The next book in the Capturing Chinese series is almost out! We are reading over the final draft of the book before shipping it off for publication. This book takes a departure from the previous books in our series in that we have used five different Chinese authors. They are: Lu Xun, Zhu Ziqing, Hu Shi, Zhou Zuoren, and Lin Yutang. We have picked some of the most influential pieces of literature from these five authors and formed a collection of Chinese stories called "Capturing Chinese Stories: Prose and Poems by Revolutionary Chinese Authors". Each one of these authors has played an instrumental role in China and having a grasp of them and their work will lead insight into China's past and present. Learning Chinese through literature is the backbone of the Capturing Chinese philosophy. As always, each story includes a short summary, footnotes for difficult vocabulary, pinyin located at the end of each story, as well as an author introduction. Audio files will also be included free of charge with each purchase of the book. The audio files will include a male and female native speaker and will be available later this year. Capturing Chinese Stories: Prose and Poems by Revolutionary Chinese Authors has been requested by several Chinese professors to be used in their Chinese literature course. Each new book in our series quickly becomes our favorite. Some of the stories are absolute must reads for Chinese students. The stories are famous throughout China and many make up the course syllabus of young Chinese students in Mainland China. Capturing Chinese Stories: Prose and Poems by Revolutionary Chinese Authors includes the following prose and poems: Zhu Ziqing Haste, Spring, The Silhouette of His Back, The Moonlit Lotus Pond, The White Man — God’s Proud Son, Thinking of Wei Woqing Lu Xun Excerpts from Wild Grass: Epigraph, Autumn Night, Hope, and The Evolution of the Male Sex Hu Shi Mr. Almost Man, My Mother, and In Memory of Zhimo Lin Yutang My Turn at Quitting Smoking Zhou Zuoren The Aging of Ghosts ISBN: 978-0-9842762-3-3 If you would like an email update when the book is available then make sure to join our mailing list by adding your email at the top right corner of this page. Cheers, Kevin and the Capturing Chinese team
This is Kevin, founder of Capturing Chinese and editor of the books that you see on this website. Today, I would like to share a short history of my career and how having learned Chinese shapes the opportunities that I have today. Capturing Chinese is not my full time job. I enjoy reading Chinese fiction as I enjoy it and I think it is the best way to teach oneself reading, writing, and improving your Chinese vocabulary. I also derive a great deal of personal satisfaction in helping others achieve their reading goals. Capturing Chinese is a supplement to my full time job as a structural engineer in Tokyo. At Cornell University, I minored in Chinese/East Asian Studies and majored in structural engineering. After graduation, I spent one year at Beijing Language and Culture University where I sharpened my Chinese and reached a level where I could start teaching myself. I went back to the US, got my masters in Structural Engineering, and started a job with a famous structural engineering company in New York City where I used absolutely zero Chinese. Having spent so much time learning Chinese, you can imagine the frustration that I had when I found a great job, but did not use my Chinese skills that I spent so much time learning. I recently got married to my former classmate in Beijing and have moved to Tokyo to be with her. She is Japanese and speaks amazing Chinese. I now work for Nikken Sekkei, a large architecture and engineering design firm. While the company originally was mostly focused on the local Japanese market, we are now expanding abroad to China, India, Vietnam, and the middle east. I was able to land the job at Nikken because of two reasons. One that I know American structural engineering design. The second was because I know Chinese and would be able to participate in Chinese as well as Middle Eastern (English) projects. At the time of my job interview I knew very little Japanese so I had to convince them that I had the skills to learn it in the future. Having mastered a difficult language such as Chinese shows I have the patience to learn new languages. I think learning foreign languages is basically perseverance for a very long time. Learning languages is more like a marathon than a sprint. Set a good pace and keep it up for five years and you will master a new language. Learning Chinese showed that I could also learn Japanese. So thank you Chinese, number one! What I really want to communicate in this blog post is that learning Chinese by itself is not what I have found to be so special. How do you diversify yourself from the entire population of China? Engineering is a frustrating field to enter because you need to study the field for literally ten years or more before you can start designing on your own. However, during these tens years I have also spent the time to master Chinese and learn intermediate/advanced Japanese. These two skills in addition to knowing structural engineering is starting to become very powerful. For the first time in my career, I had the chance to work on my own design and then to present it to the client directly in Shanghai. The presentation was in Chinese, the report was in Chinese, and I presented. My coworkers usually have a translator, but during my part I presented myself. China is a huge market for architects and structural engineers. The Chinese enjoy building remarkable, iconic buildings and are just the type of work that I really enjoy. However, during my trip I sensed a desire by the Chinese to design these projects themselves. They don't want to hire foreign companies, but do so because they want the world's best design. During the meeting, they were discussing why can't Chinese firms match the world's best design firms. Of course, this part was in Chinese and my coworkers could not pick up on this conversation. I am getting the impression that being able to present in Chinese myself shows a great respect for the Chinese culture. Speaking Chinese is showing respect for their culture and will ultimately help your business opportunities. So this business trip can be summed up as follows: they hired us for our architectural and structural abilities, but presenting in Chinese shows respect to them and diversifies yourself from your competitors. We have some big and iconic projects coming up in China. I am finding that I might be thrown some very interesting and challenging work quite soon. Knowing Chinese allows me to handle working in China better than those who don't. Famous Chinese hands (that I can think of) use their knowledge of Chinese to supplement their main skill. For example, Peter Hesseler (author of many books on China: The River Town, Oracle Bones, Country Driving, etc.) is an excellent writer, journalist, and works very diligently. He now speaks Chinese, but his first and main skill is being a writer. Jon Huntsman, a Republican candidate for president, is a politician first and can speak Chinese second. I am interested to see how his candidacy performs in relation to his ability to speak Chinese. Everyone knows that Chinese is hard. Being able to speak, read, and write this very difficult language reflects on your character to pursue a difficult task for a very long time. Learning languages don't require you to be particularly smart, or a genius. Learning languages requires devotion. Companies like people who can devote themselves to mastering a skill. That I can promise without a doubt is true in Japan where people take pride in mastering their craft over their lifetime. So learn Chinese. The language and culture are amazing. Their country is growing quickly and will have opportunities for everyone to help in their development. However, I urge everyone to learn Chinese as a secondary skill. Learn accounting, engineering, finance, business, law, writing, politics, etc. and then use your ability to speak Chinese to diversify yourself from your peers. How has learning Chinese affected your career? My experience is only my experience. Please share your thoughts below.
Last week, Zhou Zuoren inspired us with his great essays and brave personality. Now, we invite you to take a peek on the life of an equally legendary Chinese writer --- Lin Yutang. Lin Yutang is one of the most influential writers in China. He was both an author and inventor. Lin was born in October 10, 1895 in the province of Banzai, Pinghe, Zhangzhou, Fujian. He loved his small town and drew much inspiration from it. He once mentioned that the perfect example of hell is a city apartment. The mountains deeply influenced his character and upbringing. Lin was next to the last of a Presbyterian minister’s twelve children. Lin acquired his first bachelor’s degree in Shanghai at St. John’s University. Shortly after graduating, he married Lin TsuiFeng (林翠鳳) and went to Harvard University on a half-scholarship to pursue a master’s degree. During his stay, he devoted most of his time inside the Widener’s library while pursueing his doctorate in Comparative Literature. He left Harvard earlier than planned due to financial constraints and moved to France to teach Chinese laborers to read and write. In 1932, Lin and his wife moved to Germany where he finished his doctorate in Linguistics at the University of Leipzig . He returned as a certified language professor in China and served tenure at Peking National University (1923-1926) and Dean of Women's Normal College (1926). Perhaps, the most notable contribution of Lin Yutang to China was his translations of selected Chinese literature to English. He brought Chinese classics and introduced them to Western readers. He tried to close the cultural gap between the two countries through his writing prowess. He wrote a total of 35 books in both Chinese and English. Lin Yutang was also an inventor. When most people thought a Chinese typewriter was impossible, Lin proved them wrong. His love of mechanics motivated him to invent the first Chinese typewriter, known as the Ming Kwai typewriter (明快打字机). His translations became quite popular in the United States. Two of his novels, written in English, helped to bridge the cultural gap between China and the West. They were My Country and My People (1935) and The Importance of Living (1937). Both books were written under the behest of Pearl Buck (Pulitzer Prize Winner, 1932) who is famous for her book, “The Good Earth”. Lin’s first book was a New York Times bestseller. Lin was the first Chinese author to reach the number one spot. He also authored Between Tears and Laughter (1943), The Importance of Understanding (1960), The Chinese Theory of Art (1967), and the novels Moment in Peking (1939) and The Vermillion Gate (1953). His writing voice was very appealing to the masses. Lin wrote in a humorous yet intelligent tone which was easy for everyone to understand. He quickly gained a widespread audience. He wrote boldly, without inhibitions, and full of substance. He supported the May Fourth Movement and fought for language reform. He wrote rebellious essays against the ruling government. Lin despised government inefficiency and corruption. He encouraged his readers to stand up for themselves and refuse abuse. The public loved him. Lin was their epitome of individual freedom. His direct criticisms towards General Zhang Zhou, whom he called ‘Dogmeat General’, earned him a spot on the list of target intellectuals. General Zhang chased Lin out of Beijing. Lin’s family fled to Xiamen (厦门) where Lin continued writing with his colleagues. They published a journal focused on societal issues called China Critic. He also produced satirical magazines, The Analects Fortnightly (1932), This Human World (1934) and Cosmic Wind (1936). He remained to be a prolific writer for the next 30 years. In the 1960s, he wrote a number of novels and revised Chinese texts. Lin structured and published the first Chinese-English dictionary in 1973. Two years later, he penned his Memoirs of an Octagenarian. Due to his exemplary works, he was nominated for the 1975 Nobel Prize in Literature. The rest of his days were spent in Taiwan and in Hong Kong. Lin died of a heart failure in Hong Kong at the age of 80 on March 26, 1976. His remains were buried in Yangmingshan, Taipei, Taiwan. Lin Yutang's My Turn at Quitting Smoking
Capturing Chinese continues to bring you the greatest Chinese writers of all time. We have shared the life and works of Lu Xun to you before. This week, his younger brother, Zhou Zuoren is our pick. Zhou Zuoren (Chinese: 周作人) was born on January 16, 1885 in the province of Shaoxing, Zhejiang. Zhou is a renowned essayist and translator. He was one of the most controversial writers of his time. The young Zhou Zuoren attended Jiangnan Naval Academy. Like his brother, he went to Japan in 1906 in pursuit of higher education. He first studied Ancient Greek with the aim of translating the gospels into Classical Chinese. Zhou also mastered the Japanese language and learned English literature in scrutiny. He planned to study civil engineering at Rikkyo University but instead, attended lectures on Chinese philology (the study of language in written historical sources) by then famous scholar-revolutionary Zhang Binglin. In the land of the rising sun, he met his Japanese wife. They moved to China in 1911 to teach at various educational institutions. Zhou was a man of conviction and modern ideals. He joined his brother in clash for literary reform. They sought the transformation of the formal written language, from classical Chinese to vernacular Chinese. In the midst of political turmoil, they succeeded on this endeavor. They were both key figures in the May Fourth Movement. Zhou’s perspectives embodied both democratic and individualistic literature. He clearly differentiated between “democratic” and “popular” literature. He reasoned that while the common people may understand popular literature they do not necessarily understand democratic literature. He thus made a distinction between the commoners and elites. In 1918 he wrote an article that called for "humanist literature" in which "any custom or rule that goes against human instincts and nature should be rejected or rectified". He cited awful ancient traditions such as children sacrificing themselves for their parents and wives buried alive to accompany their dead husbands. His literary contributions to writing include short essays in vernacular Chinese published in La Jeunesse (also known as The New Youth), which was a very influential and widely-circulated magazine of the 1920s. Zhou deterred from the steady, customary writing style. He adapted a refreshing writing style with a more conversational tone. Zhou published over two dozen books of essays in various lengths and themes. His writing career started and was anchored on “scientific common sense”, inspired by Western influences. He later gradually shifted to his country’s societal issues, customs and traditions. In 1930, he wrote 《水里的东西》(Things in the water), where he discusses ‘river ghosts’. According to tradition, these ghosts are water-dwelling entities disguised in small, adorable human forms that play on the riverbanks and lure people into the river. They pull and drown victims to seek release and have their victims become their substitution. This work was more of a curiosity than intellectual interest and was not one of Zhou’s best. Zhou’s finest works are characterized by humor with deep sadness, most often over the cruelty of ignorance, whether directed against the self or other. In 1934, he wrote a related essay titled 《贵的生长》(“The Aging of Ghosts”). In this essay he asks the question of whether or not ghosts age in the after life by quoting from a number of contradictory written sources. He seals the essay stating accounts from the diary of a man who corresponded with his dead family via a planchette. The spirits eventually abandon the man and leave him more alone than ever. This piece starting from the amusing question about ghosts ends in a ridiculous ending showing that the original question is rather absurd. Today, his works and philosophies continue to influence modern China. Zhou is also known as a prolific translator. He translated numerous Japanese and Greek literatures into classical Chinese. Some of his notable translations were Euripides' Tragedies, Sappho's lyrics, Kojiki, Sei Shōnagon's Makura no Sōshi, Shikitei Sanba's Ukiyoburo, a set of Kyogen and Ali Baba. He was the first to translate such great foreign literatures into Chinese. In 1937, Japan and China finally entered total war. With this development, many of Zhou Zuoren’s colleagues fled south to escape the Japanese occupation. Zhou Zuoren stayed in Beijing stating that to leave would be to leave his family, all women and children, in a desperate situation. Instead he stayed in Beijing and thus became a “great traitor to the nation”. While resisting to cooperate with the Japanese occupational forces, a threat on his life caused him to accept a position as chancellor of Beijing University in 1939. In 1941, he accepted a position with the puppet government in northern China. While he firmly resisted the Japanese ideology, his participation in the puppet government came under scrutiny after the war ended. In the aftermath of the Sino-Japanese war in 1945, Zhou was arrested under the reign of Chang Kai Shek. He was accused of alleged collaboration during the Japanese rule in North China. He Qifang (何其芳), Mao Dun (矛盾), and Feng Xuefueng (冯雪峰), who were intellectuals from the Communist party, testified that Zhou had been a traitor to the country because he lost his faith in national salvation. The Nanjing court was under pressure due to a national campaign by the Communists to compete with the ruling Guomingdang for political legitimacy so they overlooked Zhou’s contributions to the Chinese during the occupation and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. However, he was released in 1949 through a pardon by the Chinese Communist Party. A year after his release, he moved to Beijing and continued to write under pseudonyms. He died in May 6, 1967 during the Cultural Revolution. Zhou Zuoren's The Aging of Ghosts
We are happy to announce that the accompany audio files for Capturing Chinese: The New Year's Sacrifice are now available for download. If you have purchased a copy of the book go to the Chinese audio section of our website: Chinese Audio. The instructions are listed on the webpage. You will need your copy of the book handy. Use the last (English) word on page 38 (footnote 686) to access the password protected download page. You will need access to an email account and the ability to download 108.7 MB. The total run time of the Chinese audio is one and a half hours. The Chinese MP3s utilize a native female and a native male speaker. Each speaks a little differently so you can listen to both for extra practice. If you don't yet have a copy of the book, then you can always purchase a copy on Amazon (Capturing Chinese The New Year's Sacrifice: A Chinese Reader with Pinyin, Footnotes, and an English Translation to Help Break into Chinese Literature) or your favorite bookstore. While your bookstore might not have our books in stock they can special order through Ingram. Enjoy!