The Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang: Republican-Era Martial Arts Fiction, John Christopher Hamm (Columbia University Press, August 2019)
The Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang: Republican-Era Martial Arts Fiction, John Christopher Hamm (Columbia University Press, August 2019)

Xiang Kairan, who wrote under the pen name “the Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang,” is remembered as the father of modern Chinese martial arts fiction, one of the most distinctive forms of twentieth-century Chinese culture and the inspiration for China’s globally popular martial arts cinema. In this book, John Christopher Hamm shows how Xiang Kairan’s work and career offer a new lens on the transformations of fiction and popular culture in early-twentieth-century China.

The ban on Arabic script at halaal restaurants in Beijing last month is a somewhat small, yet unnerving reminder of China’s illiberal relationship with its various minority populations. More serious has been the reported detainment of a million-plus Uighur and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang over the past couple of years. Similarly, the on-going detention of many Tibetan Buddhists—as well as a near universal ban of foreign travel for individuals living in the Tibetan region—also indicate a tense relationship between the single-party People’s Republic of China (PRC) and many minority populations.

By focusing on young singers, Opera Hong Kong’s summer semi-staged productions serve as one of the better crystal balls on Hong Kong’s operatic development. These late-August performances are the college basketball to the larger productions of the operatic NBA in the Spring and Fall, in which, if one is lucky, excitement and atmosphere can more than compensate for the occasional youthful lack of polish.

History has a way of inspiring quirky fanfiction. Back in the 1980s, Terry Johnson’s play (later Nicolas Roeg’s film) Insignificance imagined an evening where Marilyn Monroe (or as she was called simply, “The Actress”) finds herself thrown together with Albert Einstein (“The Scientist”), Joseph McCarthy (“The Senator”) and Joe DiMaggio (“The Ballplayer”), who collectively spin an intriguing rumination about the meaning of fame in America. Johnson’s dialogue rather deviated from historical record, but hearing The Actress explain relativity to The Scientist was a hoot.

The Power of Print in Modern China: Intellectuals and Industrial Publishing from the End of Empire to Maoist State Socialism, Robert Culp (Columbia University Press, May 2019)
The Power of Print in Modern China: Intellectuals and Industrial Publishing from the End of Empire to Maoist State Socialism, Robert Culp (Columbia University Press, May 2019)

Amid early twentieth-century China’s epochal shifts, a vital and prolific commercial publishing industry emerged. Recruiting late Qing literati, foreign-trained academics, and recent graduates of the modernized school system to work as authors and editors, publishers produced textbooks, reference books, book series, and reprints of classical texts in large quantities at a significant profit. Work for major publishers provided a living to many Chinese intellectuals and offered them a platform to transform Chinese cultural life.

The image of Central Asia in the minds of many in the West is that of an exotic, distant land ruled by evil despots—its entrenched culture of corruption and repression both eternal and intractable. However, in Dictators without borders: Power and Money in Central Asia, academics Alexander Cooley and John Heathershaw aim to refresh and reframe our understanding of the region.