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

Narration and Revolution: The True Story of Ah Q

How does a low-life moron become one of the great tragic figures in modern Chinese culture? Lu Xun’s 1921 novella The True Story of Ah Q, a masterpiece of the May 4th Movement, presents just such a situation. We discuss the story’s unique narrative choices, and Lu Xun’s varying reception in Taiwan and mainland China.    …read more

Censure and Celebration: Jiang Xingge Re-Encounters His Pearl Shirt

  One of the most acclaimed 话本 (hua ben – vernacular short stories) in Feng Menglong’s 1620 collection Stories Old and New (tr. Yang Shuhui and Yang Yunqin). We discuss the question of irony in a story about both marital and extramarital bliss, and explore the reasons behind the story’s famously racy details.        …read more

Of Gods and Telescopes: Li Yu’s A Tower for the Summer Heat

Want a shortcut to immortality? Get a telescope! Or at least that’s the scenario posed by Li Yu’s classic 1657 story Tower for the Summer Heat《夏宜樓》. We’ll also take a closer look at the notions of cultural “inside” and “outside” spaces that inform Chinese social discourse to this day.