Year of the Monkey - Granta
Two thousand and four, the year of the monkey, my zodiac year. Two weeks before the New Year, Old Aunt Li stopped me on my way home and told me to buy a red rope. ‘Tie it around your waist,’ she said. ‘That’ll get rid of bad luck.’ She was the self-appointed director of the Community Management Committee in our building and knew everyone’s birthday and every family’s private business. According to her, in your zodiac year you are either prosperous or miserable. Aunt Li was in her sixties. Unlike other women her age who were busy caring for grandchildren or practising group dance in a park, she would walk around with a thread-bound I Ching and replica ancient copper coins in her pocket. It was said she had predicted that Four-eyed Wang’s son would get into Beijing University, that rice would cost twenty per cent more by the end of the year and that Doctor Deng on the first floor would have a baby girl…….
The Taste of Life - Ploughshares
Old Zhang, the security guard at a government housing complex, was about to leave his room to lock the wrought-iron gate when he heard a heavy, yet muffled thud from outside. He rushed out, guessing that a flower pot had dropped from an apartment above, a non-uncommon accident because many families liked to grow flowers on their balconies. Instead of porcelain shards, he saw Mr. Song, director of the District Party Committee, moaning like a stranded animal, his bike on top of him. The bike’s wheels were still spinning and the spokes glittered in the pale moonlight……
Jade – The Missouri Review
In a narrow alley near Buji River, between a makeshift open market and a karaoke nightclub, the brick-roofed, small-windowed bungalows had been on the government’s teardown list since the previous winter. It was fall, but no workers and cranes were there. Rumor said that the government had been preoccupied with renovating ancient temples and shopping malls to attract tourists. The bungalow’s red roof tiles had darkened from age and pollution. Their stucco walls were covered in graffiti scribbled by the kids going to and from a nearby elementary school – the alley was their shortcut. Along with the graffiti were scattered poorly printed posters in many colors, advertising services ranging from locksmiths, plumbing, fake personal identify cards and diplomas to plastic surgery and cures for venereal disease. When it rained heavily the alley would flood; sometimes the water would be ankle deep, lasting days or weeks. When the flood subsided and the sun emerged, people would dry their clothes, shoes and bedding outside on stools or on nylon clotheslines hung temporarily between window bars and worm-eaten willows. The smell of mildew and damp fabric would linger in the air like mucus on a homeless kid’s face.
Jade had just turned sixteen……
Decadence – Asia Literary Review
He typed a few lines before pushing the typewriter away in agitation. At eight the next morning someone from Mr Yuan’s Treasure Shop would come by to fetch the machine: he had sold it for less than half of what he had paid three months before. The room around him was spacious, illuminated by two paper-shaded lamps; sunlight was blocked from the only window by a tattered cotton blanket hanging on the clothes-line outside. The blanket belonged to the neighbors upstairs, a childless couple in their forties, and its presence shrouded everything in the room in a murky gloom. Leaning against the back of his chair he lit a cigarette, his eyes vacantly following the smoke as it spiraled upwards……