Tai Shan


Mentorship for Would-be Travel Writers


The Rough Guide is hosting an exciting opportunity for would-be travel writers to be mentored by the pros in Beijing this summer. Find more details on how to apply here.

Professional writers need not apply. (Professional, as defined by this program, means anyone who derives 25% or more of her/his income from writing.)

posted under china, travel | No Comments »

Available for the Kindle


If you haven’t gotten to read Sheng Keyi’s Northern Girls yet, you can download the Kindle version and get started reading now. I bet you can finish reading it before the end of the year.


posted under books, china | No Comments »

Thoughts from the Shadow Jury


Here are some thoughts on Northern Girls, from the Shadow Man Asian Literary Prize Jury.





Announcement from M Literary Residency


I just received this news:


The M Literary Residency Selects 2013 Recipients
Glenn Diaz and Madeleine Thien

The M Literary Residency has selected the recipients for its Residency programs in India and China: Glenn Diaz was selected for the India Residency, based at Sangam House, outside of Bangalore, India, while Madeleine Thien won the China Residency, located in Shanghai.

M Literary Residency
Now in its fourth year of operation, the M Literary Residency was established by Michelle Garnaut and Pankaj Mishra with the goals of disseminating a broader knowledge of contemporary life and writing in India and China today and fostering deeper intellectual, cultural and artistic links across individuals and communities. The program funds residences for two writers: a three month stay in Shanghai or at Sangam House, outside Bangalore.

2013 Recipients

Madeleine Thien is the author of three books of fiction, including her most recent novel, Dogs at the Perimeter, published by Granta Books in 2012. She is a previous finalist for the Kiriyama Prize and the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book, and won the 2006 Amazon First Novel Award and the 2010 Ovid Festival Prize. Her stories and essays have appeared in The Guardian, Granta, PEN America, Five Dials, Brick and the Asia Literary Review, and her novels have been translated into eighteen languages. Born in Vancouver, she lives in Montreal.

Glenn Diaz was born and raised in Manila. He graduated from the University of the Philippines Diliman in 2008 and is now in the MA creative writing program at the same university. His works have appeared in various literary publications, including the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore and Likhaan 5: The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature. He has been a recipient of fellowships from several national writing workshops. He is a freelance writer, researcher, and editor.


Congratulations, Madeleine and Glenn!


Northern Girls nominated for Man Asian Literary Prize


I’m pleased to announce that Sheng Keyi’s Northern Girls has been nominated for the Man Asian Literary Prize.

Congratulations, Sheng Keyi!



Time Out! Hong Kong’s coverage

Upcoming Events for the Christmas Season


Here are a couple of events coming up at M on the Bund that might be of interest during the Christmas season.


Wednesday, December 5 12pm

M Food Talk: EAT. TALK. THINK.
Dissertation Upon Roast Pig: A Christmas Reading

RMB 188, includes a three-course Christmas lunch

A Christmas reading of Charles Lamb’s magnificent dissertation, accompanied by a Christmas platter of roast pig (but of course!) and festive treats.
这是一次圣诞读书会,分享Charles Lamb的精彩著作。陪伴你的当然还有圣诞烤乳猪拼盘和多种节日美食。

Reservations required: +8621 6350 9988 or click here.
+8621 6350 9988 或点击这里

Friday, December 7, 6.30pm

The Power of Reds


RMB 88, includes wine tasting

Winter is upon us: a good time to talk about the full-bodied red wines that impress, stand up to the biggest food challenges and keep us warm in during those frigid winter days. For details of wines we’re tasting, click here.

Reservations required: +8621 6350 9988 or click here.
+8621 6350 9988 或点击这里

For M Christmas Happenings at M & Glamour Bar, click here.


posted under china, Shanghai | No Comments »

In Two Days: Jinan


I am often approached with this question: “I’ll be in [fill in the city] for two days. What should I see while I am there?”

In response, I feature 2-day itineraries to a variety of Chinese cities here at Tai Shan. At the end of each month, a new post introduces the main sites to visit in a city if you only have two days there.

Today we’ll see how to hit the highlights in Jinan in a 2-day timeframe.

Day 1

Daming Lake – Qianfo Shan – Shandong Provincial Museum – Furong Ancient Street

Night:  roadside food and Quansheng Square

Day 2

Terracotta Warriors of Weishan – Dafengshan Qi Great Wall

Alternate activity / If you have a 3rd day: Baotu Spring Park – Wulongtan Park

For kids:  Zoo!




That’s Good Advertising


This is pasted on all the tables in the cafeteria at my friend’s school, a university in Shanghai.

Translation:  “New Students, don’t wait until you eat dumplings to think of your mother.”

(or maybe:  “Freshmen, don’t only think of your mother when you eat dumplings.”)

It’s an ad for a phone company.


Note:  dumplings are a specialty of the more northern regions of China, often eaten at family gatherings there; they are available in Shanghai, but not as much a part of daily life

Ji Cheng’s The Craft of Gardens


I’ve just finished reading Ji Cheng’s The Craft of Gardens (1631), considered a sort of handbook for the art of garden laying.  I’m reminded once again of how deep the thinking behind traditional Chinese gardening is.  

It is kind of fun to read the book and realize that there were people in Ji Cheng’s day who took a sloppy approach to the art, and to see him poking fun of it all.  It will sound very familiar to anyone brought up amidst the commidification culture of our own age.  It’s a nice reminder that we aren’t alone, and that even this sadly deficient mindset about art and beauty has been around for centuries.  The good news is that, even in the midst of such a culture, real beauty can still be attained, as long as thoughtful artists like Ji Cheng continue to refuse to buy into the shortcuts embraced by the culture at large.



Robbed of Imagination


I have been a big supporter of the Shanghai International Theater Festival for some time, and have seen a lot of really good shows during the festival each year.  This year, I have already seen one outstanding performance (which will soon be reviewed), and tonight saw the first real bombshell of a show I’ve ever seen at the festival.  Sadly, it was Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, a play that would/should have been a real hit with local audiences.  To mess this one up came quite close to the zone marked “Unforgivable.”

The acting was not all bad, though there were a few technical problems, particularly the failure to manage the space in such a way that allowed the actors’ voices to project.  Some parts were so soft that I had to rely on the projected subtitles (a Chinese translation) several times.  This a problem that shows up in productions from time to time when using the big theater inside the Drama Center.  It is, however, a forgivable mistake, and one I’ve overlooked in numerous performances in the past.

The real problem with the production lay in a series of directorial decisions.  It started off badly, with music and film footage that were unnecessary and seemed to say a little too much, even before the action of the play began.  (And the film and music contributed to the feel of the sound problem when the actors were speaking.)  I’m not at all opposed to using projected images and sound in a staged production, when they are used well.  This was not.  It immediately made explicit what the play would have unfolded for us more subtly, had it been allowed to do its work on its own power and in its own time.  Unfortunately, that opportunity was taken away from the outset.

To make matters worse, at three different points during the action of the play, a guy stood up from the audience and commented on the play with a very preachy message and tone.   The first time, he followed George out, screaming his vitriol in the character’s wake.  That was bad enough.  The second time, it got worse, with the action freezing on the stage and this same guy standing up and making his comments directly to the audience.  The third time, the action was again frozen, and the fellow walked up and addressed Joe.  The character turned to him and seemed to be listening to the lecture / political rally speech / sermon for a brief instance.  This was only moments before  [ahem… *SPOILER ALERT*] Joe went and shot himself.  I actually think the suicide would have easily had a stronger impact left on its own than following  a shout-down by a non-character pretending to speak for the audience.

The worst of it was the content of the fellow’s message.  He attempted to make the points of (or more appropriately, those he had extrapolated from) the play more explicit, applying them to modern day situations.  Sadly, there was no nuanced treatment of those issue.  They were simply placed together in one stream of invective that was not only out of place in the context of the play, but in the context of a troupe of guest performers talking about issues that included some that have occurred the country that is playing host to this festival.

After the show was over, there was a short dialogue session between cast and audience.  With one exception, most of the feedback seemed negative.  Both the director and the guy who had played the role of interrupting the drama with his sermonizing were rather high-strung in voicing their rationale for the choices they made.  The director was adamant in her insistence that drama is not to entertain, but to educate, and so she wanted to insert these contemporary issues into the dialogue of the drama.  The guy who had interrupted the action three times echoed her sentiments.  I had just put my hand up to ask whether they didn’t think the members of the audience could be trusted to have made their own associations between the play(‘s message) and contemporary real-world situations.  Just as I was preparing to say something, the interloper in the whole drama we’d watched said one last thing:  “That’s just it! We need to do something! It’s up to us to change the world!”

Cynic that I am, I sat back in my seat and put my hand down.  If someone’s out to change the world, I doubt I have anything that can change his mind about what happened on the stage during this performance.


[Note:  One other brave soul did give it a last valiant effort, even after all this had been said.  She commented that the director’s choices had left no space for the viewer’s imagination, and had robbed us of an opportunity to engage with the play as it stands.  Though her point was valid, and was well-articulated, it seemed to fall on deaf ears.]
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