Ai Weiwei's Blog

Ai Weiwei's Blog: Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, 2006-2009

AI WEIWEI
EDITED AND TRANSLATED BY LEE AMBROZY
Series: Writing Art
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hhg38
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Ai Weiwei's Blog
    Book Description:

    In 2006, even though he could barely type, China's most famous artist started blogging. For more than three years, Ai Weiwei turned out a steady stream of scathing social commentary, criticism of government policy, thoughts on art and architecture, and autobiographical writings. He wrote about the Sichuan earthquake (and posted a list of the schoolchildren who died because of the government's "tofu-dregs engineering"), reminisced about Andy Warhol and the East Village art scene, described the irony of being investigated for "fraud" by the Ministry of Public Security, made a modest proposal for tax collection. Then, on June 1, 2009, Chinese authorities shut down the blog. This book offers a collection of Ai's notorious online writings translated into English--the most complete, public documentation of the original Chinese blog available in any language.The New York Times called Ai "a figure of Warholian celebrity." He is a leading figure on the international art scene, a regular in museums and biennials, but in China he is a manifold and controversial presence: artist, architect, curator, social critic, justice-seeker. He was a consultant on the design of the famous "Bird's Nest" stadium but called for an Olympic boycott; he received a Chinese Contemporary Art "lifetime achievement award" in 2008 but was beaten by the police in connection with his "citizen investigation" of earthquake casualties in 2009. Ai Weiwei's Blog documents Ai's passion, his genius, his hubris, his righteous anger, and his vision for China.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-29587-1
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. viii-xi)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. xii-xv)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xvi-1)

    Some people find distraction online; Ai Weiwei finds a powerful medium for social change. In what has become a daily ritual, he devotes hours to his computer each day, simultaneously sifting through news, pouring over tweets, and purging his mind into cyberspace. “I spend ninety percent of my energy on blogging,” he said in one interview just before his blog was closed. After the authorities shut down Ai Weiwei’s blog, more than 2,700 posts, including thousands of photos and millions of reader comments, disappeared. The address blog.sina.com.cn/aiweiwei, from whence had poured scathing social criticism, condemnation of political policy, and finally...

  5. 2006 Texts
    • Problems Facing Foreign Architects Working within a Chinese Architectural Practice POSTED ON JANUARY 10, 2006
      (pp. 3-5)

      China has rapidly become the fastest developing and largest-scale economic entity in the world. This phenomenon has, in turn, transformed the Chinese architecture market into a force that the whole world watches attentively. In the course of its nearly thirty-year conversion to capitalism, China has accumulated great hopes and demands: thousands upon thousands of villages are more closely resembling cities, more than 100 million peasants are now becoming urban dwellers and industrial producers, more than 100 million households are in the process of relocating. People thirst for overnight riches, and they are always ready to reinvent themselves, to live in...

    • Architecture and Space POSTED ON JANUARY 13, 2006
      (pp. 5-9)

      The most important factor in architecture is space. The relationship between space and subject, the relationship of space to other space, the beginning, continuation, transformation, and disappearance of space …

      Light defines objects and gives spaces their unique characteristics. The strength or weakness, direction, and changing nature of light and shadows alternately invite and repel people’s emotions. Emotions are the primitive foundation of aesthetic sense.

      The volume of light, proportions, structure, and materials determine how we experience space. Space can also be psychological, it is capable of arousing the imagination.

      A person’s sense of space has an inscrutable effect on...

    • Photography POSTED ON JANUARY 16, 2006
      (pp. 9-10)

      The practice of photography is no longer a means for recording reality. Instead, it has become reality itself. Photography as a medium is also endowed with all the fundamental implications of a material object, such as scale, density, and focal points. It also acts as a gauge for all potential realities, having evolved into a marvelous relationship between our understanding of material images and photography as a material object itself. Images become an important reference point for distinguishing between the authenticity and potentiality of objects, and within this distinction they once again become truth itself.

      Photography as reality provides the...

    • With Regard to Architecture POSTED ON JANUARY 22, 2006
      (pp. 10-13)

      Architecture has always been, and will always be, one of humanity’s fundamental activities. This basic activity has moved, and always will move, in tandem with humanity’s basic needs for survival.

      The essence of architecture lies in the search to satisfy the demands for human survival and in transforming people’s life state. This could be a demand for safety, comfort, desire, or individualization. Similarly, this could be a demand to display one’s power, pursue one’s will, express a fear of god, or manifest one’s morals.

      As different architectural forms attempt to regulate the different manners of any given person’s activity, they...

    • Chinese Contemporary Art in Dilemma and Transition POSTED ON FEBRUARY 4, 2006
      (pp. 14-18)

      In China, contemporary art has been openly accepted by society and become widely known to the public in only the past few years. “Improvements” in the cultural climate have come about not because of an ideological acceptance of contemporary art on the part of this communist nation, but as a result of reform and opening and the triumph of Western material culture and lifestyle over this plot of ancient land. These improvements also stem from the gradual recovery of self-confidence by a people who hope to test their position of prestige among the contemporary cultures of the world. Despite this,...

    • On Photography POSTED ON FEBRUARY 11, 2006
      (pp. 18-20)

      If we reflect on the history of photography, we realize it has been widely accepted as a medium of artistic expression only for roughly twenty years. Prior to that, it was treated as a purely technical means of recording history.

      In recent years, in the development of the photographic arts, various elements such as plot, color, chiaroscuro, and compositional narrative have maintained a parallel developmental relationship to the methods and characteristics of Western painting. It remains difficult for photography to break free from being habitually recognized as an arbitrator, but this historical misunderstanding originates from much deeper ancient and enduring...

    • Who Are You? POSTED ON FEBRUARY 16, 2006
      (pp. 20-24)

      People who work in design speak the language of design, just as those who write fiction, essays, or poetry have their own language systems. Even plain vernacular is a style. When people talk about style, they’re actually attempting to systematize their treatment of a certain language. Everything has its own order and logic: plants have one way and animals have another, and living or nonliving, all things exist in their own particular state. Humans are the only animals constantly adapting to their situations as they evolve, for we are the only animals that don’t rely on style to distinguish ourselves....

    • The Longest Road POSTED ON FEBRUARY 23, 2006
      (pp. 25-26)

      China still lacks a modernist movement of any magnitude, for the basis of such a movement would be the liberation of humanity and the illumination brought by the humanitarian spirit. Democracy, material wealth, and universal education are the soil upon which modernism exists. For a developing China, these are merely idealistic pursuits.

      Modernism is the questioning of traditional humanitarian thought and a critical reflection on the human condition. Any other art movement that does not belong to this modernist culture is generally shallow, or lacking in spiritual value. As for activities lacking intellectual value, or creations that deviate from or...

    • Their City POSTED ON MARCH 12, 2006
      (pp. 26-28)

      After dinner, I politely declined my host’s offer to drive us home and decided to walk to the hotel. There was one primary road in their city,⁹ and, due to a power outage, it was bathed in darkness. The blinding headlights of cars passing back and forth on the road illuminated the people walking toward us, bright and then dark, making them seem farther away, and then nearer. Hair salon mistresses stood fidgeting outside their storefronts with nothing to do; unable to stand still, they looked strained and distorted.

      A bicycle lane of about three meters wide ran parallel alongside...

    • N Town POSTED ON MARCH 19, 2006
      (pp. 28-30)

      In N Town,12in the nation of C, the first Qin emperor established a city where three rivers converged. I found myself in N Town on some rather absurd business—I was helping to jury an architecture award. Standing at the side of the road, I could see that N Town was no different from other southern cities.

      All cities in C Nation inherently maintain a faithful record of the scars left by authoritarianism. Unlike actual ruins, which are caused by rational, ordered destruction, these cities are elegies on frenzied architectural activity. Their creators and their landlords are victims of...

    • S Village in Beijing POSTED ON MARCH 30, 2006
      (pp. 30-32)

      Outside the city of Beijing lies Suojia Village, a community where many artists reside. They will live there until the day that their dwellings are forcibly demolished, because they were “not built in conformance to building codes.”13Beijing is the capital of C Nation, a place where demolishing row upon row of inferior housing is no big deal at all.

      Many other villages surround Beijing, each with countless structures that do not conform to code, and there are more than ten thousand cities in C Nation, each with countless illegal and temporary buildings violating various laws and regulations. But it’s...

    • Wrong Place, Right Time POSTED ON APRIL 10, 2006
      (pp. 32-34)

      Rome is a city that can easily carry you back two thousand years. Her roads are paved with black, nail-cut stones that broil impatiently under a dazzling sun. Unlike Rome, the streets of Milan are paved with marbled granite, each block is probably thirty centimeters wide and forty or fifty centimeters long, and they are earthy red, yellow, and dark gray. The width of these granite blocks is standardized, but their lengths are not uniform, and the paving process would have been convenient, the selection of materials likewise not wasteful. Car tires of various widths are treated to the repetitive...

    • Distracting Thoughts Overhead POSTED ON APRIL 12, 2006
      (pp. 35-37)

      The following is written in the air. This Boeing is suspended 10,000 meters from the earth, and to kill some time, I’m attempting to write on one of the plane’s airsick bags. Opening it up and flattening it out makes a rather suitable sized place for purging one’s mind.

      I don’t know what kind of person Han Han is.16I know him only through the debate and dispute on the Internet. Who’s who isn’t important; this kind of person has gracefully proved that truth is capable of defeating absurdity. The people vilifying Han Han are classic hypocrites, and they can...

    • A Straightforward Angle: Liu Xiaodong POSTED ON APRIL 15, 2006
      (pp. 37-39)

      I met Liu Xiaodong in 1992, when he and Yu Hong were on their honeymoon. At the time they were staying in a borrowed Lower East Side apartment. There, in Chen Danqing’s Forty-second Street studio, Liu Xiaodong completed several paintings on his “American experience.”17Those carefree paintings left a deep impression on me. Years later, at his retrospective exhibition, I had the opportunity to see many of his other works.

      Liu Xiaodong’s painting originates in the profound tradition of Western painting. This tradition was once a visual approach through which a people interpreted their culture and history; for an entire...

    • Quietly Settling Dust POSTED ON APRIL 26, 2006
      (pp. 39-40)

      This dusty weather persists in China’s north, and, just as usual, every time a situation reaches its most implausible extent, silence reigns over everything, just as if nothing has happened at all. People are all too familiar with such circumstances—don’t make a sound, lest great catastrophes befall.

      Yes, you can be silent. And just the same, you don’t have to smile, or put on your pretty dress in the morning, or promenade the streets with your friends, ride your bicycle to the suburbs on a spring outing, play by the riverside, go shopping, or chat about fashion. You don’t...

    • Fragments POSTED ON APRIL 29, 2006
      (pp. 40-45)
      Nataline Colonnello and Ai Weiwei

      Nataline Colonnello:20This is your first one-man show in China after so many years. What do you think would be a suitable title for it?

      Ai Weiwei: The first thing that comes to my mind is “Fragments.” Something similar to “pieces,” “clippings,” or “leftovers,” from a body, or an event … material, history, or memory; it’s something broken or left over, fractured or useless.

      “Fragments” is a metaphor, not a value judgment of these objects; it’s like deciphering the DNA of an animal from a single hair. The title “Fragments” alludes to a previous condition, or to the original situation....

    • A World without Honor POSTED ON MAY 4, 2006
      (pp. 45-47)

      If there were a history, it could not be revealed to the public. The concealed portions of history outnumber the obvious, and those unclear moments would easily outnumber the identifiable ones. This is a cultural history in decline and it reveals the character and psychology of a nation.

      On the topic of the recent competition for the Olympics opening ceremony: if there was any honor, it has only been tarnished.

      Every competition has a winner, and the victorious side always uses its success to prove a fact. A competition isn’t just about the two competing sides, but also about the...

    • Yesterday I Cut My Hair POSTED ON MAY 9, 2006
      (pp. 47-47)

      He washed my hair and I got in the seat.

      The barber asked, What style?

      When it was over he said, You’re a director, right?

      I’ve never met anyone with such taste.

      And he even took a photo with me.

      Ai Dan after drinking said it looked like Tie Guaili,22

      The painter Yan Lei said it looked like Kublai Khan,

      The feeble-minded student said it looked like “the Red Boy,”23

      Photographer Zhao Zhao said, Something’s wrong with Mr. Ai.

      Old Ye from Lang Fang asked, You seemed crazy yesterday, how’d you become a fool today?

      Wife Lu Qing said, When...

    • Here and Now POSTED ON MAY 10, 2006
      (pp. 48-52)

      I was born in a courtyard on Beijing’s east side called Tofu Alley. We accompanied my father when he was “demoted” and sent to do physical labor in Dongbei province, and moved into the home of a lumberjack in the Dongbei forest.25Later we were transferred to Xinjiang, and moved into Soviet-style block housing; when we were placed in our company of troops, we first lived in a dormitory, and then in an “earthen pit”—a ditch dug into the ground, and covered with branches and mud. When we vacated it, it was turned into a pigpen. After that we...

    • Ideal Cities and Architecture Do Not Exist POSTED ON MAY 24, 2006
      (pp. 52-56)

      When we call any building a piece of architecture, it is merely a product, just bearing the weight of certain information. Architecture is not just an issue of architecture; it is also a social issue, and a statement on an era’s identity. The shape of a city’s architecture shares an important relationship with its cultural status.

      In my experience, it seems that over the past decade everyone is moving house. No matter if you live in the countryside or the city, finding a person who hasn’t moved house over the past ten years is an oddity. This is similar to...

    • As Soon as You’re Not Careful … an Encounter with Idiocy on a Sunny Day POSTED ON MAY 14, 2006
      (pp. 56-57)

      At a friend’s urging, I set off headed for the rather poorfeng shuiof Beijing’s western district for a gathering of scholars who were discussing the current “cultural crisis.”29I’d heard there would be some cultural critique involved, and my suspicions were doubling the entire ride there.

      I was already late. First we listened to some guy with a Shanghai accent expound on music. His tone was very similar to the flatulent voice of a teacher I once had from the “precious island” of Taiwan. He began talking about prehistoric music, and carried on until contemporary music, nearly working...

    • A Path to an Unknown Place POSTED ON MAY 22, 2006
      (pp. 57-59)

      Writing one’s feelings is simple, but can also be a difficult thing, for at least the following reasons:

      1. You can’t be sure this is really what you are thinking.

      2. If you write something down, it will never be anything else.

      3. It’s difficult to maintain a good writer’s posture from beginning to end.

      The fascination with this nation is the indefinite and indeterminate nature of everything. It is a labyrinth, a road leading to an unknown place.

      Humans are different from other animals, because they are always attempting to improve their own situation. In some places, human actions and behaviors are...

    • A Curse for Zuzhou POSTED ON MAY 24, 2006
      (pp. 59-61)

      Zuzhou is a Shar-Pei dog that bites, and won’t let go.36

      In a documentary film about SARS entitledEat, Drink and Be Merry: The SARS Outbreak, director Ai Dan chose Zuoxiao Zuzhou’s song “Labor of Love” for the soundtrack. Although this was not a decision of mine (it was Ai Dan’s), we are both fans of his music.

      There is a phrase circulating online: “Of all China’s poets, including my father, Zuoxiao Zuzhou is my second favorite.” But I think that statement was reversed; I originally said: “In addition to Zuoxiao Zuzhou, there is my father.” Actually, that’s not right...

    • Ordinary Architecture POSTED ON JUNE 22, 2006
      (pp. 61-66)

      Architecture serving as a home is a place filled with one’s individual character. Different from any concocted meaning of “home,” it is an independent, inclusive entity that deserves to be respected. It embodies the free will of all those therein and may represent the modern pursuit of comfort and the independent mind.

      The interior and exterior of a home are linked by the relationship that joins them as an integral entity. In any such structure, mutual respect and communication exist between the home and its environment, the street, the neighborhood, and everyone who lives there together. The logic of its...

    • Ar Chang’s Persistence POSTED ON JUNE 24, 2006
      (pp. 66-67)

      He Yunchang41has been doing performance art for more than ten years, and before that he was a painter. His gift for painting is rather exceptional, both in technique and in intensity. These days, he lives in the Binhe Community, a twenty-kilometer straight shot east from Tiananmen Square. Most of his days are spent playing chess with a few friends, playing video games, or eating. Performance art is the only thing he feels compelled to do.

      He is constantly in preparation for those few moments, or at least that’s how he appears, as if he’s incessantly thinking and making plans....

    • The Computer Worth “Several Hundred Million” and One Worthless Brain POSTED ON JUNE 27, 2006
      (pp. 67-70)

      The Facts:

      Zhong Nanshan is an academician at the China Institute of Engineering. His life has been rather eventful of late.42

      Zhong Nanshan’s laptop computer was stolen, and both Guangzhou city officials and Guangdong province officials attached a high importance to the case. In a memo to his subordinates, provincial party secretary Zhang Dejiang instructed police to “break this case as soon as possible,” and dispatched more than one hundred officers. The case was solved in less than ten days.

      During the process of investigation, the police “inadvertently” tracked down eighty-three stolen mobile phones and twenty-eight laptop computers.

      Zhong Nanshan’s...

    • A Road with No End POSTED ON JULY 5, 2006
      (pp. 70-70)

      Oxygen-scarce plateaus, remote paths, hearth-fire signs of habitation—it is the will of heaven, these hardships and barriers that protect the unique culture and land that is Tibet.

      But all of this is disappearing. One long, inland-stretching railway is inescapably accelerating the decline of this culture.45A profound and far-reaching history, an intrepid race of people, and an independent, integral spiritual world are vanishing in the name of civilization. Such are the sorrows of humankind, such is this tangible truth.

      Pious and irreverent men and women from across the world are surging into Tibet. They bring backkhataghs,46bring back...

    • Ignorance and Hypocrisy Always Win POSTED ON JULY 7, 2006
      (pp. 70-72)

      I do not care for honor. Like all people, I possess that sort of honor naturally derived from being an upright person. I am not afraid of confronting any person, or any power, no matter how formidable it, or they, may seem. This is because I trust in my ability to protect my fundamental rights. I must be this way, there is no other choice, and I must be willing to sacrifice for this. Any cost of safeguarding the right to act as an upright person is invariably not worth mentioning.

      Freedom is a god-given right. It is unequalled, absolute,...

    • Why I Am a Hypocrite POSTED ON JULY 12, 2006
      (pp. 72-75)

      A recent trip to Jingdezhen provided me with an opportunity for reflection.47I discovered that I’m an ignorant and shameless person. I’ve used my shameless media sensationalism to achieve shamelessness even greater than the public’s, and I’ve used my individual shamelessness to realize a collective shamelessness. And I don’t see shamelessness as a disgrace, but instead shamelessly believe in shamelessness, and this has led to my shameless state that you see today. My life’s goal is to make myself into that rare kind of negative example, to endow my existence with a certain kind of necessity, and now it looks...

    • The People, the Moon, Zidane, and More POSTED ON JULY 15, 2006
      (pp. 75-78)

      Take one glance, people are everywhere—going to work, shopping, standing around, strolling, earning money, suffering losses—there’s truly an abundance of people.

      But I’ve never seen “the People.” What is the People? The People is the sum total of many persons, and the summation of people is imperceptible and intangible. Mao said: “Only the People have the power to create history.” One person is a person; a multitude of people is the People. One ambling person is a vagrant, a pariah; a throng of people cramming into train cars to go on holiday, tens of thousands of people flooding...

    • Some Thoughts on Future Cities POSTED ON JULY 25, 2006
      (pp. 78-83)

      To discuss what we call the city is actually to discuss the spirit of humanity, the spirit of a collective, and its fantasies and confusion.

      When I was living in New York, there was a period when I liked playing cards and I went to Atlantic City a few times every week. Over those two years, I sat in a car and set my record for intercity travel, gliding between these two cities about two hundred times with my butt just a little more than one foot off the ground. Why would I do that? Of course it was my...

    • Letting Our Mistakes Keep Us Down POSTED ON JULY 27, 2006
      (pp. 83-86)

      Here are several concepts: tradition, urban space, architecture, and the human race.

      Let’s start with people. The concept of the human race is very clear. Humans today are not the same as humans of the past, just as we are sure to be different people from those ten years from now; there is no abstract concept of “person.” Living in Beijing is completely different from living in Tokyo or India; even the most basic concepts such as suffering, anxiety, or happiness are different. This is a vague concept. Take New York, for example, and Wall Street, where people carry briefcases,...

    • Aftershocks POSTED ON JULY 28, 2006
      (pp. 87-88)

      There are two types of disasters: visible and quantifiable natural disasters, and invisible, immeasurable psychological disasters.

      In natural disasters, the power of nature destroys the original order of things, and life and death change places. But invisible and immeasurable psychic disasters take place deep within our psychology, and directly constrain our souls. They are like a scar on the spirit of a nation: What happened? What caused the hurt? Where is the source of the shock? These are eternally avoided questions, eternally sealed mouths, eyes that can never close, wounds that refuse to heal, and ghosts that will never disperse....

    • Spiritual Orientation and the Possibilities of Existence POSTED ON AUGUST 1, 2006
      (pp. 88-89)

      If we say that artists must interpret their existence, and interpret their physical and spiritual state, this interpretation would unavoidably touch upon the era in which they exist, and upon the political and ideological state of that era and, naturally, the artist’s worldview. This worldview is presented through artistic languages and ambiguity, and just like all the other things that we call “facts,” it has clear-cut characteristics and is immiscible.

      Even so, art’s transparency is then possibly “multiple” or “indistinct.” Here, ambiguity and suggestion create a substantial spiritual orientation, like an outstretched hand pointing to an indecipherable and unexplainable space,...

    • Super Lights: Yan Lei and His Work POSTED ON AUGUST 16, 2006
      (pp. 89-91)

      In 2002, Yan Lei63started on a new kind of painting. From the very first canvas in that series, we knew this was the beginning of something boundless, a drop of salty liquid culled from the vast ocean. Since then, Yan Lei’s works have continued to be concerned with examining and explicating the artist’s interpretations of the fundamental relationships between culture, painterly action, and expression.

      The method of production and critical position embodied in these works emerges from the artist’s reflections on and understanding of painting as a flat, two-dimensional means of expression. His position was culled from the co-dependent...

    • Flat-Bottomed Cloth Shoes POSTED ON AUGUST 18, 2006
      (pp. 91-93)

      Flat-bottomed shoes are only good for walking little countryside roads, as long as it’s not raining. The soles of your feet are sturdy and the tops relaxed, and even on journeys across foreign lands, as soon as you step into them it feels as if you’ve come home.

      But flat-bottomed cloth shoes are no good on the cobblestone streets of Europe; they’re clearly not meant for arduous trekking, or very long hikes, in which case you would need to bring many pairs, and to prepare yourself for changing into new ones at any time. That would be the only way...

    • Familiar Curse Words POSTED ON AUGUST 20, 2006
      (pp. 93-94)

      Human life is sovereign, and we are born into the rights and dignity that are inherent to it. These are superior to any power save of death, either spiritual or physical.

      The above statement is complete bullshit. Human beings have never been sovereign, they have always lived under oppression, and they must constantly remind each other of this, or there will be an even higher price to pay. This is the history of civilization.

      Of all the words in the dictionary, this word is the most disgraceful, and the word with the most unpleasant connotations. This word is always involved...

    • Despicable Things POSTED ON AUGUST 21, 2006
      (pp. 94-95)

      I never received a proper education. That proved to be impossible quite early on, and by the time I actually realized it, it was too late. I was like a traveler at dusk who was surrounded by trees before he realized he was in the forest. All that was left to do was to struggle to remember the path that had brought me there, and to discern which direction I was headed.

      Existence is temptation itself. In this body, temptation is already there, and each time you approach it, you retreat again. But this is only to create eternal temptation....

    • Bile from Living Bears POSTED ON AUGUST 25, 2006
      (pp. 95-97)

      In the course of shady political dealings and amid the ingratiating ways of humans, the panda’s status as national symbol has become a kind of reality. When Nixon came to China in the 1970s, pandas were paraded as far-fetched proof that humanity still exists on this patch of land. They were exploited by both Chinese and Western media as mediators in mitigating the ambiguous discussions that took place between ideological adversaries.

      Today, as one of the party’s friendly gestures to placate the government in exile, Tuantuan and Yuanyuan are only ineffectual manifestations of one-sided desires for unification.64

      With their blubbery...

    • Different Worlds, Different Dreams POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 5, 2006
      (pp. 97-100)

      Once a month I return to my home in central Beijing. It is a small courtyard inside the Second Ring Road, that kind built of gray brick, having three rooms in the north and a few side rooms. All together the buildings and yard occupy about onemu.65The Chinese pagoda tree in the yard is already as thick as my calf, and there is a magnolia tree which flowers every year. Before his death my father’s vision had begun to fail, and I would often see him counting its buds, over and over. Even in the most tumultuous times,...

    • Hypnosis and Fragmented Reality: Li Songsong POSTED ON NOVEMBER 4, 2006
      (pp. 100-103)

      “Hypnosis” generally refers to the use of special techniques to bring a subject into a state similar to sleep. Or rather, it is guiding the hypnotized subject to lose control of his or her proactive state, leading to a weakening or loss of decision-making ability and self-control. Perception, thoughts, volition, and emotions all melt away as the subject accepts the induction and suggestions of hypnosis.

      Li Songsong was born in 1973. When he was three years old, Mao Zedong left this earth, and in that same year the Tangshan earthquake ended 240,000 lives in a single night. It was a...

    • Documenting the Unfamiliar Self and the Non-self: Rongrong & inri POSTED ON NOVEMBER 15, 2006
      (pp. 103-106)

      There are many cats here. All of them are Dami’s offspring.

      You can find many cats on the outskirts of Beijing; this city is like Rome, it is sprinkled with ruins. Cats don’t abandon ruins—or we could put it another way and say that ruins were designed for cats. This is also a reason for cats and humans to be together, for any place with humans will have ruins. The disposition and home of anyone who keeps cats will always have a ruined quality to it. Cats may suddenly disappear, but humans cannot simply abandon cats, who just move...

    • Widespread Beliefs POSTED ON NOVEMBER 20, 2006
      (pp. 107-108)

      Anyone who has had a glimpse of the ocean knows this is just a battered ship afloat, a lousy ship, a destinationless ship that left its homeland with its accursed fate and will never be able to turn back, nor will it ever reach any port of call. To where is it sailing? And what is the fate of this ship, or of its passengers? The cost will be no more, no less, than the fate of its passengers’ feelings and the fate of reality. This ship’s fate was predestined decades ago, a hundred years ago.

      This ship was not...

    • The Ethical Foundation of Justice POSTED ON DECEMBER 30, 2006
      (pp. 109-109)

      Over the previous two days, two people were sentenced to capital punishment.

      Saddam Hussein, former president of Iraq, was taken prisoner three years ago and lived out his last hours after undergoing a lengthy trial process. Today, at six o’clock in the morning, Baghdad time, in accordance with his sentence of “crimes against humanity,” the new Iraqi government carried out Saddam Hussein’s sentence of death by hanging. This is a symbol of the United States’ achievement in Middle Eastern strategic gains. Their actions under the banner of antiterrorism have left the rest of the world dumbfounded.

      On the other side...

  6. 2007 Texts
    • Life, Crime, and Death POSTED ON JANUARY 7, 2007
      (pp. 111-113)

      To say that we are all born equal is like saying that every person’s life is endowed with identical value and there is neither lowliness nor nobility. Life in its original state includes both honor and evil; it exists independent from any system of human values and is merely a vehicle, it does not differentiate between good and evil. Each person’s life is added to the lives of others to compose an inseparable whole that is the life of humanity.

      The value of life originates from the fact that we each have only one chance. Life is irreversible, unique, unpredictable,...

    • Standards and Practical Jokes
      (pp. 113-115)

      Standards and practical jokes—they attempt to standardize everything, yet in the end nothing can be standardized. What should really be standardized is government power, the government’s opinion of itself, its understanding of power, responsibility, and the limits on those powers. Somehow, for a certain few folks, these simple issues are forever, infinitely, and eternally misunderstood.

      The Ministry of Culture wants to standardize art forms. This is as funny as a dog catching mice. Furthermore, establishing a “Chinese Broadway,” building “ten outdoor theatres before 2008,” and erecting “three hundred film screens in the year 2008” are equally corrupt practices that...

    • Rowing on the Bund: Wang Xingwei POSTED ON FEBRUARY 3, 2007
      (pp. 115-116)

      Wang Xingwei’s dreams are always of the manly sort, and any man who is tormented by sexual desires yet still suppresses them will forever be meandering in that narrow fissure just before the flesh comes off track and just after the spirit is derailed.² No one doubts that he is an adept painter; to him, painting is like gazing at the wife you grew up with—no matter what angle you look at her from, nothing seems new. Wang Xingwei is a problematic person; he will never be content with his painting, and thus takes what are originally insignificant details...

    • Eternally Lost Confidence POSTED ON FEBRUARY 11, 2007
      (pp. 117-118)

      At one of Tianjin’s Bird and Flower markets, cat-loving volunteers had discovered someone selling cats by the scores. Through the tenacious hard work of these volunteers, and after struggles with and the eventual persuasion of the cat mongers, policemen, and businessmen, more than four hundred cats were safely entrusted into their care and then transported to a nearby storehouse.

      We left Beijing at two o’clock in the afternoon and headed for Tianjin, where I was accompanying Beijing’s rescue team to the warehouse. It was very early spring, a sunny day, and the weather was increasingly warm; the lunar New Year...

    • Dog Massacre in Wan Chuan POSTED ON MARCH 16, 2007
      (pp. 119-120)

      Sichuan province’s Wan Chuan district is preparing to slaughter all of its dogs.⁵ Since September of 2006, there have been three human deaths from rabies, and in the past few days, there was another death due to the same cause. Thus, the Wan Chuan local government has decided to slaughter all of its dogs. Beginning on March 16 (today), all of the dogs in Wan Chuan (thousands of them) will be rounded up and summarily executed, regardless of whether they are family pets, guard dogs, or attack mutts.

      People raise dogs, who live in close contact with humans, and thus...

    • A “Fairytale” Becomes an Artwork POSTED ON JULY 20, 2007
      (pp. 120-125)
      Fu Xiaodong and Ai Weiwei

      Fu xiaodong:⁶ Why 1,001 people?

      Ai Weiwei: I was mountain climbing in Switzerland, and watched a huge number of Italian tourists pass by, dragged down by their small children. It made me think of taking a group of high-strung Chinese on a journey. That seemed like a more complete slice of cake, and such a slice would include all the special elements of the cake itself. This was also the reason why I didn’t choose fifty or one hundred, the amount had to achieve a specified quantity. The features of status, age, and participants coming from almost every province and...

    • National Day POSTED ON OCTOBER 1, 2007
      (pp. 126-127)

      Today is another National Day, and Beijing awaits her fifty-eighth birthday in light rain.

      In this “People’s Republic” founded fifty-eight years ago, we have yet to realize “general elections.” Universal education has yet to be implemented, basic medical care is still not realized, and no one dares question how our fundamental rights were lost.

      All of the nation’s soil and her resources have been washed away. Government officials are corrupt; our natural environment is polluted; humanities education is degenerate; management standards are so low that people have become hopeless. No one thinks to ask who acquired the wealth that originally...

    • Andy Warhol POSTED ON OCTOBER 3, 2007
      (pp. 127-131)

      Twenty years ago, I was on New York’s Lower East Side. I lived there for a long time.

      On February 22, 1987, Andy Warhol died suddenly in New York, as a result of medical negligence. The news bathed the entire city in gray, and many people were saddened and grieved. The departure of an incredible man whisked away a certainly uncertain world, as well as the vain and legendary people and events that revolved around him. It was as if an enormous magnet had suddenly lost its pull.

      Writings about the departed are always fragmented. Even if we are writing...

    • Designatum POSTED ON OCTOBER 24, 2007
      (pp. 131-132)

      The interpretation of freedom and rights and their subsequent practice constitute life’s true value; they are the core connotations of revolution and progress.

      A government whose defining characteristics are the destruction of personal freedoms and rights is repulsive, for these are the true reasons for limits on both news media and freedom of speech. As we all know: if there were freedom of press and freedom of speech, it would be difficult to preserve fatuous monarchical motivations and to safeguard institutions that promote illicit gains, treasonous swindling, and a hopelessly devastating bullying culture.

      One inevitable psychological characteristic of authoritarian power...

    • Some Abnormal Numbers POSTED ON DECEMBER 22, 2007
      (pp. 132-135)

      The Chinese people’s approach to numbers and the role that figures play in the Chinese notions of history and reality are capable of illustrating this nation’s detachment from the outside world. They are also capable of illustrating the nature of the culture and history that exists here, and how it has transformed.

      In reports over recent years, an untold number of corrupt officials have escaped overseas, running off with their money and leaving behind muddled account books. The thieves know exactly how much they rolled up and stole away with, but the people who have been robbed have no idea...

  7. 2008 Texts
    • Hallucinations and “Inhaling Poisons” POSTED ON JANUARY 1, 2008
      (pp. 137-139)

      The use of methamphetamines is undoubtedly bad: they harm us in the same way as cigarettes or alcohol, or speeding through a red light. However, they do not directly injure society, nor do they cause bodily harm to others. That is because using them is a personal choice; even if they cause harm to the user, the decision to use them is individual, something like suicide.

      On the other hand, when police enter a private home without a warrant, this is an issue of another nature. The casual entrance of police into any private residence to search and arrest in...

    • We Have Nothing POSTED ON JANUARY 30, 2008
      (pp. 140-141)

      One night, at a dinner party, I made the comment that we live in the era most lacking in creativity, but that comment was made rather hastily.³ I almost never use the word “creativity.” Rather, I am more inclined to use “fantasy,” “suspicion,” “discovery,” “subversion,” or “criticism,” words whose accumulated capacity, in my opinion, define creativity. These are the fundamental requirements, or very substance, of life. They are indispensable.

      Creativity is the power to reject the past, to change the status quo, and to seek new potential. Simply put, aside from using one’s imagination—perhaps more importantly—creativity is the...

    • Flickering Screens POSTED ON FEBRUARY 5, 2008
      (pp. 141-143)

      When I was young, movies were shown in the village square. As soon as a movie would come on, the entire village would light up. There was no electricity in the village, only oil lamps, and even though the light was only from the film, we would unconsciously cover our eyes with our hands, it seemed that bright.

      Each time a film finished screening in our village, it was passed on to the neighboring village to be screened again. We would travel with it, carefully placing one foot after another in the irregular soil of the fields and on the...

    • A Word of Thanks POSTED ON FEBRUARY 14, 2008
      (pp. 143-144)

      In the telling, it all sounds like something a human smuggler might attempt. First of all, I’d like to thankSouthern Weekly, and the 1,001 brave Chinese who ventured out and were brave enough to return.⁶ It’s obvious that China is currently situated within an era of cultural depression, and one extremely lacking in creativity. This is undeniable, and I hope that everyone can soberly face up to that truth. I am also ashamed of this fact.

      Creativity in the art world is unmentionable, it’s best not to bring it up, in fact the nation is lacking creativity in every...

    • Light as a Feather POSTED ON FEBRUARY 17, 2008
      (pp. 144-145)

      Twenty years ago, Andy Warhol accidentally left his city and the people who were so familiar to him, the sounds, colors, and the climate. The moment he was gone, the world changed: this wasn’t an arrow propelled from a bow, but the bow (and the world that supported it) fallen away from the arrow, separating in that instant, and forever.

      Everything in Andy’s life seemed surrounded by pretension, a kaleidoscope of colors and extravagance. Like a prophet who can truly see through the confines of time, long before the true arrival of the era that he prophesized, anything within his...

    • The Space between Reality and Ideals: Zhao Zhao POSTED ON MARCH 20, 2008
      (pp. 145-147)

      Aside from filling our conversations with irony and absurdity, what else can we do?

      There is a certain kind of action that will become part of existence and will call people’s attention to new possibilities and different results. Like a deliberately divergent discourse, such an action has a clear target that draws people’s attention to its alternative and absurd side. A person’s minute movements, a persistence approaching arrogance, and sincere efforts always allow people to enjoy the initial excitement of digressing from their primary topics and moving toward the crossroads.

      After major historical events and incidents, after their “proper” presentation...

    • Divination and Democracy POSTED ON MARCH 29, 2008
      (pp. 147-149)

      During the course of a banquet, the recent ethnic disputes were raised in conversation.⁹ One older person said: “Fifty years ago their religious leaders were actually using divination to help them make important decisions; imagine how backward it is there.”

      But while this is true, I still don’t know why I sincerely wish the leaders of our ethnic group could be as admirable as theirs, even if they’ve practiced divination once or twice in these past fifty years.

      Alas, this is not the case. In recent years, the actions and conduct of our “liberators”—those who gather under sophisticated ideological...

    • Grief POSTED ON MAY 22, 2008
      (pp. 149-151)

      Silence please. No clamor. Let the dust settle, let the dead rest.10

      Extending a hand to those caught in trouble, rescuing the dying, and helping the injured is a form of humanitarianism, unrelated to love of country or people. Do not belittle the value of life; it commands a broader, more equal dignity.

      Throughout these days of mourning, people do not need to thank the Motherland and her supporters, for she was unable to offer any better protection. Nor was it the Motherland, in the end, who allowed the luckier children to escape from their collapsing schoolhouses. There is no...

    • Silent Holiday POSTED ON JUNE 1, 2008
      (pp. 152-153)

      If there ever were a day when pure and innocent children began to distrust the world and to lose hope in its people, it would be today.11Twenty days ago, when a trauma of the natural world caused thousands of schoolrooms in the quake area to collapse, an estimated six thousand students were buried in bricks and concrete.

      Each living person in every small hamlet within the quake zone will extend a hand and point in the direction where nursery schools, elementary and middle schools once stood. The reality that all the survivors, every person who came to the rescue,...

    • Sacrifice POSTED ON JUNE 4, 2008
      (pp. 154-155)

      Everyone knows today is June 4.13

      What kinds of hardship must we endure before our hearts begin to suffer? What kind of suffering can be exchanged for enlightenment? There can be no more flippant presumptuousness or reckless ignorance. What’s one little calamity? It will soon pass and be forgotten; those people will be considered the segment that died off. If death is an inevitable footnote to life, where have those lives gone?

      There is an excess of lasting misfortunes, and too little good fortune in China. The difference is that, no matter what the nature of the calamity, the moment...

    • Karmic Retribution for Karma POSTED ON JUNE 8, 2008
      (pp. 155-156)

      Ms. Sharon Stone said a few sobering things, and everyone understood what she meant, even though some feigned not to.14The other related person is named Yu Qiuyu,15and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration at all if you were to call him a degenerate intellectual, or scum among scum. Just the fact that this kind of indecent scholar still rambles on today completely unfettered is nothing less than a miracle.

      Both of these individuals made emotional statements about the earthquake, and both cited Buddhist concepts.

      Ms. Stone is a follower of the Dalai Lama. The “karma” she referred to implies...

    • The Way of Teacher Fan and Ethics in the Ministry of Education POSTED ON JUNE 16, 2008
      (pp. 156-156)

      The difficulty in doing good is that often the principles of kindness seem either too simple or too broad in range. However, true goodness is concrete.

      In the pre-takeoff emergency procedures on planes, we are told that in the event of an emergency, we should first look after ourselves, and put on our own oxygen mask before we help children and the elderly. This is common sense. I do not believe that any powerless individual, political party, or nation could possibly provide genuine and reliable help to others. All ethical and moral foundations originate in the relationship between the life...

    • Forget About It POSTED ON JUNE 21, 2008
      (pp. 157-158)

      Does karma really exist in this world? I, at least, am no believer. If it did exist, retribution would have come long ago, and things wouldn’t have dragged on this long. Both fate and efficiency have proved unreliable. If karma did exist, at the very least it would show itself to a certain extent, or let even a fraction of its spirit reveal itself, rather than allowing tens of millions of people within a few million square kilometers to descend collectively into sky-toppling desperation. It’s all too vague and imprecise, enough to add to the sinking faith of any skeptic....

    • Paper Tigers and Paper Hunters POSTED ON JUNE 29, 2008
      (pp. 158-159)

      On June 29, half a year after the South China Tiger Incident, the Xi’an city government submitted to the pressure of public opinion and revealed the status of their investigation into the “South China Tiger” photographs.23

      This is a victory for public opinion. Amid prolonged contesting, truth has finally prevailed over appearances, false is false, and the disguise has already been peeled away. In a nation where knowledge is pitiably insignificant, where the media lacks conscience and principles, whatever the government says, goes. In a place where the cart coming before the horse is an irreversible situation, this is already...

    • Smashing and Burning POSTED ON JULY 1, 2008
      (pp. 159-160)

      On June 29, Xinhua online news wire reported that on the afternoon of June 28 in Guizhou province, Weng’an county, “smashing and burning” crowds besieged local government offices.

      The news clip on Xinhua read: “Crowds of agitators unaware of the facts attacked the county public security bureau offices, government offices and county buildings,” and “A few of these lawless persons seized the opportunity to smash and burn offices and some vehicles.”25

      Compared with the recent incidents involving the Tibetan independence activists, which are referred to as “Smashing, robbing, and burning,” in Guizhou they are simply “smashing and burning.” The distinctly...

    • Yang Jia, the Eccentric and Unsociable Type POSTED ON JULY 4, 2008
      (pp. 160-162)

      When the media talks about Yang Jia, they always say he is the eccentric and unsociable type.26

      It’s possible that eccentric and unsociable people are bashful, or maybe they just don’t like the people around them. Eccentric and unsociable people can be competent citizens, they can be useful to society and others, and in a normal society they could continue being eccentric and unsociable for a lifetime. What’s wrong with that? Does that also make you uncomfortable?

      Yang Jia was born in Beijing in August 1980 into a dual-income family of laborers. He was an avid reader. His father remembers...

    • On the Bird’s Nest POSTED ON JULY 9, 2008
      (pp. 162-167)
      Business Week China and Ai Weiwei

      Business Week China:27You participated firsthand in the entire process of the “Bird’s Nest,” from its design to its competitive bid. What was the most moving experience throughout the process?

      Ai Weiwei: Generally speaking, everything was very fortunate; there were proposals from almost twenty nations and the “Bird’s Nest” placed number one. To speak immodestly, if the second-place proposal had been realized, the results would not be so fortunate. Ever since the Bird’s Nest was selected, it has met with much frustration, even torment. The original plan has been continuously altered, the reasons for altering it arise from the need...

    • Endless Surprise POSTED ON JULY 10, 2008
      (pp. 167-169)

      The vast majority of the time, when we are confronted with the desire to discuss or understand the truth of any matter, intuition tells us this is impossible. This is a lasting grievance afflicting our people.

      Evading anything touching on the fundamental elements and contradictions that make up the present situation, or avoiding responsibility, are ostensibly meant to benefit those in control. However, this is obviously contradictory to reason, because only after the truth of a situation is exposed completely can effective solutions naturally emerge. Likewise, only when the natural progression of events is undesirable will the true facts be...

    • Pipe Dreams POSTED ON JULY 12, 2008
      (pp. 170-171)

      The Olympics are not far away, and we can already hear the sounds of its ceremonious footsteps approaching. Last night at dinner several foreigners were talking about recent inconveniences caused by the Olympics, and every one of them was astounded.

      One father visited a diplomatic apartment complex with his six-year-old son who didn’t have an identification card, and both of them were denied entry, absolutely. Likewise, visas are being denied; as one foreigner said: “I’ve lived in Beijing eleven years, and now I have to leave.” TheBeijing Newsreported that twenty-six inspection points have been built along roads leading...

    • Doing Push-ups POSTED ON JULY 15, 2008
      (pp. 171-172)

      According to the July 13 report on the Weng’an “6.28” incident issued by the Guizhou Public Security Bureau’s Deputy Director: “As of July 12, 217 people were apprehended for involvement in the ‘6.28’ incident; 355 have been thoroughly investigated, and 90 among these have been identified as local gangsters. Of the 100 individuals who have been detained, 39 are local gangsters. Certain individuals suspected of criminal activities are currently being pursued.”

      People can’t help but think, with numbers almost exceeding those of the Taliban, exactly how many lawless people can a small county like Weng’an hold? According to the government’s...

    • Public Trial POSTED ON JULY 17, 2008
      (pp. 172-173)

      The Yang Jia case has already lasted more than a month. The Shanghai police are suspected of concealing the truth and distorting facts, and this has resulted in a peculiar case that has triggered a crisis in public trust. All that is left from the previous two weeks—aside from the one suspense-filled incident when the Shanghai Public Security Bureau’s official Web site was suddenly altered, and several media outlets irresponsibly reported muddled information and fragmented truths—is the disclosure on July 7 of detailed facts on the case of police assault. The police’s public statement was filled with contradictions...

    • The Trial POSTED ON JULY 19, 2008
      (pp. 173-175)

      On July 17 the Shanghai city detention center turned away Mr. Xiong Liesuo, the Beijing attorney whom Yang Jia’s father had commissioned for his case. Unable to confirm whether or not Yang Jia had attained the power to assign his own attorney, Mr. Xiong returned dejectedly to Beijing. This makes it apparent that Shanghai inspection units have spurned lawful judicial procedure and have rejected Yang Jia’s legal right to counsel, refused good will and conscience, and, in a rash attempt to bring this affair to a close, have insisted on doing things their own way.

      Shanghai should be reminded of...

    • Olympic Virus POSTED ON JULY 26, 2008
      (pp. 175-177)

      I’ve been into the city twice over the past few days. My ears are full of the endless complaints of taxi drivers, and everything out the car window is indeed a scene of desolation.

      There are a slew of new safety regulations; we need a travel permit even to enter our village. As for global “anti-terrorist” measures, we’ve already matched those of the American imperialists, or even surpassed them. A police state built in the name of fighting terrorism has become the greatest threat to a harmonious civil society. Aside from the injury to life and other related costs that...

    • Does the Nation Have a List? POSTED ON JULY 28, 2008
      (pp. 177-179)

      The headlines this morning read: “Wenchuan has announced it will establish an earthquake memorial.”

      The Vietnam War had a profound effect on the United States; it caused the kind of pain that cuts deep; and ten years after the conclusion of the war, they erected a memorial bearing the engraved names of more than 58,000 departed soldiers on a field of grass in Washington, D.C. As for the affairs here, all we get is a statement from the top such as the one above, and the excited clamoring of a pack of expert bastards kicking up a fuss. As you...

    • Closing the Opening Ceremony POSTED ON AUGUST 8, 2008
      (pp. 180-180)

      Those incompetent tools perverted the Olympic opening ceremony into the archetypal example of bogus “traditional” rubbish, a blasphemous “spirit of liberty,” a visual crap pile of phony affection and hypocritical unction. Offensive noise pollution and a monarchical mentality have been revived as a vaudeville variety show. It was the ultimate rendering of a culture under centralized state power, an encyclopedia of spiritual subjugation. Before we can stand up straight, we are heavily bent over once again.

      We sacrificed the cheer and good will of the entire population in exchange for a worthless fantasy, a soulless political whitewash, and a hopelessly...

    • The Olympic Committee POSTED ON AUGUST 18, 2008
      (pp. 180-182)

      There is no love or hate in this world without reason. If you don’t know even this, then there are many things you won’t understand; someone has sold you out, and you’re helping him or her count the money. About the sacred Olympic committee, why do they look and sound more like military arms dealers, or the mafia? And why is it they increasingly prevent other people from saying this is so, shield themselves so enthusiastically and seek justification, while violating the truth with bigger, more ludicrous lies? This is not a brainteaser, the answer is simple, one word: profit....

    • Obama POSTED ON NOVEMBER 5, 2008
      (pp. 182-183)

      In a few hours, the American people will choose their new leader, hopefully rewriting history.

      I am not a United States citizen, but all the same I’m happy for them. No matter how bad the bad gets, I always keep hope that things will ultimately be interesting, and some change will be affected. I naively expect that this may come to be, that there will be accountability … for sometimes curses from the mouths of the misfortunate can be effective. The shame should be washed clean, the weaker nations will mature, things will get easier, and the price of ignorance...

    • That Liu Yaling POSTED ON NOVEMBER 13, 2008
      (pp. 183-184)

      Liu Yaling. The name doesn’t sound unfamiliar. For people that actually exist, a name is the sole and final symbol of one’s earthly struggles.

      This name is on the menu for Wang Qingmei’s “compulsory treatment” that began on July 2. From that day on, Yang Jia’s mother was no longer called Wang Qingmei, her name was changed to Liu Yaling.40

      A name is the first and final marker of individual rights, one fixed part of the ever-changing human world. A name is the most primitive characteristic of our human rights: no matter how poor or how rich, all living people...

    • Why Violence? POSTED ON NOVEMBER 22, 2008
      (pp. 184-185)

      Stone Age techniques have once again been put into extensive use. How dignified must people be and what kind of moral character must people have in order to hurl stones at a loaded machine gun?42

      People unprotected by the constitution have no legal status, so how can people with no legal standing possibly use “lawful channels”? They are bleeding just to obtain access to those “lawful channels”—if they were waiting for any day, it would be the day that “lawful channels” might be established. If there were lawful channels, these people wouldn’t be demonstrating.

      You say that torching cars,...

    • Kill, but Not in the Name of Justice POSTED ON NOVEMBER 26, 2008
      (pp. 186-186)

      Go ahead and kill if you want to, kill to your heart’s satisfaction. No one will care, so relax and bravely carry on. Exterminate a life, it wouldn’t be the thousandth, or the ten thousandth, and it won’t be the last time. When the tanks rolled over adolescent bodies, not a single one of you hesitated.

      Since it became clear long ago that evil deeds will not be met with the slightest bit of punishment, since lies are the only means that might stave off your death, and since the grasses of justice will never grow on this barren land,...

    • Bullshit Is Free POSTED ON DECEMBER 18, 2008
      (pp. 186-188)

      Both social and personal transformations, anything with the connotation of transformation, comes at a cost; this means an expense. This is why when things reach a crucial point, even a not so crucial point, people start to bicker and calculate costs, they price themselves out of the market, and look for local money to bargain down. Looking at Chinese society from this angle, it’s impossible to be blindly optimistic, because democracy is good, justice is good, and after bullshitting for days it definitely indicates the universal value of society, has the meaning of “universal benefits,” and universal benefits require someone...

    • Stimulating Domestic Introspection POSTED ON DECEMBER 30, 2008
      (pp. 188-189)

      Meddling with blogs and censoring comments is just a universal reminder of who the blog host really is on this patch of land. Although the government is not liberal or decent, it can’t be criticized. The lack of freedom of expression and the absence of public debate are old habits; it’s just that this makes blogging a little less interesting.

      Peace is flourishing, and aside from relying on pens and the barrels of their guns,47all dictators can do is make the common people’s lives a little less joyful, every day just a little less, every time just a little...

  8. 2009 Texts
    • Shanzhai Ideals POSTED ON JANUARY 4, 2009
      (pp. 192-192)

      Generally we say a certain kind of people will have a certain kind of government, that their brand of consciousness will be reflected in their politics. Or we could also say that their ideals will be projected in their national outlook. In that case, China won’t have much to be surprised about in 2009.

      That publication that “understands China”¹ and used all of its resources just to print timid editorials illustrates the problem perfectly. Veiled thoughts, implicit ideals, lethargic demands, and childish inspirations are types of masturbation exclusive to phony literati and sour academics.

      Lines from that document penned on...

    • Inappropriate Accusations, Excessive Punishments POSTED ON JANUARY 23, 2009
      (pp. 193-194)

      Midlevel civil courts in Shijiazhuang city have come to a decision on the Sanlu milk powder case.³ The accused chairman of the Sanlu Corporation, Mr. Tian Wenhua, was convicted of the crime of manufacturing and selling false and inferior products, and sentenced to life in prison.

      In my opinion, these are inappropriate accusations, and excessive punishments.

      Accusing Sanlu of “manufacturing and selling false and inferior products” reconciles the government’s derelict responsibility and disorder in managing the safety of food products, conceals the truth, and disregards threats on the people’s lives, but nevertheless must still be seen as an improvement. However,...

    • Bullshit Tax POSTED ON FEBRUARY 1, 2009
      (pp. 194-197)

      “In order to protect air quality and build a livable city,” Beijing will levy an emissions fee on motor vehicles in yet another creative taxing policy with socialist characteristics. With 3.5 million automobiles on the road, and at 300 RMB per car, this will total 1.3 billion RMB per year. This is the first attempt in the Year of the Ox⁴ at stimulating domestic demand.

      As an urban resident, I am worried for the government, and I’d like to take action for her. I propose that the following industries and professions deliberate the feasibility of the following fees to be...

    • Two Jokes POSTED ON FEBRUARY 4, 2009
      (pp. 198-198)

      That ministry furthest removed from culture has begun supervising the art market. Over the past few days in Beijing, Shanghai, and other large cities, they have removed certification plaques from several galleries reading “Reliable Gallery.” You are uncultured, yet you forcefully supervise culture. First you launch the idea of “Reliable Gallery” plaques and then you revoke them; the entire affair, from start to finish, is just too far off the mark.

      A gallery is a place of business. A painting in a painter’s possession is a painting; the same painting in a gallery’s possession is merchandise. Selling a painting is...

    • Confidence, Face, a Shoe POSTED ON FEBRUARY 7, 2009
      (pp. 199-199)

      A nation has been shocked, and only because a non-Chinese conveyed his personal opinions in front of the public.11Immediately following were curses, and implications arose that this demonstrator’s individual viewpoints were somehow intertwined with farfetched ties of national interest. And then came the weeping and wailing apologies, the offender’s discharge from his university, and his punishment; they even distorted statements issued by their heads of state.12

      This is the only way we can redeem the face that we never had, and maintain the friendship that never existed.

      Instead, we should rejoice at the courage of the twenty-seven-year-old Cambridge doctoral...

    • Central Television Is Flaming POSTED ON FEBRUARY 10, 2009
      (pp. 200-201)

      The northern compound, known as the “Pup Tent,” of Central Television’s new headquarters, “the Big Underpants,”13caught fire at approximately 8:20 last evening. The compound would have served as the cultural center to the motherland’s central television station; it also housed a luxury seven-star hotel with more than 60,000 square meters and a combined price tag of over 600 million. The fire was difficult to bring under control, and the entire building was ablaze. Naked flames were still visible at two in the morning.

      Friends in the media said that all national media received notification from the authorities before midnight:...

    • Heartless POSTED ON FEBRUARY 11, 2009
      (pp. 201-203)

      Decades ago, “Dr. Bethunes” fighting on the medical front lines sold human organs for transplant; now China has become the world’s most active market for human organs.16It’s not because the Chinese people are cheap; even though you live cheaply doesn’t mean you’ll become cheap after you die. As to why a human might be cheap, that is a philosophical question not addressed in this essay.

      Here, we will be discussing purely technical issues.

      To put it most accurately, harvesting organs from the bodies of executed criminals is stealing. This is a public secret. Even though they want you dead,...

    • Central Television Inspired China POSTED ON FEBRUARY 14, 2009
      (pp. 203-205)

      To inspire the Chinese people,23Central Television no longer needs to rack their brains to find gimmicks, and neither does it need to ingratiate itself to the “united Chinese people.” The moonlight on the fifteenth night of this first lunar month was the most consummately round and most brilliant in the past fifty-two years; everything else in the world seemed inclined toward perfection as those imperceptible and miraculous forces made their presence known once again, decisively placing the crown of disgrace on the head of CCTV.

      Central Television’s fate and the evil reality are incessantly normalizing humiliation and repulsion, turning...

    • What Is Central Television, Anyway? POSTED ON FEBRUARY 17, 2009
      (pp. 206-207)

      It’s snowing. Soft snowflakes are tumbling down in the early morning, flake by flake and soundless. The snow arrived late this year, and soon everything before our eyes will be a field of white. Nature always fills us with rich insight and inspiration about reality; one day the world will change, only because this consciousness exists, just like the falling snow.

      Central Television burned five billion RMB, right in front of the entire nation; an amount equivalent to two Bird’s Nests was razed completely within the space of six hours. The solemn “thrifty Olympics” of last year really was something,...

    • My Regards to Your Mother POSTED ON FEBRUARY 27, 2009
      (pp. 207-208)

      The recent media hubbub over the rabbit and rat bronzes is just a big deal over nothing.28It’s as if someone has robbed the grave of a great nation’s ancestors, and the patriotic villains are squirming once again.

      The nationalists are not only stupid, they’re also forgetful: after only a few days of muscle flexing, no one inquired after the Wenchuan tofu-dregs engineering—who knows where those attorneys crawled off to and died. Three hundred thousand infants were poisoned and no one reported on it, the media are deaf and dumb, and the rights lawyers are maidservants. Public security organs...

    • Citizen Investigation POSTED ON MARCH 20, 2009
      (pp. 209-209)

      Three hundred days ago I traveled to the earthquake zone in Wenchuan county, Sichuan province. There I witnessed infinite suffering and terror.

      Today, we still cannot know who left us in the earthquake, why those children left us, and how they were taken. We will never know what they were feeling as they lay under the rubble waiting.

      During that disaster, I did not extend my hand. I honestly could not find the strength.

      They say the death of the students has nothing to do with them. They say it was inevitable, unavoidable, and that experts have demonstrated this. They...

    • Letter from a Beichuan Mother POSTED ON MARCH 20, 2009
      (pp. 210-210)

      “… lived happily in this world for seven years.”

      “Today we had a meeting, they talked about maintaining stability. They say there are more than fifteen hundred deceased children. They say that stabilizing our families will stabilize Beichuan. But I just want more people to know about my darling daughter … who once lived happily in this world for seven years.”

      I hesitate to omit the name of this “darling daughter” here, in deference to the “stability” that the Beichuan government craves. But only in that way will her mother be spared being “stabilized” first....

    • Guests from All Corners of the Earth POSTED ON MARCH 24, 2009
      (pp. 211-218)
      Ai Weiwei

      Question: What is the greatest difficulty you’ve encountered while working on the list of names?

      Ai Weiwei: Once a person is determined to do something, you become your own greatest difficulty. We don’t have that problem; we are willing to do this, willing to see this situation manifest some clarity in the end, no matter how difficult. Many people are not willing to reveal their identity when we investigate and interview locally; they are living in fear, and many have been incarcerated or threatened. People don’t dare to speak the truth or simple facts, and this is the greatest difficulty...

    • Day of True National Revitalization POSTED ON APRIL 13, 2009
      (pp. 218-219)

      You persistently delete, so I’ll just repost. Words can be deleted, but the facts won’t be deleted along with them. This process will be repeated for a long time, until the day arrives when we evolve, and facts and truth are no longer important to everyday life, so we can forget as we please.

      It’s not difficult to see that the main similarity in the endless disasters occurring on this plot of land takes the concealing of facts as an important component. The distortion and concealing of basic facts—what happened, how it happened, and why it happened—has become...

    • These Days I Can’t Believe Anything You Say POSTED ON MAY 7, 2009
      (pp. 219-221)

      The Sichuan government indicated once again that it would not pursue the issue of quality construction in the schools that collapsed during the earthquake. Their reasoning is that, in earthquakes of magnitudes exceeding the earthquake-proofing standards of the collapsed buildings, all losses are natural. The seemingly rational grounds to this argument are enough to allow those behind the tofu-dregs engineering to collectively exhale a sigh of relief—in the name of “scientific development” and “shouldering the power to build a party that serves the interests of the people,” more than two thousand Chinese architectural experts wrote down some of their...

    • Paranoid Citizen POSTED ON MAY 10, 2009
      (pp. 221-223)

      The one-year anniversary of the May 12 Wenchuan earthquake is fast upon us, and the government has repeatedly made it clear the schools that collapsed in the earthquake and the students who were killed have nothing to do with the quality of the buildings’ construction, have nothing to do with what people are calling “tofu-dregs engineering.”

      Organizations representing the wisdom and authority of the government, as well as the media, are attempting to convince the people that because the magnitude of the earthquake was so very high, the schools’ collapse was inevitable, and the death of these students unavoidable. As...

    • 5.12 Memorial Day POSTED ON MAY 12, 2009
      (pp. 224-225)

      Can these facts be altered? The hearts stopped beating, their limbs decayed, and their shouts disappeared with their breath, can these be returned? Wave upon wave of mighty propaganda from the national state apparatus cannot erase the persistent memories of the survivors. Crushed, the boneless and incompetent collapsed buildings belong to a generation of those unfortunate villagers, and the tofu-dregs engineering has been shielded, absolved by the clamor of desperate attempts at celebration. Those responsible for the offense are attempting to gloss over and distort in order to escape the condemnation.

      How foolish and obscene must a person be to...

    • How Could We Have Degenerated to This? POSTED ON MAY 16, 2009
      (pp. 225-227)

      They are arrogant enough to believe that stolen authority could alter the truth, or alter the will of others. At the same time they are fragile enough to believe that one dissenting voice could bring down their mighty force.36

      This is because they do not believe that their disreputable names will be written upon any of the ballots once the public truly has the power to cast its own vote.

      They have already lost hope in themselves, and they don’t want the voice of the people to be heard; but they don’t allow people to listen to each other or...

    • Domestic Security “Rice Cookers” POSTED ON MAY 27, 2009
      (pp. 227-228)

      At seven forty this evening, I was emerging from an embassy with the security of at least a three-star prison, after hearing the mumbles of Ms. Nancy “Human Rights” Pelosi. I have finally witnessed the amount of money that could turn a once crafty heroine into an obsequious, culpable old bag. Even more laughable is the fact the United States embassy has inherited the great legacy of the Chinese, vomit.

      I left my mobile phone in the car to avoid having it confiscated by the United States Marines. I returned a call from my mother, and she told me nervously...

    • Don’t Harbor Illusions about Me POSTED ON MAY 28, 2009
      (pp. 228-230)

      It’s about that time of year again, and you must be busy these days.40Sending one of “your own” people to the public security bureau, that was just another misunderstanding.

      Just the day before, I had called 110 twice, and sent two domestic security officers who had forgotten to bring their identification to the PSB.

      Today, I called 110 three times to file a report, sending those two plainclothes cops who were trailing me to the PSB.

      In short, no matter if it is the aforementioned domestic security officers, public security cops, plainclothes police, 110 on-duty officers, or the cadres...

    • I’m Ready POSTED ON MAY 28, 2009
      (pp. 230-230)

      “Be careful! Are you ready?”

      I’m ready. Or rather, there’s nothing to get ready for. One person. That is everything that I have, it is all that someone might possibly gain and everything that I can devote. I will not hesitate in the time of need, and I won’t be vague.

      If there were something to be nostalgic about, that would be the wonders that life brings. These wonders are the same for each and every one of us, a game where everyone is equal, and the illusions and freedom that come with it. I see any manner of threat...

    • Let Us Forget POSTED ON JUNE 3, 2009
      (pp. 231-231)

      Let us forget June Fourth, forget that day with no special significance. Life has taught us that every day under totalitarianism is the same day, all totalitarian days are one day, there is no day two, there was no yesterday and is no tomorrow.

      Likewise, we no longer need segments of reality, and we no longer need fragmented justice or equality.

      People with no freedom of speech, no freedom of the press, and no right to vote aren’t human, and they don’t need memory. With no right to memory, we choose to forget.

      Let us forget every persecution, every humiliation,...

    • If You Aren’t Anti-China, Are You Still Human? POSTED ON JUNE 3, 2009
      (pp. 231-233)

      The party is infinitely testing the people: your Internet is dammed,41education is programmed, and you’re duped by the papers, poisoned by milk, and condemned if you’re unemployed. Public transport is bombed, you’re robbed of your land, your house is razed, your children are sold, miners are crushed, young women are assaulted, and everything else belongs to security guards, city management, the military police, domestic security, gets stabilized, or goes mentally ill.

      Demand that rapists be apprehended, and they say it’s anti-China; children are crushed by collapsed buildings, but inquire about the quality of the construction and that’s anti-China too;...

    • Boycott the Internet on July 1, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Calculate Losses or Gains POSTED ON JUNE 23, 2009
      (pp. 233-234)

      Our plight today was caused by China’s having too many smart people, who are always saying: “What’s the use in doing that? What will happen afterward?” I suddenly understand that, in any struggle like this, we not only need to confront power and violence, but even more so, we need to confront those smart, sneering people, their ubiquitous expressions from their oily, learned ways, calculating astuteness, and blatantly seeking their own advantage. They are often more honorable and educated, demonstrating sound mind, and full of advice.

      They are similar in that none of them is fond of taking action, because...

    • 140 Characters POSTED ON JULY 9, 2009
      (pp. 234-236)

      The premises for arriving at ethical public judgments are the possibility for people to obtain the truth and the assumption that they are endowed with the potential for self-expression and participation. This is called democracy. Any style of governance lacking these guarantees is a violent one, and political violence is the source of other social violence.

      How do both sides understand the form and method? On one side are terrified, panic-stricken Uyghur common folk; on the other are soldiers and fully armed police, dressed head to toe in combat gear, with their tanks, arrogant powers clamoring to repress and attack,...

    • I Really Can’t Believe It POSTED ON NOVEMBER 20, 2009
      (pp. 236-237)

      Yesterday, the Ministry of Public Security sent someone who spent the entire afternoon at Bank of China investigating my account information. Their reason for the investigation was that I was involved in “fraud.” What are they trying to do?

      The Ministry of Public Security investigated very thoroughly, for more than three hours. Such actions prove they have no moral and ethical bottom line. I’m not surprised at all. When I heard that I was involved in “fraud,” I laughed—at least they are sharing their honor with me.

      My mother and sister both received inquiring calls from the bureau. At...

  9. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 238-243)
    Ai Weiwei

    Question: What were you feeling when the Sina blog was closed?

    Ai Weiwei: It’s very difficult to explain my feelings when the Sina blog was shut down. Even though it was a blog, after all, I had spent more than three years on it. I had more than 2,700 posts, and included a great number of images and texts. Even if I was on the road, I posted every day, or had my assistant post for me, and thus I had a high traffic volume, and it became an energetic blog. Even outside of China, I’m sure that few places...

  10. CHRONOLOGY
    (pp. 244-253)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 254-281)
  12. CHINESE NAME EQUIVALENTS
    (pp. 282-285)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 286-307)