A song for each year of the People’s Republic of China. An attempt to distill the many diverse, fascinating currents of music in mainland China over the last 70 years into a primer, an invitation to dig deeper. From revolutionary operas and western classical to rock’n’roll, disco, punk and hip-hop — a musical history of the PRC with an eye for the regional, underground and (nefarious) foreign influences. [more inside]
The crazy, heartbreaking story of Hang on the Box, one of China's earliest all-women punk bands. Excerpted from a (forthcoming!) comic-book history of Beijing's musical underground. [more inside]
I drew a longform comic on the fascinating, intertwined story of China and reggae. Chinese Jamaican music producers helped turn reggae into a global sensation—one that would eventually reach all the way to the country their ancestors had left behind. [more inside]
I finally got my blog up about Chinese students studying at American universities from the turn of the century to World War II! [more inside]
Just because you’re dead, that’s no reason to give up life’s little comforts. PlanetSlade’s latest essay looks at the Chinese custom of burning special Bank of Hell currency - and paper replicas of every consumer luxury imaginable - to equip departed loved ones in the afterlife. By burning these items at funerals or beside the grave, Chinese families hope to “transmit” both spending power and treats to their late relatives. Among the items delivered in this way are banknotes for $1bn or more, luxury items like paper iPads, six-packs of beer and even paper condoms and replica Viagra tablets. The essay has lots of scans of Hell notes from my own collection, plus photographs of paper clothing, jewellery, cigarettes and telephones on sale in America and Thailand. Finally, banknote dealer Joel Anderson relates the tale of the Indian couple still hoping to find a Bank of Hell branch where their own $1bn banknote can be cashed.
Chinese words like foot fetish, Islam, and march are or were blocked on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. For two months last year, I used a Ruby script to uncover about a thousand of these blocked words. I've posted some of them on a website I created with short little entries on why they are blocked. [more inside]
This project grew out of a curiosity to find out what Chinese people think about their country and their future. In 2010, I traveled to major urban centers in eastern China stopping people on the street to ask the same two questions about their country and their future: "What does China mean to you?" and "What is your role in China's future?" The respondents filled out a one-page typewritten questionnaire that included these two questions and some basic information including name, age, and occupation. The questions were interpreted variously, and the responses range from prosaic to poetic, from rote to inspired, and from unemotional to patriotic. While it’s difficult to draw conclusions about the entire population, the people photographed here expressed a sincere love of country and optimism about the country’s future development and peaceful position in the world. The final project incorporates about 100 portraits/interviews and includes people of various ages, gender, wealth, and hometown. For each person in the project, between five and ten declined to be photographed or fill out the questionnaire. You can read more about the project here.
This has been a photographic project over the last 18 months that is still a work in progress. It is a response to the rapid development of the central areas of Shanghai. The project attempts to capture the vibrancy of a small 15 square block community behind some of the most expensive on-going redevelopments. The link is to a six minute slideshow containing 45 images focussing on the people living in the community. There are additional images in the WIP galleries taken from around Shanghai. I am continuing to work on full collection that will be placed in its own section in the next month or two.