Monthly Archives: December 2016

Julie curates China热风

Julie Curates China appears every Wednesday in Hoje Macau. Visit my website for more.

The clash of desires



In the summer of 2014, Davide Monteleone began to travel to the Russian-Chinese border in search of something that felt real and reliable. The Italian photographer had lived in Moscow for more than a decade. The images he captured of the locked away places through his lens remind me of Marcel Proust’s words: “We do not succeed in changing things in accordance with our desires, but gradually our desires change.”

Below I selected four images whose significance does not extend, just like a secret desire without any ambition to become real, ever.

Monteleone: “In a remote place like this, the Russians just wait for something that is going to happen, while the Chinese try to do something.”


A RUSSIAN-CHINESE FRIENDSHIPReplica of St. Basil’s Cathedral. The original constructed by Ivan the terrible in the 16th century stands on the Red Square in Moscow. The copy on the photo was built by the Chinese in Jalainur. The painted turrets and onion domes were only a shell; nestled inside the building is a museum dedicated to science.

A RUSSIAN-CHINESE FRIENDSHIPA food vender awaits customers on the bank of the Songhua River in Harbin, underneath the old and new bridges for the Chinese Eastern Railway. The old bridge on the left was built by the Russians at the beginning of the 20th The new one on the right was built by the Chinese.

A RUSSIAN-CHINESE FRIENDSHIPYu Shi is studying in St. Petersburg to become an Orthodox priest. The photo is taken in Harbin, China.

4Passengers at the railway terminal in the Chinese city of Manzhouli, a small Chinese city on the border with Russia


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Julie curates China热风

Julie Curates China appears every Wednesday in Hoje Macau. Visit my website for more.


Lust, Caution


 Chinese novelist Eileen Chang 张爱玲 died on 8 September 1995 in Los Angeles. Can we celebrate someone’s death? I decided we can because she is among the few modern Chinese writers I read nowadays. She sits next to Lu Xun on my literary altar, only more forgotten.

Hollywood director Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution 色、戒is based on her short story published in 1979 in Taiwan (see photo). Two themes characterise Chang’s work: pre-Communist “East meets West”daily life and her cosmopolitism. In Lust, Caution, Lee showed his love for both.

Chang’s writing seems the natural outcome of her upbringing. Her father was the picture of decadent late-imperial aristocracy, and her mother was very much the kind of Westernized “New Woman” that embraced cultural reform. She was educated and independent, leaving her family behind for several years to travel Europe and to ski in the Swiss Alps. When Chang’s parents divorced when she was ten, she grew up in a contradictory world of pre-Communist Shanghai, split between her mother’s modern apartment and the opium-filled den of her father’s traditional aristocratic house. China’s cultural transition is evident and extensive in her razor-sharp observations.

Most of her literary works were written during the middle decades of the twentieth century, a period of intense political upheaval. The Qing dynasty was overtaken by a revolutionary republican democracy in 1911, nine years before the writer was born. However, this democracy collapsed into warlordism within five years, and the 1920s through 1940s were marked by increasingly violent power struggles to control and reshape China. These struggles culminated in the bloody Sino-Japanese War and the civil war between right-wing Nationalists and the Chinese Communist Party. While many prominent writers responded to these conflicts by turning radically left-wing and writing about ideals such as Nation, Revolution, Progress, Chang focused more on the mundane interactions and relationships between men and women. Lust, Caution is all the more extraordinary in that it is one of her few works where the politics drive the story. It seems to be Chang’s response to her critics who claimed that her treatment of war was too trivial.

Below I have selected five quotes from her books to share with my readers:

  • If a woman can’t win love and admiration from men, she won’t be respected by women either.
  • When you laugh, you laugh together with the entire world. When you cry, you cry alone.
  • Photography is like the hard shell of life. As time passes, you eat the inside and only you know how it really tastes. The empty shell is what’s left behind to show people.
  • I love money because I never have known what harm it can bring. Nobody has taught me about its evil, I have only learned how good money is.
  • Humanity is the most interesting book there is and you never finish reading.

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Julie curates China热风

Julie Curates China appears every Wednesday in Hoje Macau. Visit my website for more.


A game called Mahjong


Beijing 2008 is a painting by Chinese-Canadian artist Liu Yi 刘溢. Completed in 2005 and exhibited at a New York art fair the next year, this work was soon posted on the Internet and raising heated discussions around the world. Many people including netizens and art critics believe there are political messages in the artwork. Recently, following the storm on South China Sea, the painting is being dug up again.

First, let’s look at the portrait hanging on the wall. Who’s he? He is a combination of three former influential leaders of China: Sun Yat-sun, Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong, as the man’s face carries each of the three leaders’ facial features. What does it mean? I think to me perhaps it means China, separately and together, is an unsolved, frustrating situation within differing ideologies and identities. The figure hanging on the wall is always very important. He is the only one who wears clothes, gazing rather unmoved at the women in different state of undress.

The one with the tattoos on her back is China. On the left, focused intensely on the game, is Japan. The one with the shirt and head cocked to the side is America. Lying provocatively on the floor is Russia. And the little girl standing to the side is Taiwan.
And what about the tiles they are holding? China’s visible set of “East Wind” signifies China’s revival as a world power. Additionally, it signifies the military might and weaponry that China possesses has already been placed on the table. China appears to be in a good position, but we cannot see the rest of her hand. The tattooed woman is also handling some hidden tiles below the table.

America looks confident, but is glancing at Taiwan, trying to read something off of Taiwan’s expression and at the same time seems to be hinting something at Taiwan.
At a first glance, Russia appears to be disinterested in the game, but if you look closely, one of her feet strokes America coyly while her hand passes a hidden tile to China. Double dealing superpowers exchanging benefits in secret. Japan is all seriousness, staring at her own set of tiles and is oblivious to the actions of the others…If the women’s real game is that the loser strips off a piece of clothing? Some people seem to think the artist rather suggests that the final victor lies between China and America. And while America is capable, they are playing Chinese Mahjong, not Western Poker. She does not even remember to cover her lower body while playing by the Chinese rules, how much chance at victory does America really have?

Artist Liu Yi: “…My magic is about dreams of the masses and society.” Liu is an excellent storyteller.

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