Chinese New Year Entertainment Guide

By Erica Martin, February 9, 2018

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Whether you’re dealing with long plane and train rides, or holing up in your apartment all week long, here are our picks for the best China-focused entertainment to get you through the holiday.

Books & Audiobooks

While away your travel time with these new releases by Chinese or overseas Chinese authors

The Wangs vs. The World

When boisterous businessman Charles Wang loses his wealth in the 2008 American financial crisis, he concocts a plan to return to China and start over, taking his entire family on a road trip across the US before they go. This debut novel by journalist Jade Chang found massive success last year thanks to its dark comedy and compassionate exploration of Chinese-American identity.

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Little Reunions

Debuting just last month, the latest book by celebrated Shanghai novelist Eileen Chang to be translated into English is this bleak doomed romance set during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai. After growing up in a wealthy but unhappy family, a young woman begins an affair with a man who collaborates with the Japanese regime.

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The Boat Rocker

With the release of its paperback edition last fall, this latest work by notable Liaoning-born novelist Ha Jin centers on Feng Danlin, a fiercely principled journalist and Chinese expat in New York. The darkly comic novel follows Feng as he attempts to write an expose skewering his ex-wife, a financially corrupt novelist.

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Little Fires Everywhere

A follow-up to her best-selling 2014 debut about racism against overseas Chinese in America, Everything I Never Told You, this new work by novelist Celeste Ng chronicles a rule-following family in a wealthy suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, whose lives are upended when a freethinking mother-daughter pair become tenants at their house. 

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Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve

For fans of non-fiction, this examination of China’s school systems debuted last fall to much acclaim. American journalist Lenora Chu is raising her family in Shanghai, and after enrolling her son in a state-run school, she began exploring both benefits and drawbacks to China’s approach to academics compared to the US. 

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Notes of a Crocodile

Written in 1994 with a new translation in English debuting last year, this cult classic novel by notable LGBTQ+ writer Qiu Miaojin chronicles a group of teenagers in ‘80s Taiwan exploring their identities and sexualities. The experimental work combines diary entries and vignettes with satirical prose. 

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The Golden Hairpin

This newly translated book and audiobook debuts right at the tail end of CNY on February 20; just in time to tuck into on a plane ride home. Written by Hangzhou-born novelist Qinghan CeCe and set in dynastic China, the suspenseful tale opens with teenage bride-to-be Huang Zixia having been framed for the murder of her family, who authorities believe she killed to get out of an arranged marriage. She sets off to find the real killer and prove her innocence. 

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A China Music Playlist 
(For All Your CNY Holiday Needs)

For a road trip in a tropical locale:

For pretending you’re still in school and snowed in over winter break:   

For lusting after your roommate’s SO while he or she is away on holiday:

For nursing a broken heart (or a hangover):

For convincing friends at home that WeChat’s video call function is superior to Skype:

For dabbling in the occult:

For ordering Sichuan delivery from the only place open over the holiday:

For toppling the patriarchy:

For spending so much time in your bedroom that it begins to feel like another dimension:

For accepting the futility of being productive over CNY/in life generally:

China-focused Podcasts


Sinica Podcast
Sinica is the longstanding leader in podcasts about Chinese current affairs. Hosts Kaiser Kuo and Jeremy Goldkorn interview a range of journalists, academics and policy makers to find out compelling stories about the state of China today. 

China Tech Talk
A weekly podcast for those interested in technology and startup culture, this show covers a wide range of topics, including a recent mini series chronicling China tech trends for 2017. 

The China History Podcast
One for the history nerds, historian Lazlo Montgomery has been running this deep dive into 5,000 years of Chinese history and culture since 2010. His latest mini series, which ended last month, focuses on Chinese philosophy. 

Limitless Laowai
For expats here on business, Ally Mona has devoted no less than 400 episodes to interviewing notable expats about tips on living and working in China. 

Language Learning Podcasts 
If you’re hoping to spend the time off brushing up on your Mandarin, several podcasts are available to make the process a bit more entertaining. Slow Chinese serves up personal essays on culture and identity by native speakers delivered in Mandarin at a slowed-down speed, so that language learners can practice their listening skills. Learning Chinese Through Storiesis another fun option – aimed at intermediate Chinese speakers, the podcast offers both classic and modern Chinese stories read in Mandarin. 

China-focused Podcast Episodes


StartUp: Season 6, Episode 4 – ‘Make China Cool Again’
This episode of the entrepreneur-focused podcast chronicles China’s mission to amp up its soft power and cultural cache, focusing specifically on the music industry and pop idols. 

Maeve in America: The Roz Episode: 37 Round Trips from Shanghai to San Mateo
In this episode of comedian Maeve Higgins’ podcast, she interviews Roz Koo, an activist and businesswoman who grew up in occupied Shanghai. 

The Ezra Klein Show: Evan Osnos Interview
Vox’s editor-at-large Ezra Klein takes a deep dive into current affairs in China in this interview with leading China-focused journalist Evan Osnos.  

NPR Fresh Air: ‘Making China Great Again’
Another discussion led by Evan Osnos, this Fresh Air episode from just last month delves into US-China relations in the age of Trump.

New Highlights in Asian Entertainment

Podcast Pick: Asian Oscar Bait

Asian Oscar Bait
In each episode of this snarky podcast, three friends allot half the time for a general discussion of Asian advocacy in Hollywood. Then, one of them pitches a movie about a notable Asian who deserves their own Hollywood biopic, from Chinese revolutionary Qiu Jin to Filipino-American labor organizer Larry Itliong. Another intriguing podcast by the same team is True Crime Asia, a nod to the true crime craze currently sweeping the Western entertainment industry. With episode names like ‘India’s JonBenet Ramsey’ and ‘Stop Calling Bhutan “Shangri-la,”’ the show chronicles true tales of murder and mayhem in Asia. (Image via Mother Jones).

Movie Pick: Bad Genius 

In this clever satire based on a real-life cheating scandal, a brilliant student in a small Thai town devises an elaborate system to help her fellow students cheat and earn top grades, eventually expanding her operations overseas to Australia. As smart and suspenseful as any thriller or heist film, it won a rash of accolades for director Nattawut Poonpiriya and his team of newcomer actors throughout 2017. It was the highest grossing Thai film of last year and has been hailed as one of the most internationally successful Thai films of all time. 

Book Pick: The Vegetarian

A dark tale about the gradual psychological unraveling of a housewife, this novel by South Korean author Han Kang made a splash when its English translation won the Man Booker International Prize back in 2016, the first year that Man Booker began honoring a book’s original author and its translator with the same award. Several South Korean critics complained that the translator, Deborah Smith, took too much poetic license, and that a different book than the one Han wrote was winning the award. Smith responded to these allegations just last month in a new essay for the Los Angeles Review of Books, sparking interest in the controversy all over again. How faithfully does a translation need to mirror its original work? Read the book yourself and weigh in. 

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