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.
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.
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?