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

Of Gods and…More Gods: Idle Talk Under the Bean Arbor

  One of the earliest, and certainly fullest, examples of the frame story is the  collection Idle Talk Under the Bean Arbor. Through a series of stories told by a group of people sheltering from the heat under a bean arbor, everything from karmic justice to the end of the world is discussed. We welcome a guest, Lindsey…read more

A Man and His Rock

Political allegory? Straight-ahead love story? Supernatural adventure? All of the above? Lee and Rob discuss the story “Rare Stone from Heaven” (tr. Hu Shiguang) from the renowned collection Strange Tales from Liao Zhai (《聊斋志异》), and debate just how literally you can read a story about a man’s love affair with a rock.      …read more

Moonstruck: Wandering the Galaxy with Li Bai

When people in China think of poetry, two names come immediately to mind: the Tang Dynasty (618-907 B.C.E.) poets Du Fu and Li Bai. In part two of our discussion of these greats, we take a look at one of Li Bai’s most famous works, and discuss why he’s our go-to Tang literary figure to…read more

Grief in a Fallen City: Du Fu’s Ever-Present Histories

When people in China think of poetry, two names spring to mind: the Tang Dynasty (618-907 B.C.E.) poets Du Fu and Li Bai. In this first of a pair of podcasts on their works, we examine a well-known poem by Du Fu and discuss why the poet was both the greatest master of Chinese poetic form,…read more

High Plains Drifter: Li Shangyin

Though not as famous as his predecessors, Li Shangyin, the premier poet from the Late Tang, is an amazing poet. Furthermore, his adoration for Du Fu and other Tang poets helped create the cult of the Tang that is still going on in China. In today’s podcast, Rob and Lee take a look at a…read more

Revolution or Reform: A Discussion of the May 4th Movement

Talk to anyone in China, and they will telly you that May 4th, 1919 is the day that modern China began. Everything before that is feudal, everything after that progress. But is it really that black and white? Rob and Lee take a look at the May 4th Movement, both a political and literary event, and try to…read more

A Male Mencius’ Mother

On today’s podcast, Rob and Lee discuss a story that is relevant to today’s America as much as it is to  China: Male Mencius’ Mother, a sort of medieval Chinese version My Two Dads. In the story of A Male Mencius’ Mother, we find ourselves in Fujian, on the edge of Chinese civilization, purportedly an…read more

‘Cause I’m the Taxman: The Voyages of Yu Gong

The Tribute of Yu (禹貢) is one of the oldest mythological texts related to Chinese statehood. Yu was a semi-mythical god-king who traveled around the nine states noting what each of these states had that was worth giving as tribute to the emperor. The text is almost certainly not as old as it purports to…read more

Emperor Shen’s New Groove: Song Dynasty Exam Reform

Have you ever heard about China’s intense exam culture? Much like its East Asian counterparts, China both loves and loves to hates its exam system. The most infamous, the Gaokao, determines the testtaker’s college choice, and even major in some cases. What if we told you that this exam culture had more than a thousand…read more

How to Be A/Political: The Seven Books of the Sun

Dead just months before the June 4th massacre in Tiananmen Square, Hai Zi is held up as the great “pure” poet of contemporary China, unconcerned with politics. But how true is that? We discuss his epic work, The Seven Books of the Sun, by way of grappling with the question.          …read more