Beijing Lights: A conversation with Huang Chenkuang

Photo by Zhou Ding via Flickr

This week’s NüVoices was recorded live from Beijing, where Anthony Tao had a conversation with Huang Chenkuang, a journalist and creative who runs the interview series Beijing Lights (published on the website of the arts collective Spittoon). They spoke in front of an audience at the bar Camera Stylo, which was — believe it or not — launching a cocktail named after Huang’s Beijing Lights.

For each article in the series, Huang interviews one person — often a stranger, and usually someone on the margins of society — and tells that person’s story. She has profiled housekeepers (“If I had to live my life again, I’d probably lead the exact same life”), blind masseuses (“Only a few know my full name here, they just call me ‘Number Five’”), fortune-tellers (“Now that all the good stuff I’ve wanted is finally here, it’s already too late, and I’m old”), barbers (“I wasn’t dreaming big, anyway”), and more, getting them to reveal personal details along with their misgivings, their regrets, and their dreams. 

In Beijing Lights No. 5, Huang tells her own story, including how she was nearly aborted while her mother was eight months pregnant. She talks about the world changing around her at a “dizzying speed,” and her attempt to make sense of her feelings.

Would I say I’m a happy person? No, not really. I wake up every day feeling thankful for what I have. But I’m an idealist, which means I feel disappointed very often because apparently it’s not a perfect world we’re living in. Yet I also get so often amazed because the world stores so many surprises. With the circle of disappointment and amazement, there’s never a boring day. Every day I feel a new yearning for life.

Among other subjects, she and Anthony talked about her methods, her interviewees, herself, and also this one guy who may have eaten human flesh. We hope you enjoy this episode.

(Huang has also written for SupChina in the past, on topics such as Li Wenliang and the “online wailing wall” and Chinese parents who lose their only child.)

This podcast was edited and produced by Jason MacRonald.