My favorite things China

1. Novel: Soul Mountain, by Gao Xingjian.  Parts of Dream of the Red Chamber are splendid, but it is hard to keep track of the whole thing and also I wonder whether any of the available editions in English are satisfactory.

2. Movie: The Story of Qiu Ju.  A real charmer.

3. Comedian: Jackie Chan.

4. Movie, set in, but not a Chinese movie: How about TranssiberianShanghai Noon?  Are any of those old movies set in China any good?

5. Book, non-fiction: James Fallows, China Airborne.  I am also a fan of the book where the guy drives a car around China.  The Private Life of Chairman Mao is a stunner, maybe the best book I know on tyranny.

6. Book, set in, fiction (not by Chinese author): Edgar Snow, Red Star Over China.  Pearl Buck I find boring.

7. Sculpture: Tang horses, some images are here.

8. Contemporary Chinese artist: Cai Guo-Qiang, images here.  His one man show at the Guggenheim is one of the best exhibitions I’ve ever seen.  Try this video, apologies for the ad at the beginning.

9. Chinese traditional music: I am interested in Chinese opera, but don’t quite feel I’ve heard the real thing.  I once heard an electrified performance, but my sense is the music is all about the timbre and needs to be heard in an nowadays-almost-impossible-to-achieve setting, given that I am not a 17th century Chinese noble.  Any advice?  By the way, here is a good article on recent developments in Chinese (semi-classical) music.

10. Cookbooks: Fuchsia Dunlop’s two Chinese cookbooks are not only two of the best cookbooks ever they are two of the best books ever.

11. Best book about Chinese fiction: Sabina Knight, Chinese Literature: A Very Short Introduction.  This short book is a marvel of economy, substance, and style.

12. Pianist: Yundi Li, try this video of Chopin’s 2nd Scherzo.

13. Architect: I.M. Pei.  We have friends who live in a Pei-designed house, and it is splendid.

14. Movie director: John Woo was born in China.  The Killer might be his best movie, but Once a Thief is arguably the most underrated.  WindTalkers is quite good too and also underrated.

I am not counting either Hong Kong or Taiwan for these categories.  I also am not counting American-born, ethnic Chinese, such as Maya Lin.  And J.G. Ballard was born in Shanghai, but what category do I put him in?


Comments for this post are closed