starlady: the philosopher's garden (obligatory china icon)
The White Snake. Written and directed by Mary Zimmerman. Performed by Berkeley Rep.

I have previously enjoyed shows by Mary Zimmerman at Berkeley Rep, and this show was a significant part of the reason that I subscribed this season. I was not disappointed.

I was not familiar with the story (the program calls it a fairy tale; not sure I agree with that) of the white snake, which apparently originated in the Tang Dynasty as the tale of a snake-succubus in the form of a woman who entrapped an innocent man into marrying her but was eventually imprisoned beneath a pagoda on the West Lake. By the time the story reaches us, things are significantly different, and much more feminist.

I was still slightly tipsy from the department holiday party in the first half of the show, which is partly the source of the strength of my initial conviction that it really reminded me of Avatar: The Last Airbender. ([livejournal.com profile] swan_tower, I think you would like it a lot too.) It's an American take on a Chinese story done, to the best of my admittedly limited knowledge, with wit and respect, and a lot of heart. Although the story is a romance between White Snake and her chosen pharmacy assistant Xu Xian, for me the real heart of the story was the bond of devoted friendship between White Snake and Green Snake, who decide to go down from their mountain together to the world of humans, just for one day. We all know how that goes.

The cast was uniformly excellent, and the Chinese pronunciation was pretty good--I especially liked one of the intervals in which they read from a Chinese theater manual and projected the text onto the back wall and I was able to read most of it!--and the staging was really interesting and innovative, but again, White Snake and Green Snake. They were just so awesome. The play was hilarious until the end, when, in that way that Zimmerman has of rolling all of life into a mingled yarn, the fore-ordained ending for the story played out and then I found myself weeping into my scarf at the last lines. I'm not being very coherent here, but it was excellent, and if you can see it--the current production has been extended until December 30--you totally should.
starlady: A woman in a sepia photograph wearing a military uniform (fight like a girl)
This one, on the other hand, I want to share immediately.

Nothing on Earth of Interest (Seeds of the Melon) (899 words) by faviconstarlady
Chapters: 1/?
Fandom: Sherlock Holmes (Downey films), Hǎi shàng huā liè chuá | The Sing-song Girls of Shanghai - Han Bangqing
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warning: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Sherlock Holmes/Mary Morstan/John Watson
Characters: Huang Cuifeng, Irene Adler, Ah Q, Sherlock Holmes, Mary Morstan, John Watson
Summary: Shanghai, 1894 - Courtesans, captains, colonialists, detectives, opera reformers, revolutionaries, spies: when a murder in the foreign settlement forces Inspector Ah Quei into collaboration with the famed Sherlock Holmes, the two men find that Shanghai holds secrets enough to shake two empires.

This is the most allusively dense thing I have ever written, hands down, even at 900 words; if I were to give you the footnoted version, there would be one at the end of just about every line. I like it so far - I'm also quite irrationally pleased to have the first Singsong Girls of Shanghai fic on the AO3, and quite possibly in the whole world - and I'm looking forward to the rest of it very much.
starlady: (justice)
This post is dedicated to [personal profile] wistfuljane, who just finished running the Most Awesome Asian Characters & Celebrities Fest (and is announcing the winners starting today) and to [personal profile] troisroyaumes, whose birthday was yesterday and who has a great post on Chuseok, and is in honor of 中秋節/추석/Trung Thu/中秋の名月/the Lantern Festival/the Mid-autumn Festival--may all of you who celebrate have a happy one! I will spend it wishing I were in Kyoto eating a 月見バーガー。And mooncakes. But I will make a point of going out to look at the moon.

Autumn Gem. Dir. Rae Chang & Adam Tow, 2009.

So, I totally would have entered Qiu Jin in the fest, except that I only heard of her for the first time this week, when  I attended a free screening of this documentary. You all should go see it! Qiu Jin was awesome!  

Qiu Jin (1875-1907) was a radical feminist and anti-Qing revolutionary who was executed by the dynasty for her part in a failed rebellion. She grew up the educated and indulged daughter and granddaughter of scholars in Xiaoshing, and continued her martial arts training to at least some extent even after her feet were bound in girlhood. She married unhappily into a very wealthy family, but after moving to Beijing in 1901 could no longer contain her dismay at her country's subjugation to foreign powers or her conviction that women's rights were the key to solving its problems. Soon she had unbound her feet and started dressing in western men's clothes, as well as writing patriotic feminist essays and giving speeches, and in 1904 she left her husband and children to join Sun Yat-sen and other Chinese nationalists, men and women, who were based in Tokyo. In 1906 she returned to the continent and started a women's journal as well as jointed the radical Restoration Society, becoming principal of one of its front-schools in Xiaoshing and one of the Society's principal leaders; after the failure of their rebellion (they had 50,000 supporters, but their plans were intercepted) she was arrested, and was executed in man's dress for woman's cause, by her own choice, on July 15, 1907. Sun Yat-sen led a state funeral for her in 1912.

The documentary is very vivid, and while its reenactment scenes make perhaps too much of Qiu Jin's sword training (though her seal did read "read books, practice sword"), there's no denying that she was a fiery, inspiring figure, and it's no surprise that she's accounted a revolutionary hero in China. Because she was awesome! And she deserves to be better known. There are many free screenings of the documentary planned in the States and in Australia; you should check it out!

Placeholder icon until I can find some wuxia women icons.
starlady: the philosopher's garden (obligatory china icon)
Pon, Cindy. Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia. New York: Greenwillow, 2009.

I really enjoyed this book; in point of fact I devoured it in one and a half sittings, which is unusually fast even for me.

Ai Ling lives in an out of the way town in a fantastic Sung dynasty China, the doted-on only child of her father, a former high government official to whose name scandal still clings; thus after Ai Ling fails to secure a betrothal and her father is summoned back to court, she and her mother have no one to turn to when a wealthy merchant decides that Ai Ling has the womb to bear him a son and tries to force her into becoming his fourth wife via a forged debt obligation. Rather than place her mother in an impossible position, Ai Ling leaves home in an attempt to find her father at the imperial palace. Along the way she meets Chen Yong, the half-foreigner son of an imperial concubine, who has his own reasons for accompanying her. Things get interesting even before Chen Yong's younger (adopted) brother Li Rong joins them; Ai Ling, not to put too fine a point on it, attracts the attention of demons repeatedly, and her learning to deal with them, to master her own powers, and about her past and destiny is the meat of the novel.

Phoenix in flight ) Silver Phoenix is an awesome book and a truly Chinese fantasy, and I am very much looking forward to the sequel, Fury of the Phoenix, despite the fact that Greenwillow, in an effort to boost sales, has redesigned and whitewashed the covers of both of Pon's books.

It's still possible to buy the unwhitewashed edition of Silver Phoenix new at Amazon, thereby boosting Pon's sales figures, and if you want to try the book out first you can read the first 70 pages here. Or view the book trailer below! Happy reading.

starlady: the philosopher's garden (obligatory china icon)
[personal profile] deepad on vidding as a grassroots feminist praxis quilting together a female gaze.


Chang, Leslie T. Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2009.

This is a really good book. I had some quibbles (I always have quibbles, seriously), but all in all Chang has done a remarkable job of telling the stories she found rather than the story she wanted to write, and Factory Girls resonates accordingly.

To wit, in this book Chang, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal who is married to the writer Peter Hessert, explores the lives of migrant workers in China, mostly in and around the southern city of Dongguan, where (among many other things) 2/3 of all the world's running shoes are made. Migrant workers in China are overwhelmingly young and female, girls from the villages with varying levels of education whose only real option for economic advancement is moving to the cities to work. There are 130 million migrant workers in China, the largest migration in human history according to the back cover.

Going out | 出行 )

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