A semi-serious deep dive into Chinese history and culture broadcast from Beijing and hosted by Jeremiah Jenne and David Moser.
When will China re-open its doors for study abroad and educational exchanges?
In this episode, recorded on January 13, 2023, Jeremiah in Florida and David in Taiwan touch base and exchange updates on the evolving Covid-19 situation in China and elsewhere. We compare and contrast the foreign media accounts of China’s current Covid struggles with the reports from friends and family within China. David gives an account of his wife’s bout with Covid-19 in Taiwan. We also offer a quick update on the gradual opening of student visas for study in China and provide prognostications on the prospects for restoring academic exchanges with Chinese universities and educational institutions.
CoCo19 and the Quarantines: The Scene from Beijing
Post-Covid China border closings, the expulsion of western journalists, and suspensions of academic exchanges have resulted in a woeful lack of foreign “eyes on the ground” to provide updates and insights into the current situation in China. While the like-minded community of foreign journalists and China watchers often constitutes an insular community whose reportage devolves into group-think and fixed narratives, the presence of knowledgeable China-based reporters and researchers is essential for dispelling the Twitter-fed misinformation and hackneyed western media tropes. In addition to the podcast’s perennial topic of the “information asymmetry” between China and the US, Jeremiah and David also touch upon current Covid-19 restrictions on the eve of the 20th National Party Conference and the thorny question of whether or not foreigners should agree to appear as commentators on Chinese state media.
Barbarians at the Gate Podcast: The An Lushan Rebellion
Our inaugural episode looks at An Lushan: the outsider who charmed his way into the court of the Tang Dynasty in the eighth century and who almost succeeded in bringing down the empire. It’s a story made for imperial slash fic: The aging emperor, his rotund but sexy concubine, and the foreigner who came between them.
Barbarians at the Gate Podcast: A couple of characters talking about Chinese characters
David Moser (Beijing Capital Normal University, Sinica Podcast) and Brendan O'Kane (Paper Republic, University of Pennsylvania) join Jeremiah to discuss David's new book, A Billion Voices, the history of language reform and national unity in China, the best way to learn Chinese, and the debate over whether it's okay to hate on Chinese characters.
Barbarians at the Gate Podcast: Keeping up with the Khitans
In this episode of Barbarians at the Gate, James and Jeremiah discuss the history of the Khitans, their empire and their legacy with a little help from the Godfather Trilogy and Dragon Barbie from Game of Thrones.
Barbarians at the Gate Podcast: China’s territorial claims on the rocks in the South China Sea
On Tuesday, an international tribunal at the Hague ruled that China’s attempts to claim almost the entire South China Sea as sovereign territory had no legal basis.
In a special emergency podcast, Jeremiah and James talk about the implications of the decision at the Hague, the reaction here in Beijing, and the use (and abuses) of history in establishing contemporary territorial claims.
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！