- A. J. Samuels
China’s rapid urbanization and population growth of the past 30 years has been almost inevitably paralleled by rapid growth in the arts and cultural scene. Yet the vast nature of China’s contemporary arts and culture scene can seem daunting. The following are the best arts and culture blogs and websites that will help you navigate the riches of China’s cultural landscape.
China’s exciting innovations in the arts and culture, much of which is concentrated in major urban centers like Shanghai and Beijing, develop with unique regional differences. The cultural landscape of Chongqing or Chengdu is only superficially similar to that of Guangzhou or Dalian. The added challenge of beginning to understand this cultural immensity is language, much of the local coverage of China’s developments is in Chinese. Here, we feature the best English-language blogs and websites that can help visitors come to grips with China’s colorful cultural scene.
Randian 燃点 is a Hong Kong-based online arts magazine that fills a key niche in the Chinese contemporary arts coverage by providing English language updates about the ever-shifting art world. Randian’s articles feature contemporary artists, events, exhibitions, performances, projects and more. Its goal is to ‘promote independent cultural debate in China and to foster intellectual exchange between China and the rest of the world’. In addition to interviews, reviews and artists’ profiles, Randian also posts about art market news and upcoming events in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Australian writer, blogger and art teacher Luise Guest began her blog in 2011 and continues to provide a perceptive insight into Chinese contemporary art and art education. She also reviews contemporary Chinese art exhibitions in China and Sydney, where she is based. According to Guest:
‘The blog became my means to communicate my wide-eyed wonder as I discovered the richness and diversity of Chinese culture as well as the many challenges of contemporary life in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. This first experience has been followed by a subsequent trip to China and a very painful struggle over the last two years to learn Chinese. My fascination with China, and with Chinese contemporary art, continues to grow.’
In conjunction with the 88MOCCA Webmuseum, the 88MOCCA blog provides wide coverage of the Chinese contemporary arts scene in all its vibrant diversity, highlighting its cross-cultural and cross-media nature. With sections devoted to design, installation, multimedia, street art and more, 88MOCCA clearly acknowledges that there is no easy, containable classification for Chinese contemporary art. Instead, it is refreshingly, and maddeningly, in flux.
艺术界 LEAP is a self-described ‘international art magazine of contemporary China‘. Its bilingual cultural commentary reveals the cutting edge innovators and creative personalities working in China. Covering architecture, exhibition design, curation, film and current art practices, LEAP also features artist profiles, cultural features, artist portfolios and topical coverage of arts-related issues.
Paper Republic tackles Chinese literature in translation and its blog posts provide key insight into China’s literary and publishing scenes. Its group of bloggers is composed of writers and translators of Chinese-language literature. In addition to articles written about literature and translation by blog contributors, Paper Republic offers a particularly wonderful listing of Chinese works that have been translated into English as well as lists of translators, authors and publishers.
Mark’s China Blog selects a wide range of China-related material that aptly reflects the bloggers personal interest in the country. His natural curiosity drives the blog posts (‘1978 National Geographic – China’s Incredible Find‘) as he writes reviews about English-language books about China (‘Invisible China‘, ‘God Is Red‘, ‘Red Color New Soldier‘), upcoming exhibitions on Chinese art, TV documentaries, films and more. The author lived in Xi’an, China between 2006 and 2009. During that time and since then, the blog presents a ‘snapshot of China seen through the lens of an American with experience living in the country’.
WildChina is a sustainable travel company based in Beijing. In addition to their themed travel itineraries and bespoke services, WildChina offers one of the best blogs about traveling through contemporary China. With over 20 provinces, each with its distinctive character, culture, language and food, China is hardly a homogeneous entity. The WildChina blog thus introduces these disparate regions. Not least, WildChina’s blog features wonderful photographs of city-scapes and urban architecture, rural landscapes, food in all its variety, places to stay and visit, and more, taken through their travels around China.
One of the preeminent bloggers about China, Evan Osnos, maintains the Letter from China blog for the New Yorker. With a decided focus on providing commentary on news stories about China, Osnos offers an informed view that has been shaped by his years observing and living in China, where he has lived since 2005. His regular blog posts also include musings on the intersection of the arts and current affairs (see: ‘What is an iPad doing on a pedestal at a Chinese art museum?’ and ‘Mo Yan and the Hazards of Hollow Words‘), contemporary culture, Chinese society and more.
By Stephanie Chang