Chen Xiaowei: The Dude of Books


Author of the essay "Ian Boyden, Ch'ung ho, and Peach Blossom Fish."


Last year Chen Xiaowei, a writer and book collector from Beijing, wrote a beautiful essay about a book I produced called Peach Blossom Fish. This essay went viral on the Chinese web and caused something of a sensation. I have finally translated it into English and have launched it on my site. This essay is also going to appear in Xiaowei's forthcoming book titled 《好书之徒》. This title is quite funny in Chinese and the best I can do is this vaguely Lebowski-eque translation: The Dude of Books.


Here's an excerpt of the first paragraph:


The way I see it, 2010 is “The Year of Chang Ch'ung-ho.” First, I bought two new books published in mainland China: The Literary Traces of a Musician (written by Kang-i Sun Chang) and Chang Ch'ung-ho: Selected Poetry, Calligraphy and Painting (written by Bai Qianshen). Last week, I went to the Xiling auction in Hangzhou, which turned out to be pretty lively. The spring auction contained a batch of painting and calligraphy collected by Chang Ch'ung-ho; a dozen pieces of un-mounted, long, vertical scrolls of calligraphy by Shen Congwen (沈从文, 1902–1988); a horizontal scroll by Shen Yinmo (沈尹默, 1883–1971) of his own poetry; and random pieces by Yu Pingbo (俞平伯, 1900–1990), Qian Mu (钱穆, 1895–1990) and others. Finally, there was a work on silk of Chang Ch'ung-ho's xiaokai calligraphy titled Five Poems on the Subject of the Phoenix on Shen Congwen's tomb, to the tune of Wang Jiangnan. There was a huge crowd of bidders for this batch of works by distinguished people and from an old collection—as expected all auction items sold for very high prices. Someone next to me whispered: “The bidding price is so high that we will never have chance to recoup our investment.” However, we were determined to forge ahead regardless, even if there was no hope of ever breaking even. Chang Ch'ung-ho, the free spirit, would have never dreamed how she was making it possible for us mere mortals to have a raucous feast in her name.


Read the rest of the essay here.