Archive for the ‘china’ Category

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jiang your jiangyou

November 14, 2005

new news, Jiangyou rocketh, hotels are cheap, and my chinese understandable
10 days of travel here I come!

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not sure why I am posting this, but at least you can get an idea of my project this way

November 10, 2005

Chinese Literature has a history and depth that far outweighs the amount of literature created by most Western civilizations. As John Louton pointed out in his lecture, during the Classical age of Roman civilization, China produced twice as much material as Rome. Along with some of the first novels ever to be written, Chinese writers have also employed other genres to create their works, including short story. But along with the short story, there is also the genre of short short stories, which have experienced an revitalization over the past 30 years. Short shorts are usually only one to two pages in length or around 1,500 Chinese characters.

According to Liu Haitao in his essay “Origins of the Chinese Short Short Story”, the earliest short stories appeared in China during the Qin dynasty (221-206BC). Many of these short stories were not as long in length as even today’s short short stories and they many served as commentary about different social phenomena. One such story Han fei zi (Waiting for Hares by the Stump) told the story of a farmer who upon seeing a hare run into a stump in his field and die decided to stop working and watch the stump every day waiting for another free meal (p423). Later dynasties brought about changes in stories towards deeper meanings beyond the everyday life, of which two stories “Ganjiang Moye” and “Han Ping fu fu” demonstrated more complex plots and also a tendency to act as commentary on the rulers of the time. Generally speaking ancient Chinese short stories are agreed to have reached their peak during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties.

Through reading and analyzing these short short stories, one can gain both a better understanding of Chinese culture and the role literature plays within it. Chinese short short stories have several similarities that link many of them together. First most of them are very character driven. The story “A Soldier’s Wife” by Liu Wanli tells of the devotion of Sister Xia to her love who is a soldier in a far away post. The character of Sister Xia is key to the story and Liu Wanli uses several specific details to help create a picture of her, “She looked really charming when she chuckled” and her caring to her lover’s ailing parents. These details help make the story of Sister Xia come to life. Due to the short amount of space available the writers must find ways to create human characters with very few words, although this doesn’t always mean that the characters are named. The stories “Women Bandits”, “I Don’t Know Who I Am”, “A Relationship Long Broken”, and “A Buddhist Convent” are all examples of unnamed protagonists. In some cases this serves to focus on the universal themes of the story, such as in “A Relationship Long Broken” which tells the story of disagreements between a couple. Others remain without names to help the story appeal to many different people of different backgrounds.

Some of the Chinese short short stories also use first person narrators. For example the story “Restaurant Business” by Liu Wanli is told in a very matter of fact manner about a recent college graduate who goes to work for a friend of his father. The story progresses with little fanfare, in much the way that it would conversationally. Eventually at the end the narrator learns that his “uncle” is actually using the restaurant as a means of covering up the money he stole while serving for the government. Although it is impossible to know for sure, several the stories with first person narrators seem to be drawn from real life events that happened to the author. In his essay “Finding Materials for the Short Short Story” Ling Dingnian talks about two main sources, the first being personal experience and the second personal observation. First person narrator allows the author to tell his/her story more directly to the audience. Another example of this is the story “Holding You” by Ma Shaoxian which mirrors’ the authors own wish to hold the body of her dead son at his funeral. This story also differs from many of the other stories in that its main object is conveying an emotion experienced by the author. Even though much is learned about the main character through the emotion experienced, this story sticks out from the others.

While many of these short short stories stick to a fairly traditional style, a few use different techniques including multiple shifts in time period. The story “My Wife’s Hands” by Gao Weixi switches from his beginning time setting to several periods through out his wife and his courtship and marriage. Also at the end it becomes very self referential when the author declares his intention to write a short short story in honor of his wife’s hard working hands. Another unusual story is “Should I Stay or Go” by Harry J. Huang in which the entire story consists of a short telephone dialogue between a daughter and mother.

Despite the many different techniques employed by these Chinese writers, one commonality remains the need to have a twist or unique ending. The vast majority of these stories lead up to an ending in which the true nature of a character is revealed, love conquers or fails, or one of the ironies of life is revealed. In his essay “The Art of Ending the Short Short Story” Sun Fangyou writes, ” If a short short story is to win by its size and length, it has to rely on its hidden meaning, condensing the most thought possible inside the smallest space available.” In other words each of these writers work to create an ending that will drive the point of their story home to the reader or reveal the hidden joke. A good example of this twist at the end occurs in Zhong Zemei’s “Bragging”. The story tells about an invention by a doctor that will allow people to brag more easily. Soon the world becomes obsessed with bragging and the doctor continued to perfect his machine. Eventually it is perfect, but just as it is finished his wife brags about how she invented the machine, not the doctor. In the end because the world can no longer differentiate between the truth and bragging the wife becomes famous instead of the doctor and all the doctor gets is a divorce.

Reading Chinese short stories can also provide a glimpse into Chinese culture. In Harry J. Huang’s anthology of Chinese Short Short Stories he divides the stories into 12 categories; Teasing in Life, Human Harmony, Loving Parents, Caring Children, Sweet Romances, Love in the Air, Missing the Heart, Broken Strings, Love Bubbles, Wits at Risk, Humans & Animals, and Ancient Stories. Through looking at the stories in each of these categories one can learn a little bit more about Chinese life. Both Teasing in Life and Wits at Risk deal mainly with incidents in life where assumptions prove to be false or one is required to think ones’ way out of a situation. In one story a suicide club ends up being about suicide prevention, a man who thinks he will be hit from a truck, hides at home only to have his home crushed by a runaway truck, and man sent to the country for his “Rightist” ways is unable to clear his name many years later because the government has no proof of his “Rightism”. The next three categories all deal with different aspects of Chinese family life, from disobedient children, to more modern issues of divorce and its effect on families. It is interesting to have stories about parents who sacrifice themselves for their children right next to a story about a young boy who in an attempt to make himself into a genius commits suicide. The next five categories deal with various forms of romances, between widows, divorces, young people, mistresses and widowers. Several of the stories stress the devotion of lovers even through incredible odds and one of the stories even tells the tragedy of a young couple who commit double suicide because of the HIV-positive status. Humans & Animals contains more traditional folk stories that deal with talking animals and their significant impact on human lives. Ancient Stories contains work by writers from the 5th century, the 4th century and the 17th century.

Overall I found reading these stories to be both interesting and bewildering. Sometimes a story would be confusing in its ending and despite the excellent English translation I could tell that I was missing a lot of the story. Other times I was really impressed by the modern issues covered in these stories including child suicide, AIDS and village corruption. This project allowed me read more deeply into Chinese literature and attempt my hand at some creative fiction. Previously I had only really worked with poetry, so I enjoyed the challenge of imitation some of the stylistic points I found in connection with Chinese short short stories.

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kinda weird question

November 9, 2005

hey well you guys know how I can’t actually see my blog here because blogspot.com is all blocked over in China, anyways just a quick question do I have any of those annoying spam comments going on? Cause if I do I might ask someone to fix them for me, anyways let me know by sending me an email at my first name period last name at the new email service from google period com
Thanks!

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dancing till the wee hours of the early night

November 5, 2005

under the wonderful tradition of many bloggers who blog drunk, I will do my best by blogging yi dian tipsy, so yeah not trashed but pretty high on life.
So tonight me and pretty much 9 out of 12 SST girls got extremely dolled up and went to a club with the teacher of those taking the Chinese dance, and we went to a club and we got 570 yuan worth of alchol and it was good, mexican beer and great wall wine mixed with coke (not the snorting kind) and then we danced in a crowded smoke filled room till the floor spun.
pulsing bass and 9 pairs of swaying hips does the soul good

ps finally found a sst project, gonna read some chinese short short stories and write a few of mine own

pps borrowed kat’s target pants and they fit and they look sexy and gosh darn it they are a size smaller than my regular ones

ppps definitely gonna skip church tomorrow

pppps important note did not sell soul to devil, still abby, just hyper

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foreign service, an interesting option

October 31, 2005

so today while listening to a very insightful lecture by John Louton (a representative of the US consulate) I had some interesting thoughts regarding my future. Two options that I hadn’t given a lot of thought too, but I could enjoy would be international education or being a judge. But more than that I was realizing how much my desire/willingness to spend time abroad opens up new options for me. Louton shared a scary statistic from 4 years saying that only 50% of US congresspeople had ever left the country. Now that is not to say that one can’t have incredibly important and stretching experiences within a country, or that entering another country gives one an automatic advantage. I mean teaching in a poor high school for a year could be as challenging as going on Peace Corps, but there remains something about really visiting a country and culture so different from one’s own that is imperative to gaining a broad world view.

I have only 33 days left in China, just barely over a month and in 43 days I will actually be in London. But I am in China now and that is what is important and what I keep trying to focus on.

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around a month left

October 29, 2005

and actually only 3 of those weeks will actually be spent in Chengdu. While I find myself thinking of home more and more, I keep trying to get the most out of my time here. I know that as soon as I get home, I will be begin to miss so many random things about China such as:
-all the cute tiny dogs, which is kinda weird because before SST I thought little dogs were not much better than overgrown rats. But the dogs here are cute, not yippy and just so China, I want one!
-the food, although it seems weird right now to think of missing something like food that I am getting tired of, I think I will miss it
-getting to wear the same clothes 3-4 days in a row without getting any weird looks
-not being to deeply ensnared in academia
-living in a city, riding on the buses, taking cheap taxis
-being able to have really odd and inappropriate conversations in public with no fear that others are listening in, sometimes english is it’s own little secret language
-our group, yeah I am gonna miss everyone in this group so much

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so you know what makes your sickness feel better?

October 20, 2005

um some sprite, a banana, some crackers oh a little thing called Chocolate.
yeah there ain’t no sickness that a little johnny depp can’t cure, through in a spectacular cast, great soundtrack, oh and beautiful man who both plays the guitar and dances, and yippee

on another note, still in China and still the stomach hates me.

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three things to complain about and three things not too

October 18, 2005

– I have a ginormous blister on my little toe
+ I got to teach my English class some slang and decided to increase the popularity of the word ginormous
– I have a massive head cold which drains much of my mucus into my stomach therefore making me feel full all the time
– my tooth still hurts, and chewing is definitly not a pleasent experience
+ because of the mucus, not hungry for food I couldn’t eat anyways
+ despite the increase in cold weather, our unheated dorm room remains warm due to the 8 people who generate body heat in it

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an open letter to my mom for her birthday

October 8, 2005

Dear Mom,
I am sorry about the lack of happy birthday on your actual birthday, but I was planning on telling you that on the phone. But because that didn’t work out I figured I would send you one by email instead. Although as a good daughter I should know this, I am not sure what age you just turned. 53 would be my guess? or maybe 54? But then you could just take this forgetfulness on my part as a compliment and indication of your timeless quality 🙂

I just had a really nice Indian food dinner with Dan, Meryl and Steph. Although pricey by Chinese standards, it was only around 5 dollars and the food rivaled that of a good restaurant in the states. So our group was quite happy. On the way back we took a taxi and I successfully communicated our school name to the taxi driver, which was actually a first for me. Chengdu looks quite beautiful when you drive through it at night. The street lights reflected off the river and the skyscrapers loomed. The streets were full with people, but not bursting as they some times are. The days are getting cooler here, which is a nice relief and the open window of the taxi created a nice breeze.

Anyways, this email is about you, so I just wanted to say I think of you and Dad often and all the rest of our family that is scattered around the globe. What did you end up doing for your personal day? I actually did quite a bit of journaling on my birthday. How does marking another year lived feel for you? I am sure you feel this even more than I do, but sometimes I am amazed at where the years went. While I do feel older than my junior high self, I also can’t quite belief I am two full years into my twenties. I think I tend to find my birthdays a little bittersweet as of late, I mean while I am still young, each year that passes does tend to remind me that my life is very temporary in the grand scheme of things. Last night I watched one of the animated shorts from the 75th Academy Awards (I bought a DVD of them, pirated of course) in which it tells the story of two rocks on a hill and when it is in their time humans whirl through history starting from the stone ages and speeding onto modernization, but for the Rocks it takes only a few minutes. I guess sometimes I look at my own life and feel a similar temporariness.
I hope you and Dad are doing well, I just read the Assemblyline for tomorrow and saw the fall retreat is coming up and the barn dance. I hope both are better attended this year. Maybe having fall break on a different weekend will increase college students attendance at retreat? Have you heard much back from Marshall and Bethany about their travels? Tonight Dan brought up how neat it was that they attended our send-off, I know all of us former MYFers really appreciated it.

Well this email is getting on in length. Oh I have really been enjoying buying presents as of late, I figure since our Christmas presents this year are taking the form of plane tickets I would make up for that while I am in a place where most everything is so much cheaper than the states.

Anyways I should head back over to the Waiban, but much love and a huge hug from your very loving if slightly late daughter,
All the best,
Abby

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happy birthday dear abby, happy birthday to me

October 5, 2005

I would have to say that birthdays in foriegn countries have so far been a complete awesomeness. Of course this has also been my first birthday outside the US, but hey a rating of 100% coolness doesn’t hurt.
So here’s a run down for the day:
-slept in to around 10:30am
-did a little Taiji
-took a shower
-journaled about how I am getting old and where my life is going, etc
-went across the streat to get some yummy dishes (which I ordered and we got also most every dish correctly (4 out of 5, and one was really really close)
-then I did a little bit more journaling about the awesome time I had with my Chinese friend Hillary
-followed by a Settlers of Catan game with Steph, Meryl, Sarah, and myself (which I won)
-Then I played tichu until around 5:45
-Then me and almost the entire SST group (plus British Dan) went to Pizza Hut, which is actually pretty fine dining here in Chengdu, nice Italian inspired decor, fancy menus etc. And they actually got a table for all 19 of us, which was awesome. So I had pizza for the first time in a while and it pretty much rocked
-Then I came back on the bus, chatting with my amazing friends, finished the Tichu game and then came over here

So I would definitely have to rate this birthday in the top 3 at least.
Lots of love to you all across oceans, etc. And thanks to all of you who emailed me happy birthday and even to those who didn’t. You all rock!