Littlest’s Adventure – Yet Another Bedtime Story (Part 2)

I’ve received quite a few requests from readers about my story “Littlest’s Adventure – Yet Another Bedtime Story (Part One).” They (and their kids) wanted to know what would happen to The Littlest, the youngest of the four piglets and the only girl.

So here is Part Two. Since Maya, my illustrator, has been so busy with gymnastics, tennis, her pokemon collection, and her many other interests, she hasn’t had much time to illustrate for the book. But she’s promised that she’ll do several more drawings in the next two or three weeks. Let’s see.

bedtime story
Littlest’s Adventure – Yet another bedtime story (Maya Cedergren, 7)







The pig family, Pig Papa, Pig Mama, and their four piglets, live a happy life on a farm at a bend of a river. One day, the Littlest, the youngest of the piglets and the only girl, realizes that they’re going to be sent to a slaughterhouse. Despite her family’s objection, she plans her escape. Will she succeed? Will her family be on her side eventually? Here is a story of defying odds and overcoming obstacles, of love for freedom, and of what it means to be a family. 

Littlest’s Adventure – Yet Another Bedtime Story (Part 2) 


Littlest stood still, alone and lonely. But she’d made up her mind. No matter what, she would get out of here and never return. No, she didn’t have to accept her fate. There was no such a thing called fate. She was her own boss and she would prove that.

That night, while her parents and brothers were sleeping soundly in the shed, Littlest began to cut the chain link with her teeth. She chose the back of the pen, so the farmer’s wife wouldn’t see. Every bite hurt her teeth and the loose wires slashed her skin. But the fence was well built and the iron wires were sturdier than she had thought. Even though she tried her hardest, the hole she made was no bigger than a cantaloupe by the time the sun rose.

When Pig Papa, Pig Mama, and their four sons got up, Littlest was still working on the fence. Seeing her daughter’s bloody face, Pig Mama cried and was about to dress her wounds with the herb medicine she had made.

But Pig Papa stopped her. “This is a lesson she has to learn,” Pig Papa said. “Now she knows she must listen to us.”

“I won’t stop. I’ll continue tonight,” said Littlest defiantly despite her pain and exhaustion.

When the farmer’s wife came to feed the pigs in the morning she discovered the hole. She thought it was done by a raccoon. “Stupid pigs,” she said angrily, without looking at the pigs. “They didn’t even make a noise when they saw a raccoon.” She called her husband and he blocked the hole with a thick wooden board.

It took Littlest three days to recover. The fourth night, as soon as her parents and brothers fell asleep, Littlest started to dig underneath the fence. It was cold and windy. Since it hadn’t rained for days, the soil was hard. Soon, Littlest’s nails were broken. But she didn’t stop. She dug, dug, and dug, dreaming of the days when she could roam in the forest or on the grassland, when she could pick wild flowers and drink from a waterfall.

By daybreak, she had made a hole as big as a basketball. But it still wasn’t big enough for her. After all, she was a pig, not a rabbit. When her parents and brothers got up she was so tired that she fainted. Pig Mama and her brothers carried her to the shed.

Pig Papa, though worrying about his daughter, refused to help. “Being stubborn and ambitious doesn’t help, does it?” he said, more to himself than to anyone else.

He once had dreamed of being free too, and had even contemplated to escape when he wasn’t much older than Littlest. But he never carried out his plan. He was afraid of failure, of being laughed at by his parents and siblings, and of being caught by the farmer and his wife. Now, at his age, he felt he had seen the world. Though he might appear to be optimistic in his wife’s and children’s eyes, he was really a pessimist.

“We’re all in the gutter,” he said to himself, quoting Oscar Wilde, as a fallen leaf hit his face. But since he didn’t like to be sad, he immediately cheered himself up by reciting a Chinese saying, “Those who’re satisfied are the happiest.” Maybe there was indeed a heaven or afterlife, where he and his family could live happily forever, he further comforted himself.

Though Littlest had covered the hole with straws, grass and leaves, the farmer’s wife still saw the hole when she came to feed the pigs. “These stupid pigs,” she said with contempt. “I bet they can still snore inside a wolf’s stomach.” She called her husband and he filled the hole with a big rock.

This time, it took Littlest five days to recover—she had a fever and diarrhea. She had been small to begin with and now she was even smaller, barely half of the size of Little First. With her skinny body and glistening eyes, she looked more like a starving wild beast than a farm animal.

Suspecting that the pigs wanted to escape, the farmer—much smarter than his wife—began to check on the pen every morning and evening. He noticed how bony Littlest was and began to feed her separately, often with sweet corns and the mix of wheat and barley. Sometimes he even put vitamins and minerals into the food to make sure Littlest was healthy.

His effort soon paid off. Littlest, though still the smallest among the piglets, gained fifteen pounds in a week. It brought smiles to the farmer’s face. More meat meant more money. Even a fool knew that.

With the slaughter day approaching, Littlest grew more and more silent and withdrawn. She rarely joined her family in the mud war, which her siblings loved. She didn’t laugh at jokes, she stayed away from games. Her siblings by now had learned to ignore her. She was a joy killer, a mood destroyer, that was what she was. What did she want anyway? She got extra attention from the farmer, she got better food, she got more love from their mother, who often gave Littlest extra hugs at bedtime. Wasn’t that enough?

Behind her back, they called her a “hypocrite.” Wasn’t she? Look how vigorously she ate now! Not long ago, she had pretended that she didn’t care about food.

If Littlest’s brothers envied her for the special treatment she was getting, her parents were now relieved, assured that their daughter had given up her crazy escape plan. She was eating a lot—proof in itself. As for her silence and aloofness, they weren’t concerned. On the contrary, they saw that as something good—obviously, their daughter needed time to reflect on her naivety and stupidity after her two miserable failures.


(To be continued. Do you think Littlest has given up? Or is she going to try something new? The next installment will be posted in a week.)

1 +1=? & Fiction Writing

My 4-year-old asked me, “What’s 1 plus 1?”

“Two,” I said.

He laughed. “No. It’s eleven.” Then he asked again, “How much is 1 plus 1?”

“Eleven,” I replied.

“No, no, no,” he shook his head wildly. “It’s two! Mom, how much is 1 plus 1 again?” He could barely hold back his victorious smile.

“Two or eleven,” I said with a grin.

“No! It’s ten!” He showed me his math by lifting his right foot, then his left one, then counting his toes. Yes, he was right. Ten toes. Not one more, not one less.

“Now, what’s 1 plus 1?” he asked after I agreed that 1 plus 1 could equal ten.

Before I could figure out a smart answer, he shouted. “It’s ten again, but in Chinese! See,” he was eager to demonstrate his genius by drawing on a piece of paper. “Here is one stick, here is the second stick. You put them together. It’s ‘十.’ Mommy is s-i-l-l-y.”

My 8-year-old, who had been organizing her Pokemon cards, chimed in. “1 plus 1 also equals 4. There’re mommy and daddy first, then there’re me and Luca. But for Andrew’s family, 1 plus 1 equals 7.” Andrew is her classmate and his family just had their 5th kid.

What’s your equation of 1+1 as a writer?

A professor from the University of Nebraska has recently announced that there are only six basic fiction plots, a finding based on his computer-generated analysis. But if you’ve ever written a novel or are working on one, you know that possibilities of plots, characterization, and of choices of voice are endless. It can be confusing and overwhelming.

Be original. Your individuality is what makes your story unique. Your memory and your interpretation are the best ingredients for your book. Yes, indeed, everyone has a book in them.

Follow the inner logic of your characters. The more you understand your characters, the more convincing you are with your writing. Be straightforward or take detours or do whatever you desire. In some cases, 1+1 equals 2, in some other cases, the sum is 10 or even “十” in Chinese.

And be creative and enjoy the ride (you have to admit that even if you complain to all your friends about how difficult it is to write, you love to do it anyway).

Who says 1+1 must equal 2?




50th anniversary of the start of the Cultural Revolution and those long-gone Red Guards

An image I found on the Internet inspired me to write my new novel, “Song of the Daisies.” The artist who created the image is Tian Taiquan, whose best known themes are “Lost” and “Totem Recollection,” about the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. If you Google him, you’ll see many of his works.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the start of the Cultural Revolution which lasted from 1966 to 1976. Though I didn’t experience this devastating political movement directly, I’ve been interested in it and its impact on today’s China and Chinese people since high school. I suppose that was why I chose Chinese Literature and Language as my college major, despite that I was smitten with Western literature at that time–I wanted to learn more about the so-called “scar literature” or “wound literature” (Shanghen wen xue 伤痕文学), and “search-for-roots literature”(xungeng wen due 寻根文学).

I belong to a post-Cultural Revolution generation, and none of my four older brothers were old enough to be Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. Yet Tian Taiquan’s art touches me in a very personal way and reminds me of my days as a naive and passionate teenager, as someone with many dreams and questions.

Some of Tian’s most controversial art, (his most impressive in my opinion) are those of the Red Guards who died during the 1966-1968 Chongqing Riot, victims of politics, of their times, and of their unbridled yet distorted love and passion.

“Song of the Daisies” is about the historical and psychological impact of a tumultuous past on ordinary people. Yes, we all say the past is the past, let’s move on, yet we all know that the past is in our blood, in our heartbeat, in the air we breathe.

For my generation growing up in the “Reform and Opening Up” China, our most urgent issue is not how to survive in deprivation and despair, but how to escape the shadow that seems to loom perpetually in the near distance.

To understand today’s China, the economic boom, the corruption, the urbanization,  the guanerdai/fuerdai (second generation of government officials and the rich 官二代/富二代) phenomenon, the mingongchao (tidal wave of migrant laborers 民工潮), the rising nationalism, the growing conflicts between the haves and have-nots, and many other social and cultural matters,  you must look back at what China has gone through in the past few decades and further beyond.

The New York Times’s Chris Buckley has written about the cemetery that often appears in Tian Taiquan’s art.

As he puts it, “…the cemetery embodies China’s evasive reckoning with its legacy. Here the tension between official silence and grass-roots remembrance is palpable.”

The Cultural Revolution caused the death of tens of millions, crippled the economy, and almost paralyzed the country. Yet, to this day, not a single official museum records and commemorates this catastrophic decade. In 2005, one Peng Qian created “The Cultural Revolution Museum” in Shantou, Guangdong Province, with money from private donors, to honor the victims of the Cultural Revolution, but the museum is not supported and promoted by the government. Earlier this year, the government shut the museum partially, its exhibitions forced to close.

Last September, China’s CCTV aired a series of programs called “The History That You Cannot forget” to commemorate “the 70th anniversary of Chinese people’s Anti-Japanese War and the World Anti-Fascist War Victory.” This event was widely celebrated with the Victory Day military parade along Changan Street in Beijing, the publication of a list of 300 “Anti-Japanese heroes, and the declaration of Sept 3 being a national holiday. One can only wonder when the Chinese will begin to become more open and transparent about the Cultural Revolution.

I think about the many innocent-looking young people in Tian Taiquan’s art, who seem to be saying, “Don’t stare at me as if I were crazy. I’m just like you. I’m young, a dreamer. I want to be happy, want to be pretty, want to love, but I live in a world where I have no control.”

More than 400 people were buried in Chongqing’s “The Cultural Revolution Cemetery,” today a forgotten ruin. Many were students, the youngest 14 or 15 years old. Most of them died in the violent battles between two rival Red Guard factions, The 815 and The Smackers (反到底/砸派). A character in my book “Song of the Daisies,” who once belonged to The Smackers describes such battles. “Not just tanks. Later, we even seized a military vessel with a gun combat system from the army. We bombarded a lot of neighborhoods and flattened some of them. One evening, we fired more than five thousand rounds.”

In the book, a previous 815 leader, now in his late 40s, says,” I suppose many of the people I knew in Chongqing died a bit like those sparrows my friends and I had killed so casually. They were innocent but they died for a wrong cause.”

The protagonist Moli Yang, who lives in the United States, travels to this Chongqing cemetery to visit her first boyfriend’s tomb. An aspiring poet, he died during the Chongqing Riot.

“Early one morning I arrive at the graveyard where Hao’s grave is supposedly located. Compared to the one I saw in 1968 the graveyard is bigger and better organized, fenced by a grey stone wall and shaped like a boat, yet quieter and more deserted because I’m the only visitor, a forgotten world more inviting to ghosts than humans.

“A narrow road divides the site. Trees, bushes and weeds claim ownership of the ground as much as the moss-covered gravestones, all of different dimensions. Most of the graves contain several bodies, one as many as seventeen. I stop in front of each, reading the headstones: their names and ages, propaganda slogans and eulogies. Visitors, however few, have left carvings and chalk writings on some of the headstones—all have suffered varying degrees of damage, from weather or sabotage. Several headstones are missing, with only the grave mound visible.

“I find Jinyu’s grave quickly. The headstone is tall and the small oak tree that other members of The 815 and I planted at his funeral is a giant now. On the headstone is a poem Yong had written, carved flamboyantly and painted in red, barely legible from heavy weathering. Surrounded by tall grass growing through thick layers of half-rotten leaves that no longer crunch underfoot, the headstone sits dangerously on a base that could collapse in the next storm.

“I place on the base a bouquet of colorful lilies I bought at the flower shop outside my hotel the night before, glad that the flowers are fresh and beautiful. I sit for a while, thinking of Jinyu’s chubby face and his dream of becoming a photographer. I haven’t thought of him for many years. I really didn’t know him well yet I now remember him vividly, as if we had once been close—his smile, our every conversation, even his girlfriend’s face in the photo he had shown me the night he was killed.

“Recalling those days in Chongqing, I walk slowly from one grave to another. Some bear flowers or wreaths but most do not. I keep bumping into tree branches that have grown too low. Several times I almost trip on ivy vines that have invaded the road. It is a warm day yet I feel cold. Constant wind coming from nowhere penetrates my clothes, making me shiver.

“Though I have come here to visit Hao’s grave because I missed his funeral many years ago, I am less eager to see it now, overwhelmed by the quiet and the formidable forest of gravestones. A romantic boy like him must feel lonely in such an abandoned place, I think. I worry about what his grave looks like. Covered by weeds? With a defaced headstone, or with no headstone at all?

“I circle the graveyard twice, not seeing Hao’s name, but I find a headstone with only the bottom half left, bearing the date he died, and the genders of the two buried there—a boy and a girl—and their ages: seventeen and sixteen. The missing part of the headstone must have included the names. One, I suppose, must be Zhang Hao.

“Below it reads, ‘Let’s give our heroes our greatest respect and biggest salute! Let’s carry on their revolutionary spirit and fight our enemies to our last drop of blood!’ A wreath stands against the headstone, a recent placement, maybe as recent as yesterday, because the petals are still fresh, no doubt left by Hao’s or the girl’s families or friends. I put another bundle of lilies next to the wreath. I make a whistle from a blade of grass, holding it between my thumbs. I blow, mimicking the cuckoo’s song as Hao and I loved to do—he had been an excellent bird whistler. The sound is bright and clear. Soon a bird, then two more, reply with the same melody. Eyes closed, I hear Hao’s voice and see us embracing naked in the moonlight.”

I haven’t visited the cemetery myself, and would like to go there someday. I wonder what this cemetery looks like in the moonlight. Will those long-buried but restless souls roam, singularly or in group, pondering the love and loss in their prematurely frozen youth?

My Short Story, Tickets to Disneyland, is just published by The Margins

A new short stories of mine, “Tickets to Disneyland,” was just published by The Margins, a literary journal of the NYC-based Asian American Writers’s Workshop (AAWW). The magazine is dedicated “to inventing the Asian American creative culture of tomorrow.”

My inspiration for “Tickets to Disneyland” comes from my years working at an Internet powerhouse in the Silicon Valley. It was my first job in the U.S. For quite a few years when I was there, I worked long hours, sometimes from 8am till 9 or 10 in the evening. Like me, many of my coworkers were young, single, hardworking and ambitious. “They wore faded jeans and the tee-shirts bearing the company logo, ” as Yong Chen, the protagonist in the story, a janitor, observes.

Here is a passage about how Yong does his cleaning:

“Yong began to clean the conference room ‘Australia’ at the end of the building. He liked how the company named its conference rooms after countries. It was like being on a global tour free of charge—actually, better, since he was paid to be on the tour. ‘China’ was on the second floor near the kitchen, a big space three times the size of his apartment, with a computer, a whiteboard, and a purple-surfaced round table at which he sometimes sat to take a break. Other rooms were called ‘India,’ ‘Germany,’ ‘Brazil,’ and many other countries, all but ‘United States.’ At first, he was puzzled. Later it made perfect sense—why name a conference room the ‘United States’ when the whole company and all of Silicon Valley were in the United States?”

In my years working at the Internet company, I got to know several janitors by name, and one of them, a bright-eyed and cheerful young man from Mexico, liked to chat with me with his broken English. He told me that he had two daughters back home living with their mother, and said that he’d like to bring them to the U.S. someday. When I was writing “Tickets to Disneyland,” I thought about this man and his daughters back in Mexico.

“Disneyland” is a specific physical location, but, to Yong Chen, is also a symbol of family reunion, and of freedom and establishment. When the economy plummets, his hope evaporates, too. Disneyland is just an unachievable illusion to him.

The tense shifts at the end from the past to the present. It’s a deliberate decision. By doing so, I wanted the reader to see the leap from illusion to reality, and to add more psychological depth to the story.

I completed the first draft of the story three or four years ago, but didn’t think it strong enough to be published. Over the years, I rewrote the story several times, including new endings.

Thanks to my editor Anelise and The Margin for giving the story a beautiful home.

To read the complete story, please visit

Tickets to Disneyland






Happy International Translation Day!

Get 10 minutes from your busy life? Want to travel but have no time or money or have no grandparents to watch your kids? Want to give yourself a well-deserved social media detox? Want to show your kids (not just tell them) that books are more fun than smart phones/ipad/TV? Consider reading a book by a foreign writer then. I bet you won’t regret.

Happy International Translation Day! (Yes, it’s celebrated annually on Sept. 30 on the feast of St. Jerome, who translated the Bible.)

For me, I’m going to read Orhan Pamuk’s “Istanbul.” I’ve read his “Snow” and liked it. Turkey is a country I’m very curious about and would really love to visit.

Here are some of my favorite quotes about translation.

“It is the task of the translator to release in his own language that pure language that is under the spell of another, to liberate the language imprisoned in a work in his re-creation of that work.” – Walter Benjamin

“Translation is the art of failure.” – Umberto Eco

“It’s better to have read a great work of another culture in translation than never to have read it at all.” – Henry Gratton Doyle

“I just enjoy translating. It’s like opening one’s mouth and hearing someone else’s voice emerge.” – Iris Murdoch

“Translate Chinese into English is like put clouds into a box.” – a translator in the UK

“Overly literal translation, far from being faithful, actually distort meaning by obscuring sense.” – Ken Liu. ( Ken Liu, a writer and a translator, has translated Liu Cixin’s “Three-Body Problem” and many other Chinese works. He’s played a key role in introducing Chinese science fiction to the West.)

My favorite quote is from Nabokov’s “Speak, Memory.” In the book, he says, “For the present, final, edition of Speak, Memory, I have not only introduced basic changes and copious additions into the initial English text, but have availed myself of the corrections I made while turning it into Russian. This re-English of a Russian re-version of what had been an English re-telling of Russian memories in the first place, proved to be a diabolical task, but some consolation was given me by the thought that such multiple metamorphosis, familiar to butterflies, had not been tried by any human before.”

Here is my own words about translation based on my experience: “Language is not merely a tool, but a mindset. To translate, in a way, is to rewrite.”

Have you picked your book yet?






First American TV shows I watched in China

In a previous post I mentioned the Western books I read as a child. A friend, after reading the post, asked me when I first watched American TV shows. (Here is a confession: I usually don’t watch TV series, but I love “Game of Thrones” and cannot wait for Season 7.)

That happened in the early eighties.

By then, China and the U.S. had established full diplomatic relations, after a strategic exchange referred as Ping-pong Diplomacy and the visit of President Nixon. Translated books from the U.S. and other Western countries poured into China. So, though to a lesser degree, did their TV programs and movies.

On our 14-inch black and white TV (it was made in Shanghai and the brand was “Gold Star”), we, joined by our neighbors, watched NBC’s “Man from Atlantis” and ABC’s “Garrison’s Gorillas.”

“Man from Atlantis” started the trend of wearing labaku(喇叭裤), wide-legged pants, and hamajin (蛤蟆镜), aviator sunglasses among the urban youth, making them the symbols of troublemakers. One of the young men in my mother’s work unit donned such attire and was often subjected to ridicule.

“Garrison’s Gorillas” swept through China like a tornado, a far cry from all the ‘educational’ movies and TV programs the Chinese were used to. It became a sensation.

When “Garrison’s Gorillas” was on, everyone was riveted to the screen and the streets were deserted. All the boys admired the Chief, played by Brendon Boone, and mimicked how he talked. They practiced knife throwing, the Chief’s signature specialty, with home-made daggers. Two of my brothers were the Chief’s loyal fans and did their dagger-throwing practice dutifully after school every day. The TV show had such a powerful impact on young people that the Chinese government later suspended it, fearing that it would corrupt the country.

In the following years, more American TV shows debuted in China, but nothing seemed as popular among children as  “Garrison’s Gorillas.”

Reading Western literature in the 80s China

Several weeks ago I met several local writers, and as we were discussing the books that had made a big impression on us when we were children, I realized that I hadn’t read most of the books they mentioned. When I confessed, one writer said in disbelief, “Really? But these books are famous.”

No, I replied, not in China, not when I grew up. How many Americans have read Chinese classics? If I ask someone growing up in the U.S. if he or she has read or even heard about 《三国演义》 (Romance of the Three Kingdoms),  the chance is that he or she has no clue.

But I did read many western books when I was a child, thanks to my father, who loved to read and had three tall shelves of books, half of them being foreign literature. He was the kind of person who would rather go hungry than not possess a good book.

I grew up on a state-run farm where my parents had lived since 1961. They had been sent there because my mother came from a so-called ‘capitalist family.’

During the Cultural Revolution both my parents endured persecution and punishment. For several years they lived in a cow shed. It was a real one, as my mother later told me, where she and my dad had to spend days removing cow dung before they could move in.

After the Cultural Revolution my parents assumed their previous jobs, my father a teacher, my mother a cotton agricultural scientist.

On the farm it was hot in the summer, the temperature often reaching 40 ͦ Celsius. Insects were abundant. On some nights, when staying indoors was unbearable, people took their bamboo beds outside, splashing water on them to cool them down, and slept there.

I loved those evenings, when the men played cards and chatted over tea and cigarettes, the women talked and laughed while busying themselves with sewing and knitting and the kids played tag and war games till exhaustion conquered them.

On those nights my father would read me Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. Yes, there was a beautiful country far, far away where “water is as blue as the prettiest cornflower and as clear as crystal, where there was a princess who could feel a pea through twenty mattresses and twenty eider-down beds.” Yes, the kids there were just like me, curious and nature-loving.

The day after my father read Little Ida’s Flowers to me I buried some rose pedals in a match box as Little Ida did in the story. As I covered the box with soil I thought how wonderful it would be if I could travel to Denmark to meet Little Ida and make friends with her.

When I was in the third or fourth grade I began to linger in front of my father’s bookshelves, standing on a rickety stool to look for books with attractive titles or cover art. I was particularly attracted to fairy tales from the ancient Rome and Greek, Aesop’s Fables, Great Expectations, The Three Musketeers, The Dancing Girl of Izu, Jane Eyre, Price and Prejudice, Leaves of Grass, Hemingway’s short stories.

Translated books from the West at that time typically contained a section called ‘Editor’s Comments.’ The section would say first why this book was good and must be read, then it would add that due to the author’s capitalistic or other inclinations, which constituted a disfavored background, the book had flaws and biases in its political and world views.

I would sit in a corner absorbing these books, ignoring new words and difficult passages, and sometime entire pages and chapters if they became too complicated or philosophical. The strange people and places in the books fascinated me—the people and places of England, America, France, Greece, Russia, Italy……

This was my early education of Western literature, and also my first contact with the world outside China.


My new story appears in One World Global Anthology of Short Stories

I’m excited to share with you the news that “One World Two: Global Anthology of Short Stories” is just released! It includes one of my new short stories, “Nobody’s Talking About Falling in Love,” a tale about a female college student and an army sergeant in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. My inspiration comes from the one-month military training I experienced when I attended Sun Yat-Sen University (Zhongshan University) in Guangzhou.

According to the book’s publisher New Internationalist, the anthology “contains representative literature from all over the world, conveying the reader on thought-provoking journeys across continents, cultures and landscapes…(it) features established stars such as Edwidge Danticat (BreathEyesMemory), Viet Thanh Nguyen (The Sympathizer) and Aminatta Forna (The Hired Man) and authors who are steadily building a reputation such as Fan Wu, Ana Menéndez and Daniel Alarcon.”

World Literature Today says, “One World [Vol 1] captures a moment in history representing the changing and evolving world that we are in while reminding us of the enduring nature of the human condition.”

I’m reading the anthology right now and thoroughly enjoying it. I hope you’ll also find the book interesting and inspiring.

Also, I’d like to mention that all of my proceeds from this book will be donated to the International Red Cross. 🙂

To read an excerpt, please click here 

To buy the book on Amazon, please click here 



Guest – short story published by Hyphen Magazine

This story is an online exclusive from Hyphen Magazine, an honorable mention at a short story contest. I wrote the first draft in one day, but spent several months editing it.

An 18-year-old man, who’s just been admitted to his dream university, is struck and killed in a hit-and-run. Several days later, his mother, still in the depths of mourning, receives a mysterious guest, a middle-aged woman who claims to be from her son’s dream university. What is this woman’s real identity? Why is she here? 

Guest by Fan Wu on Hyphen Magazine




The Guest 


The bus had just closed its doors when the boy arrived at the station. He ran towards the near-empty bus as it pulled away from the curb and shouted in his slightly husky and unsteady voice, “Open the door! Please open the door!” In the gusty wind, his voice sounded like laughter. Instead of stopping, the bus accelerated. The driver, a twenty-five-year old woman with a round face, permed long hair and white-washed jeans, didn’t look back until she was certain that the boy couldn’t catch up. The three passengers also looked back at the boy, only briefly. None spoke, though one, a retired middle-school teacher, frowned and sighed, before telling himself that it was unwise to interfere: he didn’t know the boy, after all, and he wanted to get home without delay. The driver smiled, oddly pleased by what she had done, considering it a small revenge on the uncaught thief who had stolen her wallet in a supermarket the night before. She hummed ‘Rats Love Rice,’ the year’s most popular song, and removed a wisp of stray hair from her face.

The boy rummaged his shirt and pants pockets: all he could find was a small pile of coins. For a moment he regretted that he had squandered more than two hundred yuan on beer and cigarettes at the bar—famous for its chic and its scantily-clad waitresses. How many of his classmates had showed up? Maybe twenty, maybe more. He had drunk alcohol and smoked for the first time. But the money had been well spent, hadn’t it? He’d had a great time and he’d deserved a party of his own, he assured himself. He had even danced with a girl in his class whom he always
liked but never dared ask out; with a bit alcohol, it had been somehow easier to approach her. He remembered her soft breasts pushing against his chest and her crisp laughter. He felt a surge of blood in his face. Since the day he had received the admittance letter from Qinghua University with a full scholarship, he had planned a celebration. Not a wild one, but one appropriate for adults; after all, he was now eighteen.

He decided to walk home, partly because he wanted to make up for the money he had spent, partly because he wanted to look sober when he saw his mother, who must be still awake, sitting in front of the TV, waiting for his return. He wished he could call her to tell her not to worry, and to tell her that he’d be home shortly, but they didn’t have a phone at home.

It was midnight. Other than several pedestrians the street was empty. He walked quickly on the sidewalk, almost jogging. Once he tripped on a watermelon rind and fell heavily. After he stood, he stared at the crescent moon between two half-built skyscrapers and imagined his future in Beijing, a city of nearly twenty million people. Would he get lost in this vast sea of humanity? What should he do on his first day there? Should he visit the Tiananmen or climb the Great Wall or just stroll around the campus to admire its grandeur and long history? He smiled innocently, slightly puzzled by the fact that he had never before ventured outside his hometown.

Familiar with this area, he took a short cut. The alley he was traversing had no sidewalk and was dark except for the moonlight—no house on either side had its lights on. The alley once had several streetlamps but no sooner had they been installed than they were broken by hooligans, the wires cut and sold to a dump yard to buy drugs. He didn’t mind darkness nor the uneven cobblestones. Despite the wind, he was perspiring, so he unbuttoned his shirt and bared his thin chest.

It was still another mile or so to home. He glanced at his watch by the moonlight and began to run, dreading that his mother would be so worried as to go out to look for him; she had done that once when he had forgotten time and stayed at a friend’s house too long.

He heard a car coming from behind, fast. For an instant he wondered why its lights were off. Dazed, he didn’t jump aside but looked back at the rapidly approaching object  as if it were just a weightless shadow. What a nightmare, he thought, as it hit him, launching him into the air. He struck a lamppost and landed in the bushes against the wall.

The car, a blue Lexus, squealed to a stop and remained still for about ten seconds, the engine still running, the boy’s smashed body not far behind. No one came out from the houses nearby and no light came on. The two people in the car, the boy who was driving and the girl in the passenger seat, both smelling alcohol, exchanged a few words but didn’t get out. Then the girl said, Let’s go. The boy nodded silently, suppressing the fear on his face. He revved up the engine and the car took off like a frightened deer.


To read the entire story, please click here



“How is ‘China’ pronounced in China?” – this joke is brilliant!

Someone sent me a joke on wechat. I have no idea who the author is but it’s brilliant. If you can understand this joke, you should congratulate yourself on your profound knowledge about today’s China, and your mastery of the Chinese language.

Here is my translation. To make it understandable to non Chinese, I offered explanations in italic.


Recently, CCTV (China Central Television) conducted a survey among varied groups and occupations, asking the question: “How do you pronounce the English word ‘China’?”

The result came back. All the answers ended with “na,” which means “where” in Chinese, yet all of them were different.

Poor people: Qianna? (Qian=money)

 – Where is money? 

Doctors: Qiena? (Qie=cut)

– Where to cut?)

Government officials: Quanna? (Quan=power)

– Where to gain power?

Single men: Qina (Qi=wife)

– Where to find a wife?

Rich people: Qiena (Qie=mistress)

– Where are my mistresses?

Lovers: Qingna (Qin=kiss)

– Where to kiss?

Robbers: Qiangna (Qiang=rob)

– Where can I rob?

Real Estate Developers: Quanna (Quan=encircle)

– where to seize more land?

Slum residents: Qianna (Qian = move)

– Where to move?

Local governments: Chaina (Chai = tear down)

– Where can we tear down more houses? ( * Local governments in China often rely on land sales to collect tax and stimulate economy.) 

After a heated discussion, voters decided that local governments’s answer was most accurate. But The Urban Administrative and Law Enforcement Bureau ( Chengguan as they’re called in China) disagreed, and said their pronunciation – “Chuaina” (Chuai=kick) should be the winner. (* Chengguan is widely loathed for police brutality.)

More debate resumed. At this moment, The Central Discipline Inspection Commission chimed in with their own version: “Chana” (Cha=investigate). Hearing that, everyone quieted down as no one wanted to be the target of this bureau. ( * This bureau is responsible for investigating party members suspected of corruption and other misconducts.) 

Here is the Chinese original:

前不久,央视在全国各阶层不同行业做了一个调查,英语China(中国)究竟该怎么念?结果出乎想象,穷人读:钱哪?  医生读:切哪?  官员读:权哪? 光棍读:妻哪? 有钱人读:妾哪? 恋人读:亲哪?  强盗读:抢哪? 地产商读:圈哪?  贫民读:迁哪?  政府读:拆哪?  最后得出结论:还是政府发音最准确!城管听后不乐意了,我 们读:踹哪?  到底谁最标准?中纪委表态一一一査哪?大家都息声了。