We are renewing our support for the international Bookworm Literary Festival, which begins this Saturday in Beijing, and doing so in a big way. We’ve organized five events under the SupChina banner, including a live Sinica Podcast recording with Dashan and a fireside chat with three-time CBA champion Stephon Marbury. (Disclosure, I suppose: I’m personally hosting two other events in addition, including the end-of-festival pub quiz.) There will also be panel talks on hip-hop and India’s relationship with China, in addition to the first-ever live recording of the NüVoices Podcast.
The Bookworm Literary Festival has, for more than a decade, been a highlight on the Beijing events calendar, and in recent years has just about cemented its status as an institution, a festival that has remained willfully independent in the face of economic pressures and harassment from authorities. It has, for a long time, been one of the largest bilingual literary festivals in Asia, and for my money, it has always been the best. Go check it out if you’re in town anytime from March 16 to 31. (Download the festival program here.)
Below are the SupChina events, listed chronologically.
Wednesday, March 20, 8:00 PM – TICKETS
Once an underground subculture, hip-hop has recently entered mainstream Chinese youth culture, thanks in part to shows like Rap of China, with artists like the Higher Brothers storming the global stage. But Chinese hip-hop, which has gained headlines in the past year (see: “hip-hop ban”), took root many decades back, during a time when Chinese emcees dared to be defiant and countercultural. With rap music gaining mainstream credibility in the PRC, is the genre in danger of being co-opted? What does the future hold? Writer Yi-Ling Liu, who has reported on Chengdu rap and profiled rappers such as Bohan Phoenix, will lead this discussion with Wes Chen, founding member, host, and DJ of China’s first and only hip-hop radio show, thePark; Harikiri, British-born music producer, sound designer, and DJ who has worked with musicians such as Higher Brothers; and Shuhong (Rita) Fan and Lauren Teixeira, who have written extensively on Chinese hip-hop.
Sunday, March 24, 12:00 PM – TICKETS
The basketball world descends on China in August and September for the FIBA Basketball World Cup this year, with 32 countries playing 92 games across eight cities. Two-time NBA All-Star and Chinese Basketball League (CBA) MVP Stephon Marbury knows more than most what to expect, having won three CBA championships for the Beijing Ducks during his eight seasons in China — and along the way, becoming the most beloved foreign athlete in the country. In this chat, Marbury will sit down with Mark Dreyer, author of the SupChina Sports Column, to talk about his basketball career and current projects, his expectations for Chinese basketball, his line of sneakers (Starbury), starring in his own movie (My Other Home), and more.
Friday, March 29, 8:00 PM – TICKETS
China and India both have more than 1 billion people and were, until recently, agrarian societies. Yet despite obvious commonalities, the two countries have followed very different trajectories: One embraced authoritarianism and rapid economic growth, while the other chose democracy — and remains in search of its own economic miracle. It’s possible the time has come: India has claimed China’s spot as the world’s fastest growing major economy, and as it grows, it just might offer an alternative model for any country seeking balance between the need for development and democratic institutions. Or — if China has anything to say about it — India could serve as a cautionary tale. Avtar Singh (internationally published author and editor and managing editor of The Indian Quarterly), Ray Zhong (reporter in Beijing for the New York Times), and Lu Yang (author of the book China-India Relations in the Contemporary World), and will explore the India-China story along with moderator Huizhong Wu.
Saturday, March 30, 8:00 PM – TICKETS
The Sinica Podcast is usually hosted by Kaiser Kuo and Jeremy Goldkorn, but this special live recording will see David Moser and Anthony Tao slide into the host seats for a lively discussion about the Chinese language — that devilishly hard language family spoken by 16% of the world’s population. They will be joined by Mark Rowswell, a.k.a. Dashan, who leveraged his mastery of Chinese into four appearances on the CCTV Spring Festival Gala (the only non-Chinese performer to appear four times). The three of them will dive into the history and culture of Mandarin, and Moser, who is author of A Billion Voices: China’s Search for a Common Language, will make the case that almost everything you’ve learned about Chinese characters is wrong.
Sunday, March 31, 4:00 PM – TICKETS
The Beijing women’s collective NüVoices, which launched last year at the Bookworm Literary Festival, returns this year in a special live recording of the NüVoices Podcast. Author/translator Alice Xin Liu (Vice Chair of the NüVoices Collective) will host a spirited discussion with authors Tang Fei and Ji Shaoting, two up-and-coming writers in China’s burgeoning sci-fi scene. Tang’s work has been published in best-of sci-fi anthologies, while Ji, in addition to being an author, founded the Asia-Pacific Science Fiction Convention and the Future Affairs Administration, an incubator for sci-fi talent. The ladies will discuss everything from their own work to the potential of science fiction in China, and maybe even also comment on how much they hated (or liked!) the film Wandering Earth.
The Bookworm Literary Festival is from March 16 to 31. SupChina is a proud cultural sponsor.