Celebrating Taiwan, home to some of the richest Sinophone literature in the world

Today on Taiwan’s National Day, we celebrate this important, vibrant island, which has given us—as Jonathan Stalling aptly puts it in Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers—”some of the richest Sinophone literature in the world.” Stalling elaborates that “unfixed, vibrant, and deeply engaged with a sense of place, Taiwanese writers—from the experimental poetry pioneer Hsia Yu to younger multimedia poets like Ye Mimi to powerhouse authors like Li Ang and Chu T’ien-wen—are continually pushing the boundaries of the possible and unlocking new directions for Sinophone literature in the twenty-first century.”

Stalling

Taiwan’s literary history is just as unique, as seen in Chia-rong Wu’s fascinating study, Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan and Beyond, which explores “the discourse of the supernatural and beyond in response to the historical overview of Sinophone Taiwan.” Wu explores the zhiguai 志怪 genre and shows us how “ghost haunting may be allegorically associated with the historical, political, cultural, and even sexual dimensions of the world of the living.”

Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan

In showcasing the world of the living in Taiwan, Hou Hsiao-hsien is “considered by many cinema aficionados to be one of the most innovative, provocative, and enthralling directors,” as Christopher Lupke notes in The Sinophone Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien and further remarks that “linguistically and culturally speaking Hou Hsiao-hsien necessarily dwells in contested terrain, in the political penumbra between state and region, between national culture and transnational identity.”

Hou Hsiao-hsien

Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan and Beyond and The Sinophone Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien are part of the Cambria Sinophone World Series, headed by Professor Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

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Cambria Press Author Interview with Professor Christopher Rea

Before Crazy Rich Asians, there were the Chinese celebrities in the 1930’s. In his latest book Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities, Professor Christopher Rea (University of British Columbia) takes us into the world of Chinese elites and what they had to say about each other. Louise Edwards, Scientia Professor and Deputy Head of the School of Humanities and Languages at the University of New South Wales, hails Professor Rea’s latest book as “satirical, witty, and compulsive reading.”

So, what did it mean to be a celebrity in modern China? In Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities, Christopher Rea presents fifty brilliant pen sketches of Chinese cultural and political elites, written and edited in 1934 by Wen Yuan-ning, a Cambridge-educated ethnic Hakka from Indonesia and a master literary stylist. In this interview, Christopher Rea discusses what Imperfect Understanding reveals about the politics fame in China, then and now.

Cambria Press Publication Author Christopher Rea

Question: Professor Theodore Huters (UCLA) has called this collection “an extraordinary artifact of Chinese literary and social history.” Could you please elaborate on this and why it was so important for you to edit this book?

Christopher Rea: I got the idea for Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities while doing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University in 2012. Geremie Barmé, the Director of the Centre, invited me to co-guest edit with William Sima a double issue of the e-journal China Heritage Quarterly focused on the Chinese-edited English-language weekly The China Critic, which was founded in Shanghai in 1928. In the pages of the Critic I discovered a column of “Unedited Biographies” of Chinese celebrities, which I found to be often brilliant and consistently entertaining, even when I didn’t know much about the person being profiled. The editor of the column, Wen Yuan-ning, was a favorite professor of Qian Zhongshu’s, a writer whom I’m keenly interested in. I discovered that Wen not only edited fifty celebrity profiles for the Critic in 1934, but that he also released a book of seventeen of them under his own name in 1935 as Imperfect Understanding. His takes on Hu Shi, Xu Zhimo, Zhou Zuoren, Liang Yuchun, Wellington Koo, Gu Hongming and other cultural celebrities are insightful, funny, and often mischievous. In many cases, Wen knew them personally and would try to reconcile their personalities with their reputations. His instinct was to deflate the puffed-up biographies found in books like Who’s Who in China, and the results are refreshing.

As I read more of the essays and started researching the individuals involved, it became clear to me that Wen Yuan-ning is a literary voice who deserves to be rediscovered. His influence on the satirical style of Qian Zhongshu is unmistakable and his essays make good reading in their own right. Like many members of his generation, Wen’s literary career was cut short by war and politics—but in his case it likely had more to do with being elected to China’s legislature and later being appointed Ambassador to Greece. But what he left behind is treasure trove for the essay lover and the historian.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
CR: For starters, I hope that they enjoy discovering Wen Yuan-ning’s writings as much as I did. Imperfect Understanding contains much good humor, well-turned wit, and judicious character appraisal, along with flights of arch mockery, physiognomic satire, and poetry. Some pieces are quite touching. I hope that readers enjoy the results of some literary sleuthing that went into this book. For example, one of the best sources on Wen turned out to be writings by the New Yorker journalist Emily Hahn, who worked with him in Shanghai in the 1930s. One essay, the one on George T. Yeh (Ye Gongchao), I figured out was almost certainly written by Qian Zhongshu. I discovered that many of the essays—which were originally written in English—were translated and retranslated into Chinese many times in the 1930s and 1940s. And, as a literary historian, I learned quite a bit about celebrities outside my field, including plague fighters of Manchuria, Manila businessmen, university presidents from Singapore, rubber tycoons, diplomats, physicists, philanthropists, and musicians. Just the selection of persons profiled—the mix of professions, of male and female, living and dead—provides ample material for thinking about the politics of celebrity in in China’s age of print, and in its publishing center of Shanghai. Who was included or excluded from the list, and why? I also hope that this book inspires greater appreciation of how multilingualism has been a part of China’s literary sphere. Apart from some material in the appendices, this book is not a translation; Wen and his co-authors wrote in English. Finally, I hope that readers find useful all of the photographs, summary biographies, and bibliographic material about Wen Yuan-ning and his peers at the back of the book.

Q: What other research do you believe is needed on this topic?

CR: There’s plenty more research to be done on Wen Yuan-ning, besides the material I was able to get from Cambridge, Stanford, Taipei, and a few other places. Next steps might include tracking down his personal papers and archives in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taiwan. Wen is just one of many talented writers of modern China who could write in English or another language besides Chinese, and much more work is needed to elucidate the multilingual dimension of modern Chinese literary history. We need more treasure-hunters in the archives, as many literary gems remain hiding in old magazines and journals, waiting to be rediscovered. The politics of fame has had a tremendous impact on modern Chinese culture, before and after the extraordinary example of Mao Zedong. Celebrities abound in contemporary China, for example, and our tendency is to interpret them based on the archetypes we’re most familiar with. Yet it’s clear, even before factoring in the latest digital twist, that not all of them fit the mold. Insofar as celebrity is a function of things like money, status, power, time, and attention, its configurations in Chinese contexts deserve our attention too.

Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Chinese Celebrities is part of the Cambria Sinophone World Series, headed by Professor Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

About Christopher Rea

Christopher Rea is an associate professor of Asian studies at the University of British Columbia. He holds an MA and PhD from Columbia University and a BA from Dartmouth College. His previous books include The Book of Swindles: Selections from a Late Ming Collection (cotranslated with Bruce Rusk), China’s Literary Cosmopolitans: Qian Zhongshu, Yang Jiang, and the World of Letters, and The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China, which the Association for Asian Studies awarded the Joseph Levenson Book Prize (post-1900 China) in 2017.

About Wen Yuan-Ning

Wen Yuan-ning (1900–1984), also known as Oon Guan Neng, was born into a Hakka family on the island of Banka, and educated in Singapore, London, and King’s College, Cambridge. He taught English literature at universities in Peking, including Tsinghua University, and served as chair of the Department of Foreign Languages of Peking University. He subsequently became a contributing editor of the English-language weekly The China Critic (1928–1940, 1946) and editor-in-chief of T’ien Hsia Monthly (1935–1941), releasing his essay collection Imperfect Understanding in 1935. He was made a member of the Legislative Yuan in 1933 and in 1947 became China’s Ambassador to Greece, a position he held for twenty years. In retirement, he taught English literature at Chinese Culture University in Taipei.

 

 

Cambria Press Book Launch at iPreciation with Mabel Lee, Shen Jiawei, and Victor Mair

The Cambria Press double book launch at iPreciation on July 14, 2018,  was a great success! The audience was treated not only to fascinating talks by celebrity artist Shen Jiawei and Professor Mabel Lee about their  books Painting History: China’s Revolution in a Global Context and Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics  but also the introductory speech by distinguished guest of honor Professor Victor Mair and an impromptu speech by another eminent guest Professor Wang Gungwu. In addition, attendees were able to view the paintings of another Cambria author Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian, who has his major paintings held at iPreciation.

Cambria Press iPreciation book launch

Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation (Singapore)

Cambria Press iPreciation Mabel Lee Toni Tan Helina Chan Wang Gungwu Victor Mair Shen Jiawei

Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation (left to right): Mabel Lee, Toni Tan, Helina Chan, Wang Gungwu, Victor Mair, and Shen Jiawei

Cambria Press iPreciation Shen Jiawei Victor Mair books

Cambria Press iPreciation Shen Jiawei Victor Mair with books–Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics, Painting History: China’s Revolution in a Global Context, and Texts and Transformations: Essays in Honor of the 75th Birthday of Victor H. Mair 

Cambria Press iPreciation Mabel Lee Victor Mair

Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation: In addition to discussing her two books, Mabel Lee also introduced another book she was involved in-Texts and Transformations: Essays in Honor of the 75th Birthday of Victor H. Mair edited by Haun Saussy

Cambria Press iPreciation Shen Jiawei book signing

Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation: Shen Jiawei signing copies of Painting History

Cambria Press iPreciation book signing Victor Mair Shen Jiawei

Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation: Victor Mair signing copies of Texts and Transformations, and Shen Jiawei signing copies of Painting History

Cambria Press iPreciation Victor Mair signing

Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation: Victor Mair signing copies of Texts and Transformations

Cambria Press authors with books Mabel Lee Victor Mair Shen Jiawei

Cambria Press authors with their books: Mabel Lee, Victor Mair, and Shen Jiawei with Shen Jiawei’s painting of Chin Peng

More photos and a video will be posted soon, so stayed tuned!

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Cambria Press Publication Review: Central American Avant-Garde Narrative

Congratulations to Professor Adrian Kane on the excellent review of his book, Central American Avant-Garde Narrative: Literary Innovation and Cultural Change (1926–1936), in the journal Chasqui: revista de literatura latinoamericana.

Kane Book Cover

The review notes that:

While other studies have centered on poetry and manifestos, in Central American Avant-Garde Narrative Kane turns to the genre of narrative fiction to trace the ways in which authors from the isthmus use European techniques of literary experimentation in the 1920s and 1930s to renovate cultural traditions at home. Cosmopolitan authors such as Luis Cardoza y Aragón, Miguel Angel Asturias, and Flavio Herrera (from Guatemala), Max Jiménez (from Costa Rica), and Rogelio Sinán (from Panama) creatively incorporate regional elements within broader, international artistic concerns as they apply locally…

The book review also praises the book because it “fills gaps in the literary criticism of the region” and because ” it calls for a new approach to reading the works addressed and, at the same time, it provides a helpful review of particular strategies of innovation used in the avant-garde in general through the author’s close reading of the texts.”

Central American Avant-Garde Narrative is in the the Cambria Latin American Literatures and Cultures Series headed by Román de la Campa, the Edwin B. and Lenore R. Williams Professor of Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Cambria Press Publication Review: Chinese Avant-garde Fiction

Congratulations to Professor Zhansui Yu on the outstanding review of his book, Chinese Avant-garde Fiction: Quest for Historicity and Transcendent Truth, in China Quarterly.

Chinese Avant-Garde Fiction

 

The book review notes:

“The experimental literary production of the People’s Republic of China during the 1980s, which was freed from many of the aesthetic strictures of the Mao era, deserves more scholarly attention. Zhansui Yu’s monograph aims to help fill this gap by focusing on the avant-garde fiction of Su Tong, Yu Hua and Ge Fei. … This is one of few monographs on Chinese literature that features a sustained engagement with the thought of Martin Heidegger … He convincingly makes the case that the common themes between these writers warrant a collective analysis for them. Yu’s painstakingly thorough reading and research will reward those seeking a broad introduction to the wide oeuvre of these three writers. As such, the chapters serve as a suitable catalyst for debate and discussion in university classes that cover these authors, as many of their works have been translated. For Chinese scholars curious about the thought of Heidegger, this book provides a handy and useful introduction.”

This book is part of the Cambria Sinophone World Series, headed by Victor H. Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

Title: Chinese Avant-garde Fiction: Quest for Historicity and Transcendent Truth
Author:
 Zhansui Yu
Publisher: Cambria Press
ISBN: 9781604979688
252 pp.  |   2017   |   Hardback & E-book
Book Webpage: http://www.cambriapress.com/books/9781604979688.cfm

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The History Makers: Gao Xingjian, Ding Ling, Chu T’ien-wen, Lu Xun, Zhang Yimou, Xie Bingying, Hou Hsiao-hsien, and Shen Jiawei

Wandr Top Banner #AAS2018

From left to right, top to bottom: Gao XingjianDing LingWen Yuan-ningChu T’ien-wenLu XunZhang YimouXie BingyingHou Hsiao-hsien, and Shen Jiawei.

Below are the books on (and in some cases by) the works of these individuals.

Gao Xingjian

See Gao Xingjian’s eponymous book, Gao Xingjian: Aesthetics and Creation,
translated by Mabel Lee.

Gao Xingjian Book

See Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics, edited by Mabel Lee and Liu Jianmei.

    Lee-Liu-GXJ

Wen Yuan-ning

See Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Chinese Celebrities
by Wen Yuan-ning and Others, edited by Christopher Rea

9781604979435front

Ding Ling and Xie Bingying

See Chinese Women Writers and Modern Print Culture by Megan M. Ferry.

9781604979381front

Chu T’ien-wen and Hou Hsiao-hsien

See Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers: An Anthology
edited by Jonathan Stalling, Lin Tai-man, and Yanwing Leung.
Included in this book is “The Story of Hsiao-Pi” by Chu T’ien-wen.

Stalling

See also The Sinophone Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien:
Culture, Style, Voice, and Motion by Christopher Lupke.
There is a chapter on Chu T’ien-wen and her work with Hou.

hou-hsiao-hsien1.jpg

Lu Xun

See Reading Lu Xun Through Carl Jung by Carolyn T. Brown

9781604979374front

See also The Chinese Prose Poem: A Study of Lu Xun’s “Wild Grass (Yecao)”
by Nicholas A. Kaldis

Kaldis

Zhang Yimou

See Zhang Yimou: Globalization and the Subject of Culture by Wendy Larson

Larson

Shen Jiawei

See Painting History: China’s Revolution in a Global Context by Jiawei Shen,
edited by Mabel Lee.

9781604979398front

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Cambria Press Gold E-Book Library Edition & Other FAQs

Below are some frequently asked questions about how to make books more affordable for classroom use as well as a couple that come up pretty often.

Question: I would like to use a few chapters from one of your books for a
class. Are there any affordable options for my students?
Answer: There are options that are affordable—even free—for your students.
1. The first way is to have your students rent the e-book for only $12.99.
2. The second way is to have them purchase the e-book. Prices start at $19.99.
3. The third way, which will be free for your students, is to have your university
library purchase the Gold E-Book Library Edition of the title.

Question: I would like to use a few chapters from one of your books for a
class. Are there any affordable options for my students?
Answer: There are options that are affordable—even free—for your students.
1. The first way is to have your students rent the e-book for only $12.99.
2. The second way is to have them purchase the e-book. Prices start at $19.99.
3. The third way, which will be free for your students, is to have your university
library purchase the Gold E-Book Library Edition of the title.

Q: What is the Gold E-Book Library Edition?
A: When your library purchases the Gold E-Book Library Edition, it means that
you, as well as your colleagues and students at your university, enjoy unlimited, concurrent access to the the title in all popular digital formats including html, PDF, ePub, Kindle reading devices, and smart phones.

Q: For which titles are there Gold E-Book Library Editions?
A: Virtually all our titles have Gold E-Book Library Editions.

Q: Does my library have to install any kind of software for the Gold E-Book Library Edition?
A: No, your library does not have to install any kind of software. It is a fast, seamless process. The content is immediately available to read online or download.

Q: How does my library order the Gold E-Book Library Edition?
A: Please ask your librarian to go to the webpage of the title you wish to have them order. They should click on the yellow “See All Buying Options” button to order. They can then select and order the Gold E-Book Library Edition.

Q: What if my library wants to purchase from a supplier like EBSCO or YBP?
A: Cambria books and e-books can be purchased from these suppliers.

Q: Is there anything else I should know about the Gold E-Book Library Edition?
A: Yes, if you recommend the title and your library then purchases it from us or from another supplier, we will send you a complimentary hardcopy of the book. Please ask your library to e-mail sales<AT>cambriapress.com to give us your name and the order number.

 

Cambria Press Gold

Q: I have a book proposal that I would like to submit to Cambria, but it would not be for any Cambria series. Would Cambria still be interested?
A: Yes, we have many books which are not in any series. Please submit your proposal at http://www.cambriapress.com/proposal or e-mail editor<AT>cambriapress.com.

Q: Is it true that Cambria generates the index page numbers for their authors?
A: Yes, our authors are very pleased about it, especially how it expedites the process.

If there are any questions that are not answered here, please feel free to send us your questions here.

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