A Viral New Year

Panic over the coronavirus empties the streets of Chengdu – Lauren Teixeira

Not long after lunch on the first day of the year of the rat, my fifth-floor neighbor Auntie Cheng bangs on my door. I had promised the previous evening to take her to my gym. We don our N95 respirator masks and set out for the northern end of our neighborhood, where the gym is located.

“It’s important to exercise so that your body can stay strong,” Auntie Cheng reflects as we walk by familiar shops, all closed. The Wuhan coronavirus has put a dent in her family’s new year celebrations. The whole extended family had gathered for a feast the previous night, but the first days of the new year will be spent apart.

There is a feeling in the air that it’s best – maybe even patriotic – not to go out. I am in a group chat with the former security guards from my compound. Earlier that morning Mr. Liao had forwarded a meme in the form of a short didactic poem:

     The country is in a muddle, so let’s not cause trouble
     Make your contribution by staying at home.
     Relatives aren’t going anywhere
     next year they’ll still be here...


Looking Back

Nostalgic youth films in China – Lauren Teixeira

The release of Feng Xiaogang’s high-profile film Youth, a swoony romance set during the late Cultural Revolution and China’s brief incursion into Vietnam, was dramatically halted in the lead up to the 19th Party Congress last October, touching as it did on a historically sensitive period. Meanwhile, a nostalgic coming-of-age film set at a vocational college in 1997, We Roared Past Youth (the Chinese title translates as ‘That Fleeting Period of Youth’), quietly entered theaters on October 5. On the surface, the film bore a number of similarities to Youth: unrequited teen love, family drama, and the hazy burnishing of an era goneby. But whereas Youth sought to grapple with China’s history – in its own perhaps overly rose-tinted way – We Roared Past Youth did not engage with its historical backdrop beyond a few nostalgic touches.