A semi-serious deep dive into Chinese history and culture broadcast from Beijing and hosted by Jeremiah Jenne and David Moser.
Yellow Jazz, Black Music
This week Jeremiah and David catch up with an old friend, China history scholar Marketus Presswood., who has just released a documentary on jazz in China entitled Yellow Jazz, Black Music, available on Vimeo. Based on years of research and extensive interviews, the documentary traces the influx and development of jazz music in China, from the Shanghai ballrooms of the 1920s to a resurgence in the urban nightclubs of the Reform-and-Opening period, and finally to the art form's flourishing in a new globalized, high-tech China. Marketus provides a fascinating description of the lives of the African-American jazz musicians in Republican Era Shanghai, including the experiences of Langston Hughes, who visited the city in 1934 and interacting with the stars of the local jazz scene. We also discuss the difficulties of Chinese musicians in accessing and mastering the art form, the social and artistic impact of jazz on Chinese culture, and the possibilities of a new kind of "jazz with Chinese characteristics."Links to:Website for the film:www.yellowjazzblackmusic.com (http://www.yellowjazzblackmusic.com/?fbclid=IwAR3WkAd8i9Fn9oQ-9e8bCSY66-QOf_aSqbA7BAHR62o9LcxGMJ8RIEYIOUY)Yellow Jazz, Black Music on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/yellowjazzblackmusic (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/yellowjazzblackmusic)The Yellow Jazz Black Music Spotify music site:https://open.spotify.com/album/2oDjOu5dXCUm8atpkZfJ2W (https://open.spotify.com/album/2oDjOu5dXCUm8atpkZfJ2W)Jeremiah on Langston Hughes in Shanghaihttps://www.jeremiahjenne.com/the-archives/2021/1/28/langston-hughes-in-shanghai (https://www.jeremiahjenne.com/the-archives/2021/1/28/langston-hughes-in-shanghai)David on Jazz in Chinahttps://chinachannel.org/2018/07/20/chinese-jazz/ (https://chinachannel.org/2018/07/20/chinese-jazz/)Marketus on "Being Black in China" https://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/07/on-being-black-in-china/277878/ (https://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/07/on-being-black-in-china/277878/)
In this episode, Jeremiah and David talk about the foreign experience of travel in China, drawing upon their personal experiences over the years as explorers, educators, and tour guides. The two trade accounts of the rapid expansion of China’s travel industry in decades after Reform and Opening, the occasional brushes with anti-foreign sentiment, and the exploding domestic luxury travel market as the economy booms and overseas travel has been restricted. The discussion also turns to the new post-Covid-19 reality of quarantines, vaccination records, and issues with the ubiquitous health-record apps that have become mandatory additions to everyone’s mobile phone. The podcast concludes with cautious prognostications about the upcoming Olympics, vaccination passports, and the future of foreigners traveling, studying, and working in China.
David also recommends the excellent new documentary about jazz and jazz-age Shanghai by Marketus Presswood, Yellow Jazz, Black Music (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/yellowjazzblackmusic) now streaming on Vimeo.
Elegy for the Eighties
In this episode (taped on the eve of June 4th), Jeremiah and David examine the zeitgeist of China in the 1980s through the lens of the historic 1988 documentary River Elegy《河殇》. The six-part documentary was a scathing critique of Chinese traditional culture and political philosophy, portraying hallowed icons such as the Great Wall and the Yellow River as morally repugnant symbols of barbarism and cultural self-deception. The TV series also touched upon previously taboo topics such as Mao's Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. The documentary was highly controversial at the time yet was widely disseminated in State media such as the People's Daily, giving rise to an astonishingly frank public debate about the fate of China and the need for economic and political liberalization. The documentary was banned after 1989 but remains a cultural time capsule of the decade's relatively open political discourse. The podcast discussion examines the contentious intellectual currents of the 1980s and poses some counterfactual questions about how China's reforms might have progressed if the free-thinking trajectory of River Elegy had continued to exert an influence.
Link to a segment of River Elegy on YouTube (https://youtu.be/39j4ViRxcS8?t=31)
Moser, David, "Thoughts on River Elegy, June 1988-June 2011 (https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1908&context=chinabeatarchive)" (2011). The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012. 904.
Talking the Line between Culture Shock and Racism
In this episode, we host Ruth Poulsen, Director of Curriculum and Assessment at the International School of Beijing and author of a recent article in The American Educator entitled "What's the Line between Culture Shock and Racism (tieonline.com/article/2895/whats-the-line-between-culture-shock-and-racism-)?" Ruth is a long-term ex-pat, having spent much of her childhood and adult life in various countries in the Middle East and Asia. In the interview, Ruth shares her cross-cultural insights gained from her years working with teachers and students living abroad and offers some strategies for coping with cultural shock, cultural misunderstandings, and negative stereotypes. Those new to the podcast might want to check out an earlier episode with Lenora Chu (https://blubrry.com/barbarians/66506635/raising-little-soldiers-education-in-china-part-ii/), which examined cross-cultural differences in the Chinese and American education systems.
Jeremiah and David Have Got No Class
On the show this week, Jeremiah and David dialogue about one of their long-term common missions: educating American study abroad students about the complex culture and politics of China. With the rise of the PRC as an economic power, it has always been vitally important to get American scholars to this country to gain first-hand experience with the language and culture. Yet, It has always been a challenge to establish and maintain study abroad programs in China. For decades there had always been a significant disparity between the number of Chinese students in the US vs. American students in China, but now with rising US-China tensions and the onslaught of Covid-19, the China study abroad student has become somewhat of an endangered species. The pre-Covid number of Chinese students in the US studying for undergraduate and graduate degrees had increased to about 370,000 by 2019. By contrast, the number of American students studying in China, after a brief spike prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, had declined to a mere 11,000 in the 2017-18 school year. Jeremiah and David reminisce about their experience teaching US students in Beijing, discuss the geopolitical importance of fostering a China-savvy cohort of American scholars entering the US workforce, and explore possible strategies and models for building China study programs in the post-Covid world.
Jeremiah on Twitter (https://twitter.com/jeremiahjenne?lang=en)
David on Twitter (https://twitter.com/david__moser?lang=en)
David Moser, A Fearful Asymmetry: Covid-19 and America’s Information Deficit with China (https://apjjf.org/2020/14/Moser.html)
Chinese Funny Business
In today's episode, Jeremiah and David meet up with legendary Canadian TV personality, comedian, and cultural ambassador Mark Rowswell, better known to generations of Chinese audiences as Dashan. On the eve of the annual CCTV Spring Festival Gala, "the most-watched TV show in the world," Mark briefly recounts his experiences on the show, its importance as a cultural mainstay of the traditional New Year's holiday, and the evolution of the program from the early days of Chinese television to the current Internet age. Mark also takes us through the development of comedy in China, from Qing dynasty joke books, the origins and evolution of the verbal humor from xiangsheng or "crosstalk," the rise of sketch comedy, and now, in the 21st century, the growing popularity of tuokouxiu, Chinese stand-up comedy. A recurring theme in the discussion is Chinese humor's struggle to remain funny and relevant in a tightly controlled media environment.
DashanTV Youtube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/DashanTV)
Dashan on the web (http://dashan.com/en/)
And, as promised, Mark and David's performance at the 1999 CCTV Spring Festival Gala (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJbo50my35c)
Characters talking about characters
I, personally, think it’s much ado about nothing. Of course, as a 58yr old former medical professional, now severely disabled and house-bound for the most part; I may not be your average non-native student. My Son is currently finishing his MBA and preparing to move to China. Although he began learning Chinese about 11 years ago, he feels that new learners today are “spoiled” with the wide, free and inexpensive, resources for both learning and actually using characters.
About 13 years ago, I spent 3 years studying Sanskrit-still an alphabetical system, setting the Devanagari apart from Simplified or Traditional Chinese characters. However, by integrating calligraphy and art into my studies, I found it much easier to remember the characters. I’m doing the same thing with Chinese characters. My Son is much too busy and the distance between us makes it impossible for him to help me much. Instead, he connected me with some of his Chinese friends in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, who run companies and distribution centers that deal directly with American and European, English-speaking consumers. Over the past 6 months, I’ve put together my own self-study program with their assistance. My kids now joke that “Moms kids in China”, have “reverse-adopted” me, sending me books, calligraphy supplies and many little Knick-knacks, scrolls and even free products. I’ve helped them out by writing and re-writing their sales copy to make it more legible and attractive to English speakers. Eventually, I am going to start translating instruction booklets for some new products as well as re-write instructions for current products with those “impossible to follow” google-translated instructions people often complain about.
The best part about this new journey I find myself on, is realizing how and why my Son fell in love with China, its people and culture. I’ve not only gotten to know these incredible kids; but I have also gotten to know some of their families. Last month, some of the kids took me along, by live video, to their Spring Festival and New Years celebrations. I was able to virtually experience everything from the State’s official concert and fireworks in Beijing, to a traditional Opera in Shanghai, to family feasts and small village celebrations. I’ve become friends with Grandma Lili, who recently retired from teaching English at a major university, and who has made my education in Chinese and calligraphy her personal project.
My personal physician and long-time friend says he hasn’t seen me this excited about anything since medical school. Unfortunately, I may never make it over to China physically; but I can honestly say this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
As an aside; I tried out several online platforms and well-known instructors before I got to know the kids. Almost every one of them strongly advised that I completely ignore the characters for at least a year. They insisted that with today’s technology, even doing direct translations doesn’t require you to be able to read the characters. I have grown to strongly disagree. I’ve even convinced some of the kids to do calligraphy with me, as, like you all mentioned, they have forgotten many of the characters from disuse.
I guess my son is right, we ARE “spoiled” with the resources available today! 谢谢！