This weekly column offers a digest of the latest pieces from the Chinese blogosphere published on our website and most recently completed translations of new Chinese writing. 

Shanghai Cathay

New texts published

 Food memories: Shanghai curry – Bo Bangni

In her series, Bo Bangni connects food and personal story. This article on ‘Shanghai curry’ brings together the multicultural flavours of China’s commercial metropolis, and memories of educated youth in her family.

 Counter-revolutionary cases close to home – Zhu Xuedong

The times of the cultural revolution, and the times immediately following it, are still present in the memory of many Chinese people who experienced it first hand. Senior journalist Zhu Xuedong evokes  a ‘counter-revolutionary criminal’ from his childhood – a worker from his village who had the bad luck of expressing relief at the news of Mao’s death over the phone.

China’s silk road and the spirit of the times – Zheng Yongnian

This piece is part of a series by political analyst Zheng Yongnain, reflecting on China’s international relations. Zheng Yongnian wonders how Chinese imperialism or international influence may differ from British and American imperialism. To guide his thoughts, he uses the Hegelian concept of the ‘zeitgeist’ or spirit of the times, as well as the historical and geopolitical construct of the ‘Silk Road’.

What’s so good about Shanghai? – Tang Yalin

When inland friends ask the writer: ‘What is appealing about life in Shanghai? Isn’t it a frustrating and difficult bustling city?’, Tang Yalin replies, the great thing about Shanghai is the choices offered to you, the freedom you can experience, and the romantic quality of everyday life, the possibility of sudden moments of joy offered by this multicultural city.

Why did I open a co-working space? – Ah Cai

Ah Cai, or Kenny Choi, recently opened Yi-gather, the first co-working and incubation space in Guangzhou. In this post, he shares his motivation – discovery of co-working spaces when he shot the first Chinese documentary film about social enterprise, desire to have his own space, and a vision about the benefits social innovation to China, and his home-city.

Why is there no legal protection in the world of love? – Ding Xiaoyun

Love comes with much sacrifice and dedication – of time, emotions, and multiple gifts. Yet if the feeling ends, there is no legal protection for the sad lovers – why, asks Ding Xiaoyun.

New translations completed

When the government announced a revision to the family planning regulations last year, some commentators expected the end of the one child policy – not so, explains journalist Zong He in ‘Family planning adjustment is not an invitation to bring on the second kid‘.

In ‘Four attitudes to oppression‘, Chengdu philosopher Li Yehang explores the possible reactions of victims in this world – seek revenge, sterile struggle, revolution, or mysticism.

Is China really a racist country? And what is the changing form of racism in China? Wu Xianghong offers a few elements to help us understand the question in ‘The decline of racism in China‘.

Finally, in ‘How to achieve good public life, Zhang Tianpan explores Toqueville’s analysis of democratic experiments in New England townships to contrast American and Chinese village life, and proposes self-management and autonomy as a basis for good public life.

This weekly column offers a digest of the latest pieces from the Chinese blogosphere published on our website and most recently completed translations of new Chinese writing.

dancing in the park

New texts published

Restoring the concept of charity  – Chen Tongkui

This piece proposes a reflection on the non-profit and charity sector in China. It offers insight into current debates regarding the respective roles of the government and community sectors in providing social welfare, and potential developments in regulations for the non-profit sector.

Fragmented education – Muran

Professor Muran reflects on the crisis of higher education in China today. He particularly focuses on the radical changes brought about by the internet – how technology modified the traditional role of the teacher, the relationship between teachers and students, and the modes of access to knowledge.

 What do we talk about when we talk about the world cup – Yu Ge

China has been watching the Football World Cup with great interest, even though the Chinese team did not even take part until recently. Social analyst Yu Ge reflects on the international character of football – and the core reasons why people obsessively watch the game.

Chen Yinxi: the free life of a jazz singer – China 30s 

China 30s is an online magazine offering interviews with young Chinese people who led alternative lives, and pursued innovative or creative avenues. This piece is an interview with Jazz singer Jasmine Chen. From a young age, she trained as a pianist, but she stopped playing the piano at 11.  At 19, she went to England where she battled alone for five years, to pursue studies of music and piano. During this time, she discovered jazz, and enjoyed it more and more. So after graduating, she decided to return to China, and turn her passion of jazz singing into the focus of her life and work.

New translations completed

For poetry lovers, Marc Howe from Canberra translated a series of poems by Yisha: ‘That Thing, ‘Small Memories from Kongtong‘, and ‘Dream 91‘. Simon Cooper from England translated ‘Reading Jiang Qing’s new Confucian Political Order, review of a recent Chinese book exploring the political applications of neo-confucianist thinking.

The following two pieces are still lacking a few paragraphs, but can already be enjoyed. Li Yehang’s My views on the university entrance exam offers a philosophical reflection on the evils of China’s university selection systems, how it affects the winners as much or even more than the losers.  ‘The death and birth of online literature explores the parallel evolution of print, TV and internet – and the possible convergence of the three media.

This week on Marco Polo Project is a work in progress – your feedback is very welcome! 

At our last workshop, we had a wonderful discussion about the translation of the Chinese expression ‘没办法’, which opened a real new understanding of Chinese values and attitude for all participants. So we thought it may be the opportunity to launch a new column on this blog: ‘highlights from our translation workshops’, which we will write in English and Chinese.

We were debriefing the translation of a text about the proposition that ‘There’s too many Chinese people‘. ‘没办法’ appeared in the first line of the first paragraph, and as the table in charge read through their translation, there was disagreement about the translation. Someone proposed the usual ‘there’s no way’, but another participant insisted ‘that’s how it is’ was a better translation. Now that got me interested, and I thought there was something really worth pursuing there.

Anyone who’s lived in China will know the expression ‘没办法’ – pinyin ‘Mei Banfa’ – generally uttered by Chinese colleagues or friends whenever they’re confronted with some sort of administrative or bureaucratic obstacle.

Here’s the more interesting bit: I’ve always interpreted ‘没办法’ literally, as an expression of fatalism in the face of higher powers – ‘there is no way, I can’t find a way, I am unable to think of a method to solve this problem, and I have given up’. I also developed a certain irritation when confronted with this (repeated) expression of helplessness, and thought ‘surely, there is a way, couldn’t we just sit down and find how to solve this?’

But here I was confronted with another interpretation of the same expression: ‘没办法’ doesn’t mean ‘I am unable to think of a method that would solve this problem’, but rather ‘let’s not this problem get at us, and since that way seems blocked, let’s focus on something else’. I tested this assumption – and got confirmation from Chinese participants in the workshop.

This interpretation of 没办法’ as a kind of Chinese ‘c’est la vie’ suddenly brought back to mind a number of instances when I heard this expression – and revealed a new angle on my memory. My Chinese friends were not defeatist, but wise – and trying to cheer me up, inviting me to be philosophical, and accept the little annoyances of life in community with a smile.