. And then the historical romance genre to top it all off. I love the sweeping historical romances that are full of adventure and angst.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in
Li Jian, The Water Dragon
Better Link Press, 2012.
Every day Ah Bao collects firewood in the forest near his tiny mountain village. He carries a small ax and a rice crock made from a gourd. One day, Ah Bao notices a shiny red pebble on the ground and puts it in his rice crock. As soon as he does this, the crock begins to shake and rattle, and before he knows it, the crock is overflowing with more rice than Ah Bao could ever eat.
When he gets home he realizes that the stone has the same effect on money! Now Ah Bao and his neighbors are never hungry or poor, but it hasn’t rained in the village since he found the magic stone. Ah Bao places the stone inside a bucket of water in the hope that it will overflow, but instead, the stone absorbs all the water in the bucket. The next day, Ah Bao goes in search of the water dragon he dreams about, hoping he will convince it to shower his village with water once again.
Along the way, Ah Bao meets several animals caught up in trying predicaments. He helps each of them and is rewarded in turn. Each animal also warns Ah Bao that he will soon meet “a greedy red monster.” Undaunted, Ah Bao moves on. When he finally meets the monster, both Ah Bao and the reader are surprised at how he handles the situation and the turn of events that follows. Ah Bao becomes a hero, but not as we might have expected!
This remarkable book is experienced illustrator Li Jian’s first foray into writing his own picture book. The story was inspired by legends he heard his elders tell when he was a child. The pictures, which combine Li’s classical training in Chinese painting with his talent for bringing fairy tales to life, are at least as compelling as the bilingual text (in English and simplified Chinese characters). Ah Bao is both a courageous and humble hero with a big heart and a sense of responsibility. He will be admired by children and parents, who will doubtless look forward to Li Jian’s next solo offering.
It's taken me a few days for me to say anything about this book besides "I just... wow. I mean, it's just, Beijing and... wow. I mean... wow." And that goes for the rather explosive content and also the way French can spin out a story. (I mean, wow.)
In early January, 1937, the night of Russian Christmas, Pamela Werner was murdered. Horrifically. Her body was found the next morning outside the supposedly haunted Fox Tower in Beijing.* She lived with her father in the Tartar city, just outside the Foreign Legation, so the investigation is under the control of the Chinese police. But she's a British subject, the daughter of a former British Consul, and this isn't an average robbery gone wrong. To get around the British legation promoting an envoy to the case that they would control, the Chinese police appoint a detective from Tianjin, where Pamela went to boarding school. DCI Dennis was former Scotland Yard and wasn't under the legation's control. His hands were tied by the British as to what he could and couldn't do, but he wouldn't get in the way of the investigation.
But the British want to save face and hinder things at every turn. The Consul in Beijing has a personal dislike of Werner's father. National and personal politics play large. The White Russians who run the Badlands, the strip of seedy dive bars, opium dens, and brothels between the Legation Quarter and the Tartar city, aren't talking. In Tianjin, Pamela was a quiet school girl. In Beijing, she had several boyfriends and liked to party. Meanwhile, the Japanese are surrounding the city and getting ever closer. Everyone's fleeing-- either the investigation or the threat of war.
The murder remains unsolved, and the case technically open, but no one working on it. Pamela's father starts his own investigation and gathers his own evidence and reaches his own conclusions about who murdered his daughter. The Japanese get involved. Then they're not. Different personal and national politics at play, but they still have a major role in the investigation. Pamela's father has a compelling case to make against his main suspect (one that French agrees with) but the Consul and London are ignoring his pleas and evidence. Personal politics make it easy to write him off. The war makes it easy for his files and notes to get shoved in a drawer and lost (until French found them in an uncataloged file at The British National Archive in Kew.)
Was it the KMT? The Japanese? A jealous boyfriend? Was it a message to someone else? Or something far more sinister? (Answer: far far far more sinister.)
Secret nudist colonies, stateless prostitutes, political assassinations, and cocktail hours spent at smoky back tables gathering gossip, rumor, clues and evidence, Shura**... and a world on the brink of war. Basically, but John LeCarre and Eileen Chang in a blender and make the result a true story, and you get Midnight in Peking.
French has a gift for spinning out the suspense and tension. He deftly explains the back-history and the politics, making it understandable so the rea