Cat Country

Welcome to Cat Country! In 1932, Lao She, the famous Chinese writer, penned a book about a Chinese astronaut crashing into Mars and finding the planet populated with Cat People. These Cat People are a way for Lao She to satirize the Chinese. Let the craziness begin!

Miss Sophie’s Diary

Finding a “first” of anything is a tricky proposition, but if we had to pick a “first” great work of feminism in modern Chinese literature, it would by Miss Sophie’s Diary, by Ding Ling, published in 1928. An absolutely fascinating work that takes full advantage of the diary format, in a way Lu Xun’s own Diary of…read more

Can Xue’s Hut on a Mountain

Can Xue is one of the most famous avant-garde authors to emerge from China in the 1980’s, and we took a look at one of her best and most enigmatic short stories, “Hut on the Mountain.”

Zhuangzi and His Fish

We here introduce one of the great duos in Chinese literary history: Zhuang Zi and his less-than-intelligent foil, Huizi. In this classic passage, the pair discuss whether it is possible to know how others feel, and on what basis one can make those kinds of assumptions. As is usual with Zhuangzi, nothing is fixed, so…read more

It’s the End of the World as We Know It: Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem

How would the world’s population function if it knew the end was coming…in 400 years? What would your view of humanity be if everyone you loved had been brutally taken from you by a tyrannical regime? These are the two structuring questions for the Hugo and Nebula-award winning novel The Three-Body Problem by China’s greatest…read more

Tao Yuanming’s Peach Blossom Spring

Tao Yuanming’s Peach Blossom Spring is one of the most famous in all of Chinese literature. A fisherman wanders into a cave and stumbles upon a utopia, but leaves it all because he wants to tell others. Join us as we dive into the cave with Tao Yuanming.

Lu Xun’s Diary of a Madman

Recorded just after Halloween, this podcasts feels a little like a ghost of podcasts past for two reasons. We have recorded an episode on this story, Lu Xun’s Diary of a Madman, three times. Unfortunately, we lost the first two attempts, so we resurrected this podcast from the grave on All Soul’s Day. The second ghostly…read more


Confucius, Confucius, Confucius. What more can be said about the man who, since two and a half millinea after he lived, has defined China. In this podcast, we will focus on how a single passage, just eight characters echoes throughout Chinese literature and beyond, even into the contemporaneous Communist Party shindig happening in Beijing this…read more

October Dedications: An Interview with Lucas Klein on the Poetry of Mang Ke

Back in action after a brief hiatus, Lee and Rob interview translator and professor Lucas Klein, whose most recent work, October Dedications, is a book of translations of the poet Mang Ke. Prof. Klein is best-known for his work with Xi Chuan, but gives a nice guided tour of historical trends in poetry translation, the differences…read more

That’s One Weird Utopia: Kang Youwei’s “Book of Great Unity”

There were a lot of texts dealing with reform in the late Qing (1895-1911), but few of them were more radical, or more bizarre, than Kang Youwei’s Book of Great Unity (《大同书》). The venerable linguist and Confucian scholar advocated a future utopia in which not only would governments and international commerce no longer exist, but even species…read more

Liberia By Way of Beijing: The Appeal of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Late Qing China

So here’s a question for you: why was one of the most popular books in the late Qing Dynasty (1895-1911) a translation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin? Lee and Rob attempt to answer this question, and along the way discuss matters of representation and legal rights in America and China.

Song Dynasty Ci and Liu Yong

  In the finest traditions of podcasting, Lee and Rob here discuss something they know next to nothing about: the poetry tradition of the Song Dynasty. Colloquial and relatable in ways that the Tang couldn’t have been, and which the Yuan and Ming weren’t, Song Ci remain some of the more popular poetic entries in…read more

Shen Xiu’s Little Bird Causes Seven Deaths This week, we are getting back to our roots. Some of the earliest podcasts we did were on the huaben (話本) story. The very first podcast we posted (we recorded others before, but we canned them because they weren’t good enough) was a huaben  that we called Of Gods and Telescopes. We also did the gender-bending huaben Male Mencius’…read more

Mao’s Last Poem

Arguably the single most important political figure of the 20th century, Mao Zedong was also an active poet whose works are still read and, more frequently, debated. How exactly do you approach the poetry of a man whose legacy includes some of the worst man-made disasters in history? By way of exploring this question, we…read more

Conversations with Nick Stember on Jia Pingwa’s Ugly Stone

We had the honor recently of talking with Nick Stember, a longtime translator of Chinese fiction and comics, and the official English-language translator of the renowned writer Jia Pingwa. On this podcast, we talk with Nick about his work, and about the intriguing Jia Pingwa short story “The Ugly Stone.” If you are interested…read more

Reading Between the Lines: A Discussion with Professor Stephen Durrant

  Well, this is it: our Aerosmith-on-Wayne’s-World podcast, the one where someone way out of our league is gracious enough to pay us a visit. We recently had the distinct privilege of sitting down with one of the U.S. academy’s most respected scholars on ancient Chinese texts: Professor Emeritus Stephen Durrant. Prof. Durrant is the…read more

Wait, Wait…Where’s Eddie Murphy?: The REAL Story of Mulan

No talking dragons. Little to no fighting. Lots of speeches. A woman warrior who just wants to go home and be a good, traditional daughter. And…rabbits? How exactly is this the Ballad of Mulan? Lee and I discuss the original story, and find ourselves split over the extent to which it qualifies as a work that…read more