Xinran Blog

Renshi Nin Zhen Gaoxin! ——— It is so nice to know you!

Posted by Xinran on March 8, 2009

Renshi Nin Zhen Gaoxin! — It is so nice to know you!

I came back London home yesterday on 6th March 2009, after 14 days travel between 9 cities plus 8 talks/lectures and over 20 interviews – in America and Canada.

I feel that I am dying…not just by my body’s exhausted, but also by the emotional–I have been shared so much with the people I met on this trip…

I think, we never could have known it enough that how much we have been given by life, natural, our family and friends…or anyone, even though we never could be able to know each other…

Thanks to our last generations, without them we won’t have such a colorful life.

Thanks to Harriet and Binh for sharing so much thinking with me…

Big regards from London and my heart.

Wo Hui Lai Le – I come back!


I am going to my book tour in US and Canada from 23th Feb to 5th March

Posted by Xinran on February 22, 2009

Zao shang hao - Good morning!

Wang shang hao - Good evening!

It is over 2:00AM London time now…I have just finish my queued works before my next book tour in 30 hours…

I have been very busy in last week with two book events, two parties, then because US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is visiting China, I was busy with BBC -5 interviews today from 11:00am to 21:00pm.

Therefore I couldn’t get my homework done as I planned: check the travel details, go through 8th events’ schedule (it should be the final one), prepare the clothes for the weather between -5’C to 25’C…two PPTs and one 12 pages presentation…and birthday presents for my husband, by the way, I feel very bad about this…how could I go on my book tour when he is on his birthday alone? I have made a gift by my hands for his birthday, I hope it could help our both hearts.

Anyhow, I have done all of the works by now. I thought I should set a vacation response for others email…just now, one new email jumps in from my friend in US — is that truth you are coming?

Yes, I am, here is the information for her, for you as well, if you would like to meet me at one of the following events…

Schedule of CHINA WITNESS book events in US will be:

Tuesday, February 24–St. Louis, MO

7:30pm Lecture in Principia Wanamaker Hall – followed by Q&A

Wednesday, February 25–Chicago, IL

7:00pm Bookstall event. 811 Elm St, Winnetka, IL 60093.

Thursday, February 26–San Francisco, CA

7:30pm Capitola Book Cafe event. 1475 41st Ave Capitola, CA 95010.

Friday, February 27–San Francisco, CA

7:30pm Berkeley Arts & Letters event. First Congregational Church of Berkeley,

2345 Channing Way (at Dana) Berkeley, CA 94704.

Saturday, February 28–Seattle, WA

4:30pm Elliott Bay Book Company event. 101 South Main St. Seattle, WA 98104. aka ‘Pirate TV’ will tape this event.

Sunday, March 1–St. Louis, MO

4:00pm Left Bank Books event. 399 N. Euclid Ave. St. Louis, MO 63108.

Monday, March 2–5 Canada

Ok, Good night, good morning… and good luck too!

Zhu nin hao yun — Good luck!


Xin Nian Kuai Le —- — — — Happy New Year!

Posted by Xinran on February 10, 2009

NIU Nian Kuai Le – Happy Chinese OX Year!

I come back! — Wo Hui Lai Le!

In last two months, I have been tried to give myself some excuses for not write any blog and thank to friends who have ‘’met’’ me here and commented on my writing and books. I thought it could be because I was very ill and completely exhausted by working on over one million words for my two books ‘’China Witness’’ and “The Message from Unknown Mothers in China’’(working title), at the same time I had my busy book tours over 20 countries; OR might be because of my mind ‘power off’ after over 10 years struggling between Chinese and English since I move to London in 1997, I needed time to recharge myself with some update knowledge and information both from China and the West; or just being busy with a heavy ‘’New Year time’’, started with western God (Christmas), followed by the western one, then the Chinese one. Chinese New Year 2009 started from 26th Jan and finished yesterday on 9th Feb, it lasts 15 days …

But, after all, I realized that there is no excuse for me at all, it is simply because of being lazy! Sometimes I am really terrified by knowing that I have the same habits as those politicians – I always want to blame someone, or something, for my own mistakes or done something wrong…

Now, I come back and have to apologize to you if … as you know.

Great thanks to all of you, who have read my blog and commented on it, for sharing our thinking with me, caring about my writing…and interesting in Chinese culture…

There is so much I would like to share with you…

The Chinese DVD ‘’Detective Di Ren-jie’’ I watched in last Dec; two books I have read, one is about a report on 140m Chinese migrates, one is about war history – how much Chinese women suffered from Japanese invasion in 1930’s; economic crisis; Gaze children; shake-ed ‘made in China’; shoes thrown to the world top leaders: G W Bush and Wen Jia-bao… the bushfire in Australia…and snow storm in England…endless..

Anyhow, it is 6:48am London time after two hours on line working with my very slow typing.

I must have a cup of coffee NOW to fresh my TODAY…

PS, that would be great if you would like to help my English ;]

Thanks and see you - Xiexie, Zaijian.

Categories: Happy Chinese OX Year
Comments: 3 Comments

Touring still touches me so deeply

Posted by Xinran on October 22, 2008

I arrived in Hong Kong last night after my book tour in crowded New Zealand and busy Australia (19 interviews, 9 talks in 5 cities…and IN 7 DAYS…!!!)…

My body has been ‘’seasoned” by the cold winter in New Zealand, and by Australia’s beautiful spring and Hong Kong’s hot summer, and our minds have been educated and moved by the people’s love of China Witness.

Touring still touches me so deeply –  when I walked dead tired into my Hong Kong hotel I was reinvigorated by a copy of TIME OUT lying on the bedside table with many other magazines, inside it was a review of ‘China Witness’ by Edmund Lee.

I was so moved, not only by the thoughtful timing, but also by the understanding of the review which talks of my passion for the real China and my feelings for those Chinese Witnesses who have told me their hidden lives.


Nin hui shuo zhong-guo hua ma? (can you speak Chinese?)

Posted by Xinran on October 3, 2008

I am still on my book tour for China Witness in wintery Australia

My schedule is very busy – 19 interviews for radio, TV, newspaper and magazines and 9 talks at book stores, city hall’s and libraries in 5 cities across Australia. I arrived in Melbourne two days ago.

Do I still enjoy it? So far so good, I have always got energy from Australia, in the same way, I can see many Australians get energy from China and the Chinese. More Westerners speak Chinese here, not only because many Chinese live here, but also because most Australians are open minded people! As an example, how many world leaders can speak Chinese, the second largest language in the world? The Australian Prime Minster can!

I always say that any foreigner who can speak and read Chinese must be a genius. There are about 80,000 Chinese characters in total and at least 3773 are used daily. The Chinese study these characters from the age of 3, if they are born into families that can afford to educate their children.

The Chinese barely had a proper spoken language before the 20th century. Before then, well-educated people spoke ‘written Chinese’, and uneducated people spoke in very short sentences, or just used verbs. In many underdeveloped agricultural areas, instead of speaking long sentences with adjectives and adverbs, they used to communicate through song.

China has a pronunciation system called ‘Pinyin’ based on the same alphabet as English, and with four tones. It was set up by a group of Chinese scholars after they returned to China from Europe in the 1900s, and it was completed in 1950s by Mao Zedong’s communist government. I must say the Pinyin system has really opened up the possibility for communication between the Chinese and Westerners especially since computers have come to dominate our world!

Chinese computers have the same keyboard as Western ones, with 26 letters and numbers. Each year more and more kinds of Chinese typing software come out, appearing as fast as the new buildings in China’s big cities. For Western learners, I would say Pinyin typing is the easiest way to write characters.

For example: if you type in MA many characters appear on your computer screen – all pronounced as MA and these are ordered into different groups according to their tone. MA–, mother, question word,…; MA /, linen, a tingling feeling…; MA~, horse, shoe size,…; MA、,swear, argue… then you simply choose the right one for your word or sentence! Normally, once you have typed in a character the programme will suggest a number of connected characters for you to choose next.

Ok, I am sitting here at midnight writing this because I am too tired to sleep, but now I have to go back sleep as I have a very busy day tomorrow.

Nin hui shuo zhong-guo hua ma? (can you speak Chinese?)

Wo hui shuo zhong-guo hua. (I can speak Chinese.)



Bang-bang mang! Jiu-Ming! (Help, please! Help!)

Posted by Xinran on September 25, 2008

Less than 30 hours ago I was in the hot Beijing summer and now here I am in the cold New Zealand winter. It seems like no big time difference, but my body is confused by the seasons and I couldn’t sleep.

‘Don’t blame the weather!’ A voice shouted to me, in fact, I’ve never been able to sleep a whole night with nice dreams, ever!

My nightmares started in my childhood when the Cultural Revolution took place and I became a ‘black child’ (you can get some details from my book The Good Women of China). Some dreams I have are very frightening – people beating me with thick sticks and bricks as they did in my childhood; some are very scary – an invisible man comes to my bed in the cold moon light, an event that happened to me when I was only 11 years old; some are a struggle - I am exhaustedly climbing to the top of a bloody well; some are very sad - I am dying and my son Panpan is a baby in my arms. I am crying, thinking who will bring him up and how can this tiny life be saved from war and starvation…

I can control myself in the daytime, but I can’t do this when I am dreaming.

I used to think that reading and education might erase these dreams from my brain, but 39 years of reading and studying many different things has never replaced the nightmares. I have to make my body very tired and go to bed late at night; so that I won’t be woken up by the nightmares at 2 or 3am.

Many young Chinese don’t understand why older generations always mention the ‘old days’ as if old people have nothing to talk about. I think the older Chinese are visited over again by their dreams, which are full of their painful past…

We still aren’t civilised enough to allow everyone to open up and offer their own opinions in the waking world. Therefore many of us tell our true stories only through our dreams.

Today, 6th Sep 2008, I gave my first talk to the Christchurch Book Fair. Over 500 hundred people came to listen to me and queued for signed books. I am very touched by the number of book readers in this tiny, quiet city. A German mother and daughter were both in tears and thanked me, for I said ‘we should all be honest and try to understand the past, no matter whether it was good or bad, the past is our roots…’ The daughter said, no-one in her family had told her what had happened to her grand-parents during World War Two. Her mother replied to her for me, ‘Because it is too difficult to be honest about the family past when looking to your future…’

How can we be honest and face our past? After all we all want it…

Bang-bang mang! Jiu-Ming! (Help, please! Help!)


Ni hao ma? (How are you?)

Posted by Xinran on September 19, 2008

What a year 2008 is becoming for most Chinese!

I returned from China last week where all the conversation was about the Olympics and where I heard the Chinese talking so much about the lucky number 8.

The Chinese said that everything about the timing of the Olympics seemed great. 2008 is not only the first Year of the Dragon of the new century, but also the first year in the new century to have a number 8. (In China 8 has been a lucky number since the1980s and is associated with making money and building up power).

But this 2008 we are living in, seems to have changed Chinese beliefs even before 8th August when the Olympics opened.

On 24/2/08 (2+4+2 = 8), there was one of the largest snowstorms in recent history, and hundreds of thousands of migrant workers were stuck at city train stations far away from their families whom they hadn’t seen for more than 10 months…

On 23/3/08, (2+3+3=8) the Beijing Olympic torch relay began and so many anti-Chinese voices were heard.

On 12/05/08, (1+2+5=8) the Sichuan earthquake took over 80,000 lives, including over three thousand children who died in their school.

My Chinese friends were so worried about the Beijing Olympics because they began on 8/08/2008. In April they telephoned me to tell me that the Chinese government couldn’t comprehend the negative reactions to the Beijing Olympics, especially after the celebrations we had when China won it. ‘We made such a huge effort, the largest in a hundred years, but no-one in the West could see it!’ many Chinese complained. ‘I used to think our Chinese lucky number 8 had been damaged by the Western God’, one taxi driver said to me, ‘after 24th August, I could put my heart back where it belonged…we made it, the Beijing Olympics will go down in history…you know what, my relative who works in the police told me that there were very few crimes committed during the Games! 2008 is our lucky year, no matter how much we have been through!’

As with many Chinese we still see the world from our perspective. We think only the West has McDonalds and Starbucks, and nothing can beat our five thousand years’ worth of culture and our rising economic power. What about freedom and the democracy movement in the West? For most Chinese, these are too far out of reach – you have to live and travel in the West to really see it and for most Chinese that costs too much. Living in China the West is too difficult to understand, you have to talk to Westerners in their own language and it is so hard to try and visit. The Chinese stomach is not strong enough for fish and chips and fat sausages…

Most of us don’t like to read another country’s map in a different language and in a different form, even though we all know we have different maps for the same world!

Chinese ‘left’ could be ‘right’ in Europe.

Tomorrow I am going to visit the Beijing Book Fair. In fact, it takes place in Tianjing, a harbour city one hours drive from Beijing. I can’t wait to see the changes in Tianjing, I last visited 25 years ago and was impressed by the sea and the donkeys and the local food!

I hope I have time to tell you more about the sights of Tianjin before I go on my New Zealand and Australia book tour for my new book China Witness.

Ren-shi nin, hen gao-xin! (Nice to meet you!)


Ni hao (Hello)!

Posted by Xinran on September 12, 2008

Hello, this is my first English blog. Honestly, I don’t understand this modern idea at all; write something on an unknown network? If anybody can read it, how do people know me and find out about me here? After driving on to this ‘information highway’, will I ever be able to get off? I have seen some people driven mad, spending a huge amount of time and energy writing and responding to their emails…

Am I brave enough to jump on to this open, or say, ‘naked’ platform made by this ‘human factory’?

Let’s try and let people make of it what they will, or as the Chinese say ‘Let’s be a fish that people can cut and cook to their own taste’. (I have talked about Chinese fish philosophy in my book ‘What the Chinese Don’t Eat’)

Anyhow, I am on a book tour to publicise my new book ‘China Witness’, the tour begins in Beijing in my homeland, China. I arrived here on 26th August, the day after the Olympics finished. After China I travel to New Zealand, Australia, and Hong Kong.

China Witness is based on 20 years research, and spans China from west to east between the Yellow River and the Yangtze. It is the personal testimony of a generation whose stories have not yet been told. Here the grandparents and great-grandparents of today sum up in their own words - for the first and perhaps the last time - the vast changes that have overtaken China’s people over a century. I believe that this book will help our future understand our past.

On arriving in this new ‘historical internationalized Beijing’ I have been feeling so relaxed and happy, just like a student who has passed an important exam.

Since April I have been holding my breath watching the Olympic torch travel around the world. Then on 24th August we Chinese showed the world that our passion for Chinese culture and history had made the Beijing Olympics!

Everything here is still about the Olympics, there are Olympic flags and signs everywhere. It seems that no-one wants to stop talking about the first global event in China – positive and negative comments can be heard everywhere.

Many Chinese I met in Beijing told me they were in tears when they saw the Chinese scroll opened at the opening ceremony. They thought, or at least they hoped, that China would be reborn in the world and recognised as a nation of culture. They hoped that the people wouldn’t live under political control anymore, and that the experience of the Beijing Olympics would help us to free ourselves from the civil war, revolution and endless political movements of the last 100 years!

Yes we Chinese have lost and suffered so much in the last 100 years, as I hope you will see and understand when you read my book ‘China Witness’.

Xie xie nin! (Thank you!)

See you next time