Archive for June, 2007

What do Chinese high-school students read?

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007 by Lara

I think American ones are still exposed to Moby Dick, some Shakespeare and Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, if nothing else. Do Chinese students read the classics? Mao’s Little Red Book and Outlaws of the Marsh? What literature are all Chinese high school students compelled to study? Is the curriculum standardized across the country, or across provinces, or at all?

What’s the deal with cricket fighting?

Thursday, June 7th, 2007 by Lara

I’ve been bumping into stories about cricket-fighting and famous champion crickets in the stories about the monk Ji Gong, and in one of Pu Songling’s Strange Stories. It seems that there was a wild China-wide fad for cricket fighting, that people submitted their crickets to regional and national contests, and that some places experienced an extortionate cricket-collection tax system. Did the emperor really run a cricket-fighting den? (And if so, didn’t he have anything better to do, like training the troops?) Does anyone know if this fad really happened? Could you explain, please?

Tackling Two English versions of Dream of the Red Chamber

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007 by Lara

My first attempt at Dream of the Red Chamber was via the 1996 abridged translation by Hsien-yi Yang and Gladys Yang. I believe their approach is one in which they left out chunks of the actual text, but translated the rest very accurately. This resulted in my being really drawn in by dramatic events, like the way Hsi-feng deals with that over-lusty Chia Jui, or the big fight over Chia Lien’s adultery with Pao-erh’s wife. But sometimes starting new chapters would leave me feeling as if I’d just stepped off a cliff, since years seemed to have passed since the previous chapters’ events. And I was much more interested in Hsi-feng than in either Pao-yu or Tai-yu, who seemed tediously willful and relentlessly morose, respectively. The details of action were wonderful, in other words, but I missed the point overall.

But I know that this is the most popular book in Chinese history, and figure that 1.6 billion people can’t be wrong. So I’m determined to find out what’s so great about it. (more…)

Stephen Chow Sketches (1): My Grassroots Origin

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007 by Mei

Written by Shi Yong-gang and Liu Qiong-xiong
Translated by Mei, and edited by Lara, of Tales Across The Sea

This translation is based on excerpts from the book Stephen Chow Sketches provided by in a web series. Original copyright of the Chinese text and images belong to the book publisher. We are just providing a translated version based on the chapters posted and publicly available at

English translation of the excerpts is originally posted at the Stephen Chow Forum. Reprint or reposting of the translation by any site other than and is not permitted without approval from the translators.

This translation is an ongoing project, so please check back for new chapters.

Neophyte to Chinese Lit

Saturday, June 2nd, 2007 by Lara

I used to be intimidated by the idea of diving into the Chinese classics – who could possibly take on all those millenia of books? But since I started with the classics listed on our site I’ve been a very happy camper! It helps to have a good Chinese friend to talk about them with, but if you don’t, you can always use this website!