Centuries ago, in an empire far far away, an anonymous journeyman scribe authored and assembled a picaresque that became one of China’s most revered and influential literary works. “Assembled” because Monkey King, or Journey to the West (c 1580), is in substantial part a collection of the folk tales of many previous centuries, based on the legendary journeys of a T’ang Dynasty (618-906) monk, Tripitaka.

 Writing Poetry, Surviving War: The Works of Refugee Scholar-Official Chen Yuyi (1090–1139), Yugen Wang (Cambria, December 2020)
Writing Poetry, Surviving War: The Works of Refugee Scholar-Official Chen Yuyi (1090–1139), Yugen Wang (Cambria, December 2020)

The book is a study of the works of the Northern Song Chinese poet Chen Yuyi (1090–1139) as he fled the invading Jurchen soldiers in the political throes of a dynastic transition. Author Yugen Wang demonstrates how Chen’s poems epitomize the new style of writing in the Song that is markedly different from that of his Tang predecessors. Underscoring this stylistic and aesthetic analysis is a comparison of Chen and his model, the Tang master Du Fu (712–770).

Love and Other Moods, Crystal Z Lee (Balestier, December 2020)
Love and Other Moods, Crystal Z Lee (Balestier, December 2020)

Love and Other Moods is a coming-of-age story set in contemporary China, about falling in love, learning to adult, finding strength, and discovering one’s place in the world. Naomi Kita-Fan uproots her life from New York to China when her fiancé’s company transfers him to Shanghai. After a disastrous turn of events, Naomi finds herself with no job, no boyfriend, and nowhere to live in a foreign country.

The poems of Song Lin, born in Fujian in 1959, are, according to his translator and personal friend, the poet Jami Proctor Xu, “weavings of history, myth, nature, city, everyday life, melancholy, joy, story, image, and classical and modern Chinese.” This would be a formidable range for any poet, but reading Sunday Sparrows leaves little doubt that Xu was completely accurate in her assessment, which is made easier (for her) and perhaps more profound (for us) by its personal nature.