The Banished Immortal

Rui Zhong reads Ha Jin’s biography of Li Bai

The rumors of how Li Bai (also known as Li Po) met his end are greatly exaggerated. The specifics are murky, ranging from alcohol poisoning to drowning while chasing after the moon’s reflection on the surface of a river. It may seem troubling how easily the pertinent details of one of China’s best-known literary icons are lost. However, given that Li often embellished his speech and never liked to stay in one place for too long, his multiple-accounts demise is oddly appropriate.


Shapeshifting Politics on the Island of Pianos

Rui Zhong visits the setting of the novel Bury What We Cannot Take

On a mild winter’s day in 2014, a friend and I took a ferry to Gulangyu, also known as Drum Wave Islet. This tiny island off the coast of the Fujianese city of Xiamen is named after the drumming sound of waves that lap against its shorelines. Towering over the cliffs is a giant stone statue of Koxinga, a 17th century half-Chinese, half-Japanese pirate that once sailed its waters, whose claim to historical fame was successfully fending off a colonial Dutch militia. We sampled satay-flavored noodles, toured European-style villas retrofitted into coffee houses, and browsed the vintage pianos and organs at the Gulangyu Piano Museum.


Left in the Wake of a Mother’s Deportation

Rui Zhong reviews The Leavers by Lisa Ko

There are two types of ethnic Chinese in America: those who do not have to worry about deportation, and those whose lives can be upended by it.

These two groups often pass by each other without realizing their differences. They may find themselves standing across from one another at the checkout line. A scientist born in the United States might share notes with a lab-mate overstaying his student visa. A woman comfortably vacationing with her visa-stamped passport can speak Mandarin with a manicurist who is one annoyed colleague’s phone call away from ICE custody. Every deportation leaves behind friends, colleagues and lovers irreversibly damaged by the removal.