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

Zhuangzi’s Butterfly

Are you listening to the world’s only Chinese Literature podcast right now? Or are you just a butterfly floating around who is dreaming that you are a human who is listening to this podcast? How can you prove that you are actually the human rather than a butterfly dreaming they are a human? Is it…read more

The Ugly Stone: A Conversation with Nick Stember

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 in…read more

There Can Be Only One: The Biography of Xiang Yu

  The multi-volume Records of the Grand Historian, by Sima Qian, is one of the masterworks of Chinese history and literature . Even today it is the only source for much of our information on pre-Han (206 B.C.E.) China. One of the classic stories from the collection is The Biography of Xiang Yu (《项羽本纪》). Lee and I…read more

And They Lived Happily Ever After…

In today’s podcast, we return to the Historian of the Weird, that is the late, great Pu Songling. Previously, we did a podcast on his touching love story about a man and his rock. This time, we take a look at an equally ‘touching’ love story, though here, we are talking about bad touch. In the story…read more

Thinking of My Brothers on a Moonlit Night

  Today, we’re looking at one of Du Fu’s poems. We covered one of his works before, but his oeuvre is massive. Here is the poem for the day:       月夜憶舍弟   戍鼓斷人行,秋邊一雁聲。 露從今夜白,月是故鄉明。 有弟皆分散,無家問死生。 寄書長不達,況乃未休兵。   Thinking of my Brothers on a Moonlit Night   The drums of war have cut the roads…read more

Journey Even MORE to the West: The Xi You Bu

In this second of two podcasts on the Journey to the West, Lee discusses his work on a very strange, and very understudied, addendum to the original Journey to the West, written some time later. It turns the original’s focus inward, presenting multiple layers of reality.     

Journey to the West

  The 100 chapter picaresque novel Journey to the West (西游记) is one of the “four classic works” of Chinese literature. It is also one of the most popular pieces of writing in the Chinese language. With guest Brandon Folse, we talk about its enduring popularity, curious structure, and baroque approach to names.    …read more

Zhang Ailing’s Love in a Fallen City

In this podcast we discuss the writer whom Lee asserts is the single greatest Chinese novelist of the 20th century: Zhang Ailing (Eileen Chang). In particular, we take a closer look at one of her most famous stories, Love in a Fallen City (《倾城之恋》), and its depiction of the Japanese bombing of Hong Kong.  …read more

Haizi – Looking Toward The Sea

In today’s podcast, we will take a look back at Haizi, post-1979 China’s most famous poet. Previously, in this episode, we talked about Haizi in this mythologically laced poem.  Today, we’re going to take a look at his most famous poem, called “Facing the Sea, the Spring Warm, Flowers Blooming.” Below, Lee has provided…read more

Junkyard Poetics: Ouyang Jianghe’s Phoenix

One of the more interesting poetry projects in recent years is Ouyang Jianghe’s opus Phoenix, an attempt to capture in print the Xu Bing sculpture, which is a pair of massive phoenixes composed entirely from things found at Beijing construction sites. Lee and I welcome a guest, Brandon Folse, as we talk about how to…read more