The Chronicles of Lord Asunaro is a curious little volume. In length, perhaps 10,000 words, it is long for a short story but short for a novella. The protagonist, a minor feudal lord in late Tokugawa Japan, was an actual person (apparently: like much else here, it is hard to be sure), his life heavily fictionalized according to the author’s note. While labeled a “tale” or “story”, the narrative in fact lacks much of might conventionally be called a plot.

Surrealism is something of an outlier in mainstream English fiction, yet it seems to crop up with some frequency in contemporary Chinese-language literature, at least in those works that find themselves in English-translation. This penchant for surrealism can seem even more pronounced, or perhaps concentrated, in the wider Chinese world and diaspora: Dorothy Tse, Hon Lai-Chu and Dung Kai-Cheung in Hong Kong and Malaysia’s Ng Kim Chew being among the practitioners. The surrealism central to this newly-translated collection by Ho Sok Fong fits right in.

The Original Meaning of the Yijing: Commentary on the Scripture of Change, Zhu Xi. Joseph A Adler (trans, ed) (Columbia University Press, November 2019)
The Original Meaning of the Yijing: Commentary on the Scripture of Change, Zhu Xi, Joseph A Adler (trans, ed) (Columbia University Press, November 2019)

The Yijing (I Ching), or Scripture of Change, is traditionally considered the first and most profound of the Chinese classics. Originally a divination manual based on trigrams and hexagrams, by the beginning of the first millennium it had acquired written explanations and a series of appendices attributed to Confucius, which transformed it into a work of wisdom literature as well as divination. Over the centuries, hundreds of commentaries were written, but for the past thousand years, one of the most influential has been that of Zhu Xi (1130–1200), who synthesized the major interpretive approaches to the text and integrated it into his system of moral self-cultivation.

Serendipity, we may say, is a wonderful thing sometimes. Here are both a newly expanded edition of Hinton’s translation of Tu Fu’s poems, and at the same time his book about Tu Fu’s life as exemplified in an examination of some of these poems as they relate to the poet’s precipitous journey through life.

The Refugees’ Daughter, Takuji Ichikawa, Emily Balistrieri (tr) (Red Circle Authors, November 2019)
The Refugees’ Daughter, Takuji Ichikawa, Emily Balistrieri (tr) (Red Circle, November 2019)

In a society rife with conflict and a world on the edge of extinction, who should we turn to for answers: society’s strongest or weakest? This is the question Takuji Ichikawa, one of Japan’s most imaginative and unusual authors, poses in The Refugees’ Daughter, a magical modern parable for our troubled times.

With the exception of Eileen Chang to whom she is often compared, few writers have become as synonymous with Shanghai as Wang Anyi. Although born in Nanjing, Wang was brought to Shanghai at the age of one by her mother, noted writer and Shanghai native Ru Zhijuan, and her quest to know the city over the years in spite of its protean elusiveness (as well as Wang’s intermittent absences) has become something of an elegiac obsession for the celebrated author.