Writers, Rum and Antics


A few quick Anthill (蚂蚁山 mǎyǐshān) notices in lieu of Chinese Tuesdays today:

  • The Anthill Writers and Rum storytelling night, tomorrow at Cuju bar in Beijing, is sold out of rum tickets, but we hope to record the event and post the audio after a couple of weeks. The next handful of posts on the Anthill will also be stories from the night, so our faithful readers won't miss out on the fun.
  • Never miss a story: we've launched a weekly email newsletter, "From the Colony" – it's a digest of the last week's new posts, as well as picture corner, link of the week and quote of the week. Just one email over the weekend, and it looks pretty. Sign up with that link above, or in the left hand column.
  • As some of you already know, or will have seen in your calendar, April is International Tell a Friend About the Anthill Month. No, really. It's also a good opportunity for outliers to follow us on Twitter or Facebook.


Alec Ash, Tue 15 April 2014 - 05:01

In Search of Peach Blossom Spring

Arcadia with an entrance ticket – by Dean Barrett


The drive is not particularly picturesque, and some of the risks the driver takes seem almost suicidal, but no more so than the other drivers who barrel straight for us around dangerous curves. I lean forward to suggest to the driver’s wife that just possibly they might want to actually use their seatbelts. The suggestion is greeted with a smile of incomprehension.

I am reaching what could be the end of my journey in search of Peach Blossom Spring, China's mythical arcadian paradise, the ultimate unspoiled community, possibly the product of a poet’s imagination – or possibly real.


Dean Barrett, Thu 10 April 2014 - 03:55

Peach Blossom Spring (translation)


"Peach Blossom Spring" (桃花源 táohuāyuán) is a famous passage – in fact the preface to a longer poem – by Tao Yuanming, from the Six Dynasties period at the turn of the 4th century AD. The story has almost mythical status in China. Here's the original text, along with a rather lovely reading of it with an erhu playing the background. And below is a translation, courtesy of Dean Barrett, a writer based in Bangkok.


"At the close of the fourth century AD, during the Taiyuan era of the Jin dynasty, a certain fisherman lived in the village of Wuling. One day, so engrossed in exploring the stream of a river, he failed to notice how far he had travelled.


Dean Barrett, Tue 8 April 2014 - 03:11

Life Underground

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? – by Alec Ash


One of Dahai's simple pleasures is a cold bottle of Yanjing beer, or two, and a Zhongnanhai brand cigarette, after a long day's work underground. Born Yu Hai in 1985, his nickname means "Big Ocean", and he would drink an ocean of cold Yanjing beer if the restaurant opposite his work site only stocked it. Over the course of the last six years, he possibly has.

Dahai is building a tunnel. When it is completed at the end of this year, all going well, it will connect Beijing West Train Station to Beijing Train Station, 9 km away, and an express underground train line will run between the two. Construction began in 2005, and Dahai joined in 2008, right after graduating.


Alec Ash, Sat 5 April 2014 - 03:00

April Fool’s in ancient China


Now it’s past noon, if you fell for any April Fool’s pranks today it’s your own fault, chump. Last year we fooled a few of you ourselves; this time, we're delving into Chinese history and legend. The Chinese term for April Fool’s Day is 愚人节 (yúrénjié – literally “idiots festival”). And as some of you will know – apologies to the old hands to whom this is old hat – playing jokes on friends today is a tradition which originated in China, in the Warring States period.

The story goes that the King of Chu had difficulty deciding which of his four favourite ministers to promote to the position of top court official, in effect his right hand man.


Alec Ash, Tue 1 April 2014 - 05:18

Flower Town

The rise and fall of a Sichuan village – by Sascha Matuszak



I remember when I learned my house was getting torn down. It was June 11, 2008, an exceptionally hot summer day. Flies were buzzing lazily around my head, and the shadows were as sharp as knives. The women of the village, normally a chattering bunch, were conspicuously silent around the corner from my country home, hidden from view by the plum trees. I shuffled over to see what was going on, when a flimsy blue Chery QQ flew around the corner and forced me back.

The Chery jerked to a stop an inch from my bamboo clothesline. A man stepped out and looked around.


Sascha Matuszak, Sun 30 March 2014 - 08:01