It was perhaps inevitable that Chinese memoirs in translation would move on from those whose authors date from the Chinese Civil War and the Cultural Revolution. Cai Chongda is a popular millennial writer and fashion executive who became the youngest editorial director in the GQ franchise. His memoir, Vessel, was a bestseller in China a half-dozen years ago and is now available in English in a translation by Dylan Levi King.
The geometric patterning in Islamic tiles, carpets and textiles bespeak the Chief Architect, and how He brings forth the beauty of the physical world through eternal shapes. Implicit in these designs are dualities, heaven and earth, light and shadow, and of course male and female. The curating tradition of museums focuses on the male element in Islamic art. From the great monarchs like Iran’s Shah Abbas, Turkey’s Suleyman the Magnificent and India’s Shah Jahan, museums display their silk ceremonial gowns, jade-handled swords and brocaded riding boots. Objects made by or for women rarely figure in the exhibit cases.
We all probably at one point or other in our lives have wanted a do-over. Go back to take the left fork in the road, instead of the right. Take back words said in anger, or say words not voiced. In Eto Mori’s novel, Colorful, a nameless soul from a person who committed an egregious sin is allowed another chance at life to make up for that transgression. However, the soul must agree to accept the conditions of the do-over, or face eternal death, never being able to reincarnate.
Borders are “important”: they define, in legal terms, who we are, our identity, and our rights. Except borders are rarely imposed with any thought to the people actually living there. And once a border is imposed, it can radically change the lives of those who live alongside it, dividing communities forever more.
The names given to early museums provide a clue to their original function: Peter the Great had his Wunderkammer, the Shah of Iran had his Ajayeb-khane, the Pasha of Egypt his Muthaf. All these words mean a home for marvels. The original museums did not contain paintings or sculpture. These were admired in palaces, homes or churches. The wonderful and rare, which had no place in the decoration of familiar spaces, required special locations, designated accordingly.
The adventures of Samak, a trickster-warrior hero of Persia’s thousand-year-old oral storytelling tradition, are beloved in Iran. Samak is an ayyar, a warrior who comes from the common people and embodies the ideals of loyalty, selflessness, and honor—a figure that recalls samurai, ronin, and knights yet is distinctive to Persian legend. His exploits—set against an epic background of palace intrigue, battlefield heroics, and star-crossed romance between a noble prince and princess—are as deeply rooted in Persian culture as are the stories of Robin Hood and King Arthur in the West. However, this majestic tale has remained little known outside Iran.
Liz PY Chee vividly remembers the first time she visited a bear farm. It was 2009, and Chee, who was working for a Singapore-based animal welfare group, flew to Laos to tour a Chinese-owned facility. The animals Chee saw “were hardly recognizable as bears,” she later wrote, “because they had rubbed most of their fur off against the bars of the cages and had grown very long toenails through disuse of their feet.”