Introducing Xujun Eberlein

Xujun Eberlein is an e-friend of mine. She grew up in Chongqing and moved to the US in 1988 to study at MIT. She gave up hi-tech for writing and has won a bunch of literary awards. Her first book, Apologies Forthcoming, a collection of stories based on her childhood growing up in China during the CR, was just published (you can buy it here), and we’ll be talking about that at length in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, I’d like to direct you to a recent post of hers about the Sichuan quake. I think you’ll enjoy her perspective as a Sichuan native on both the tragedy and the changes in China that have taken place since her childhood.

Go have a look.


(by Other Lisa)

The Discussion: 34 Comments

I’m afraid that I don’t have a satisfactory understanding of how Chinese people (especially the peasantry) views the earthquake. All that I have read so far concerns Chinese nationalistic enthusiasm, praise of the apparent “openness” of Chinese “closed media” (now there’s an oxymoron for you), and lots of emotion.

It’s all rather somewhat superficial coverage of a psychologically profound experience.

What does Xujun Eberlein know about the earthquake? She’s a writer living in Boston. The only nexus to the earthquake is that she is Chinese and the earthquake occured in China. I’m not impressed.

May 25, 2008 @ 9:45 pm | Comment

One wonders what people should do with the cities and towns leveled by the earthquakes. I would like to see these areas abandoned. The reason that people settled in these mountainous regions was their fertile land. However in today’s industrial society the importance of agriculture has declined. It would be more sensible for people to live along major railways where one can have quicker industrial growth. I am thinking about the towns along the new Qinghai-Tibet railway. They may be the future populations center in Western China.

Sichuan should be de-populated. Only the areas around Chengdu and Chongqing can be inhabited. The rest of Sichuan may be turned to a giant natural reserve for pandas. Farmlands should be returned to forests. This will also solve the frequent flood problem in Southern China.

May 26, 2008 @ 12:43 am | Comment

There is something that city and rural Chinese people have in common – don’t bother other with your own sadness, worries, or grief. That attitude and expectation can be a good experience for a Westerner sometimes, especially if we come from a place where people “hang it all out” all the time, but I suppose grief must have its place in every culture.
The earthquake is an exception in that it is, like any event that draws national attention, “political”. Many people can’t help but show their grief publicly, it is accepted in a matter like this, and that is probably healthier than trying to fulfil a given role, like the police woman had to try. I am impressed with the article, because the author looks at her own feelings about “heroism”.

May 26, 2008 @ 1:08 am | Comment

@”serve the people”:
you must be joking, right, or are you really that stupid. Good luck selling that proposal to the Sichuanese.
I just had an idea: why not recall all the Han back to their power base along the Huanghe, save from earthquakes and suchs, turning the rest of “China” into a giant reservation for your beloved minorities.

May 26, 2008 @ 5:11 am | Comment


This will also solve the problem of frequent ethnic clashes in “China’s” western regions.

Justrecently: I can’t figure out what you try to say, if.

May 26, 2008 @ 5:23 am | Comment


Let them eat steel!

Sorry for multiple posting.

May 26, 2008 @ 5:30 am | Comment

What would the Chinese peasant parents of the children buried in the collapsed schools like to see done with the local officials who embezzled the money that should have been used for steel supports for the concrete?

What would Bao Zheng do?

May 26, 2008 @ 8:09 am | Comment

It would be a good policy that those rendered homeless by the Sichuan earthquake be relocated further north and west to Qinghai and Tibet. Lhasa has been growing by leaps and bounds in size and a sudden new influx of Sichuanese would feel right at home with all the recent immigrants.

May 26, 2008 @ 10:15 am | Comment

Yeah, too bad the xenophobic exile Tibetans don’t seem to want that. Instead they want something like apartheid.

May 26, 2008 @ 10:56 am | Comment

Another earthquake in Sichuan—6.4.

Stop carrying the Torch and waving those red flags. It’s making Heaven angry.

May 26, 2008 @ 11:07 am | Comment

so I’m assuming with a handle like Nimrod that the above comment was snark.


May 26, 2008 @ 1:00 pm | Comment

Nimrod: you are right on the button. What the Tibetans are asking for is the creation of a racially exclusive zone in China – that amounts to about 1/5 of China’s entire territory. This demand, apart from its utter immorality, is made on no other nation in the entire world. Would Australia give back the Northern Territories to only Aborigines? Would New Zealanders give back the North Island to Maoris? Would Canada give up one-quarter of the landmass of Canada to the original inhabitants there? Of course not. Yet China is called ‘xenophobic’ and ‘nationalistic’ simply because it resists the demands of the West to limit the freedom of movement of Han people within their own country.

Imagine if China suddenly demanded of America that America cease all movement of non-indigenous, non-hispanic folk into New Mexico, Texas or California. The outrage would be overwhelming. Yet Chinese are expected to roll over and accept Western demands to racially fragment their own nation – in a way that white supremacists want for America. A fragmented China would take us back to the days of the warlords, endless civil strife that will make the breakup of Yugoslavia look like a Sunday School picnic. Then of course you would have Western ‘peacekeepers’ come in – back to 1840.

Well dream on. The Chinese people are about ten times more aware of the horrific fate that some in the West want for their nation and never again be naive enough to think that Westerners truly care about them.

By the way, the article is a good one – but does not take into account that open show of feelings is sometimes self-indulgent and not genuine – especially when it comes from Americans.

May 26, 2008 @ 1:27 pm | Comment


Hey, my comment can be as snarky or as serious as one wants to interpret. So can the handle “Nimrod”. I guess I’m the Peking Duck restaurant jester so I can say what sounds like crazy things.

Onto a more serious note… Let’s recall that in South Africa, it wasn’t just some whites that supported apartheid, the black “chiefs” of all those bantustans (reservations) also supported it. Left to their own devices in a “democratic” China, not a few Han Chinese probably wouldn’t mind living with some kind of segregated system, but that would be wrong. Since the early days, the PRC has tried hard to overcome traditional Han-centrism and has done its best to inculcate its citizens with a sense of multi-ethnic coexistence (as part of the communist ideal) and set up a set of reverse discriminatory laws that try overly hard to integrate the society.

I’m not saying minorities live well in China or that Han-centrism has been eliminated — far from it, but it isn’t the fault of policy. If anything, it is equally segregation-minded minorities that are part of the problem. Tibetans are one example. Now I don’t blame them, if their and their boosters’ goal is separatism. That’s politics. But if we’re serious in talking about how people of different ethnicities should live within China, what is needed is *more* integration, not more segregation a la autonomy. They should not live *side by side* but indeed live *together*. Tibetans can travel and live anywhere in China. Why can’t Han? Should there be a Han autonomous region that other ethnicities (including whites) can’t freely travel to and do business in? It’s absurd and positively backwards.

The West should support China’s experiment in making a large, modern, multi-ethnic state work. The success or failure of this has far-reaching implications for much of the Old World that is becoming more integrated.

May 26, 2008 @ 2:34 pm | Comment

The reason why there are some fractious minority groups in CHina is because CHina, unlike the West, not only did not kill off most of the minority peoples, but actively encouraged them to preserve their own cultures, folkways and languages.
That is why Tibetans still speak Tibetan, Mongolians Mongolian, Uighurs Uighur.
That is why most minority peoples still feel comfortable in wearing their traditional costumes, read newspapers in their native script, watch television in their own language. This unfortunately has allowed separatist tendencies to flourish.

May 26, 2008 @ 4:35 pm | Comment

I often wondered if the west would be equally interested in dalai lama if he wasn’t a spiritiual leader of some sort. Think about the nationalists that were chased out of mainland. Niether the government nor the people of america were particularly interested in helping him. Nobody gave chiang a medal of freedom. Nobody gave him nobel price. Deep down, I really think westerners want china to become more religious, even if it is not the “right” religion. Lack of faith is infinitely worse than having the wrong kind.

May 27, 2008 @ 2:09 pm | Comment

When the Japanese invaded China they said that they were actually “liberating” China.

It’s not unusual for the dominant to use such language to justify their actions.

May 27, 2008 @ 2:14 pm | Comment

bob, are you comparing what the japanese did to the chinese during wwii to what is happening in tibet?

May 27, 2008 @ 2:16 pm | Comment

BOB is just parroting innuendos without actually saying anything new or meaningful, which is like… wtf. I don’t know why he keeps it up.

May 27, 2008 @ 2:30 pm | Comment

lilc, I don’t know if there is a backdoor spiritual conspiracy, but you do bring up a good point that Tenzin Gyatso the politician gains something extra by also being Dalai Lama the spiritual leader. In fact he uses the latter name exclusively, even going to the trouble of making up a title like “His Holiness”. Such is the “benefit” of an *inseparation* of church and state: even before saying a word about his politics, you’re already kicked to lower moral ground, because you’re just not holy enough.

Well, I for one, refuse to play this game. I separate his spiritual role from his politics. In fact, I don’t even talk about his spiritual role, because it has only tangentially to do with his politics.

May 27, 2008 @ 2:47 pm | Comment

I’m only saying that the dominant tend to misuse language to justify their domination. For example, “Liberation”; “Education” and “Re-education”, etc.

“This River don’t go to Aintry. See ‘uh, you done made da wrong turn.”

May 27, 2008 @ 4:04 pm | Comment

Hey, nobody has anything to say about the article in the post? The part that stood out for me is her analysis of peoples reactions to a lady who’s whole family was killed by earthquake and then instead of mourning, she did her job as a police officer and helped others. I found it strange that some people would take time out their day to criticize her for being to cold about the deaths in her family, saying that she should have been at home crying or something. I think thats dumb because, how can you criticize someone for helping people? How can you wish that she was a t home when she was putting in the effort to rescue her fellow people? It doesn’t make sense at all. As for singling her out and making a big fuss out of her, well, I don’t really like it because there were probly a lot of people who did good things and also suffered a lot, but that’s tv for you.

When it comes to CCP, I can’t help but be reminded of incidents of people being praised as hero’s of the people for accomplishing great feats of torture and brainwashing etc. People who hurt people and persecute innocent people through disgusting means are praised as patriotic saints by the party. Even the party does not believe it’s own garbage surely. Anyway, I think what the party does is only stunts to gain this or that, they have done too much horrible horrible crimes and damaged people so badly that there is no way that earthquake rescue effort or any other stunt will have me forget their evilness. They’re polititians, they need support and they always fold under a crisis of leitimacy, so they are just grovelling for legitimacy as always.

May 27, 2008 @ 7:32 pm | Comment

Snow wrote: When it comes to CCP, I can’t help but be reminded of incidents of people being praised as hero’s of the people for accomplishing great feats of torture and brainwashing etc

Snow, you are a flipping fool. Where has this ever been the case?

China has handled this latest crisis about 100 times more compassionately and efficiently than the US governments response to Katrina.

May 27, 2008 @ 7:48 pm | Comment

More on the issue of the misuse of language by the DOMINANT:

May 27, 2008 @ 8:07 pm | Comment

In case you missed the underlying message of my previous post above, the point is that the DOMINANT usually misuses language to dehumanize his victims. In this case, the DOMINANT male portrayed his submissive male victim as a sow.

May 27, 2008 @ 10:09 pm | Comment


The CCP has a history of violence and anti-justice. From the start the CCP has insisted through its tentacles that the people support the party unanimously, or else. That includes their evil escapedes such as the pillaging of the landlords where the CCp praised people who were the most low down, willing to kill their own family members, willing to even wrongfully incriminate themselves, the CR where people were incited to treat their teachers etc with the worste behaviour known to man, cannibalism, torture, humiliation, all toward innocent people, praised by the party as heroic, even Mao was disappointed when not enough killing was taking place. The party would gloat about how many suicides were taking place daily due to peoples inability to deal with the evil in their beloved country as well as personal losses. Now it has become more about lies. The CCP has concocted a series of elaborate fairytales and notions for the people to blindly follow. They have people believe that freedom and human rights is bad so that fighting against those things seem good. 1989, people stood up for media freedom and less corruption in the party and the CCP has had a lot of success in twisting that and gainning support for the mass killings. Torturers are praised highly for hating on Falun Gong in the most extreme ways, do you know what everyday Chinese people who work at those places are doing to those Falun Gong and other dissidents that the party is afraid of? I don’t think you know.

A party like this is no hero they are such incredible unscrupulous cowards who feign caring when in the backrooms they will stop at nothing to lie and torture their way toward holding power.

Wayne, is there some info I can help you look into? I think you could benefit by not only looking into what you wish was true.

May 27, 2008 @ 10:41 pm | Comment

snow, take a long breath…
You make the same mistake as many people do, which is to lump everything that happens in China into “the CCP”. It sounds to me like you’re either FLG or have read too much of that rag the Epoch Times.
Look, you’re forgetting that China has *people*, yes, people, you know, the kind that sometimes pull in different directions and do different things, some of which are good and some of which are bad.
Lots of terrible things happened during the Cultural Revolution, for example, but it was people acting out *against* the CCP and its officials, against other factions of people, and even against the state apparatus. Do you even know this much about the Cultural Revolution?

And your comments on the minting of heros in the PRC, I think you are dead wrong. I’m thinking about the list of canonical “heros” and as cheesy as some of them are, I can’t think of one who wasn’t either on the receiving end of torture/execution by the KMT, or was a great laborer, or was selfless and sacrificing in some crisis like natural disaster, or who showed exceptional valor in war-time. If there is a particular example I’m missing that comes closer to your warped comic-book conception of a PRC hero that you pulled out of your ass, let us know.

May 28, 2008 @ 2:09 am | Comment


“Hey, nobody has anything to say about the article in the post? The part that stood out for me is her analysis of peoples reactions to a lady who’s whole family was killed by earthquake and then instead of mourning, she did her job as a police officer and helped others. I found it strange that some people would take time out their day to criticize her for being to cold about the deaths in her family, saying that she should have been at home crying or something.”

Hey snow, did you know that Jiang Min, the heroine in this story, is a CCP party member?

I think many of us here would like to hear your thoughts on this fact. Please, don’t disappoint us!

May 28, 2008 @ 4:40 am | Comment

The Dalai Lama is a hypocrite and a fraud.

I wouldn’t say that, but rather he’s the face of a movement that has to answer to both moderates and ethnic nationalists.

It isn’t deniable that Europe/America are trying to carve East Asia into little pieces though. Of course as soon as Tibet is “free”, America will open up a military base, start dumping nuclear waste into the Yellow River, completely destroy or pollute the local culture as they do in Korea/Japan/China, steal its natural resources, and turn Tibet into a theme park for who want a break from ruthless capitalism. Then the European/Australian pedophiles and sex tourists will flood in as they do in Thailand.

May 28, 2008 @ 4:51 am | Comment

Un-flippin’ believable.

I hope when Xujun actually posts you will address her article, rather than go off on your typical b.s. about irrelevant issues.

I am deleting off-topic comments.

May 28, 2008 @ 6:06 am | Comment

China has gone through some bad times, but we have nothing to be ashamed about. The history of the West is far worse. China within 60 years has regained true independence, raised the living standards of the vast majority of its people and is set to become a great power in a decade or so.

The history of the rise of the West is the most blood soaked in all of human history. And the casualties have not been the result of misguided, naive or stupid policies – as was the case with China. They were the result of policies of malignant intent. The slave trade, the opium wars, extermination of indigenous people cannot be put down to ‘mistakes’ or ‘good intentions’ or ‘politicial infighting.’ The blemishes on the PRC’s record can be.

May 28, 2008 @ 6:23 pm | Comment

Wayne, you need to spend some time in Taipei and Singapore so you can see what the Chinese people are capable of without the Party. As for the history of the West, I do appreciate your sense of humour. But you are right in that the Chinese have nothing to be ashamed about. History cannot be changed, though many try to rewrite it, and for most of their existence, the Chinese people have never had much say in the processes which shaped their governments. This is not to say that the Party does not have much to be ashamed about, but no single party system is capable of admitting wrong-doing without placing its very existence in jeopardy.

May 28, 2008 @ 9:14 pm | Comment

I’ve spent plenty of time in Taipei (several years) and all someone would come up with is a justification for further CCP authoritarianism as Taiwan wasn’t a democracy until 1992… if you consider the fact that at least on CSB win was illegitimate it wasn’t really a democracy until May 20th or March 22nd 2008.

May 28, 2008 @ 11:20 pm | Comment

What part of “keep your comments on topic” is not getting through here?

There is an open thread on top for you to discuss whatever you’d like.

May 29, 2008 @ 6:11 am | Comment

Looking forward to Xujun’s new book. Her previous works examining the complexities of the CR from an apolitical, humanistic perspective fills a major void in this subject in the English language medium.

May 30, 2008 @ 9:00 am | Comment

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