Chinese New Year: The Year of the Dragon

Chinese New Year: The Year of the Dragon

2012 is the Year of the Dragon! Well, technically, it’s the Year of the Black Water Dragon.

The Gregorian calendar is used in East Asia to mark day-to-day activities, but the ancient Chinese lunisolar calendar is used to determine traditional holidays like the New Year. In this calendar, rather than count years into infinity, they are broken down into 60-year cycles and reuse names that are repeated every six decades. In other words, the last Year of the Black Water Dragon, was in 1952.

Confused? You can learn more at

Here at the Literary Duck, we hope you have a lucky, prosperous and happy Year of the Black Water Dragon. To celebrate the New Year, we’re recommending some amazing Chinese authors.


Soul Mountain

By: Gao Xingjian

In 1983, Chinese playwright, critic, fiction writer, and painter Gao Xingjian was diagnosed with lung cancer and faced imminent death. But six weeks later, a second examination revealed there was no cancer—he had won “a second reprieve from death.” Faced with a repressive cultural environment and the threat of a spell in a prison farm, Gao fled Beijing and began a journey of 15,000 kilometers into the remote mountains and ancient forests of Sichuan in southwest China. The result of this epic voyage of discovery is Soul Mountain.

Bold, lyrical, and prodigious, Soul Mountain probes the human soul with an uncommon directness and candor and delights in the freedom of the imagination to expand the notion of the individual self. (Publisher’s Marketing)


World and Town

By: Gish Jen

Cherished novelists are often those who combine humor with humanism, a feat Jen performs with particular aplomb as she choreographs telling cultural collisions. Her fourth sparkling yet deeply inquisitive novel portrays Hattie Kong, a retired high-school biology teacher who grew up in China, the daughter of an American missionary and a Chinese father descended from Confucius. After the deaths of her husband and best friend, Hattie seeks peace in the small New England town of Riverlake. But her father’s relatives are anxiously petitioning her to move her parents’ remains to the ancestral family graveyard; her great unrequited love, neuroscientist Carter, has resurfaced; and a church group has settled a traumatized Cambodian immigrant family on the property across from Hattie’s. Taking note of Chhung’s “Pol Pot facial,” Hattie takes his teenage daughter under her wing. But every relationship is jeopardized as conflicts rooted in the larger world, from a cell-phone tower to domestic violence, a gang’s trafficking, and religious hypocrisy, turn this haven into a battleground. Science is pitted against faith, karma against grace, and mayhem against forgiveness. Sharply funny and wisely compassionate, Jen’s richly stippled novel slyly questions every assumption about existence and meaning even as it celebrates generosity, friendship, and love. (Booklist)

I Love a Broad Margin to My Life

By: Maxine Hong Kingston

In her singular voice—both humble and brave, touching and humorous—Maxine Hong Kingston gives us a poignant and beautiful memoir-in-verse that captures the wisdom that comes with age. As she reflects on her sixty-five years, she circles from present to past and back, from lunch with a writer friend to the funeral of a Vietnam veteran, from her long marriage to her arrest at a peace march in Washington. On her journeys as writer, peace activist, teacher, and mother, she revisits her most beloved characters—Wittman Ah-Sing, the Tripmaster Monkey, and Fa Mook Lan, the Woman Warrior—and presents us with a beautiful meditation on China then and now. The result is a marvelous account of an American life of great purpose and joy, and the tonic wisdom of a writer we have come to cherish. (Publisher’s Marketing)

Nanjing Requiem

By: Ha Jin

The award-winning author of Waiting and War Trash returns to his homeland in a searing new novel that unfurls during one of the darkest moments of the twentieth century: the Rape of Nanjing. In 1937, with the Japanese poised to invade Nanjing, Minnie Vautrin—an American missionary and the dean of Jinling Women’s College—decides to remain at the school, convinced that her American citizenship will help her safeguard the welfare of the Chinese men and women who work there. She is painfully mistaken. In the aftermath of the invasion, the school becomes a refugee camp for more than ten thousand homeless women and children, and Vautrin must struggle, day after day, to intercede on behalf of the hapless victims. Even when order and civility are eventually restored, Vautrin remains deeply embattled, and she is haunted by the lives she could not save. With extraordinarily evocative precision, Ha Jin re-creates the terror, the harrowing deprivations, and the menace of unexpected violence that defined life in Nanjing during the occupation. In Minnie Vautrin he has given us an indelible portrait of a woman whose convictions and bravery prove, in the end, to be no match for the maelstrom of history.
At once epic and intimate, Nanjing Requiem is historical fiction at its most resonant. (Publisher’s Marketing)

Girl in Translation

By: Jean Kwok

A fresh, exciting Chinese-American voice makes a dazzling fiction debut (Marie Claire) with this novel—a national bestseller—about an immigrant girl forced to choose between two worlds and two cultures. When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn squalor, she begins a secret double life: exceptional schoolgirl during the day, Chinatown sweatshop worker in the evenings. Disguising the more difficult truths of her life—like the staggering degree of her poverty, the weight of her family’s future resting on her shoulders, or her secret love for a factory boy who shares none of her talent or ambition—Kimberly learns to constantly translate not just her language but also herself back and forth between the worlds she straddles. (Publisher’s Marketing)


The Cultural Revolution Cookbook

By: Sasha Gong and Scott D. Seligman

In 1969, millions of Chinese teenagers were forced from their homes in the city in order to live and work in the countryside as part of China’s Cultural Revolution. The work was backbreaking and rations were tight, but Sasha Gong has fond memories of learning to make simple, delicious country cooking. A collection of delectable, healthy, and easy-to-make Chinese recipes from the villages interspersed with a personal narrative and bits of historical context, this cookbook contains authentic Chinese dishes ranging from honey-braised duck to stir-fried rice made from ingredients found at local grocery stores. Chinese history buffs and foodies alike will enjoy discovering the integral connection between Chinese culture and food. (Publisher’s Marketing)

A Thread of Sky

By: Deanna Fei

When her husband of thirty years is killed, Irene Shen and her three daughters are set adrift. In a desperate attempt to heal her fractured family, Irene plans a tour of mainland China, reuniting three generations of women—her fiercely independent daughters, her distant poet sister, and her formidable eighty-year-old mother. But each woman bears secrets big and small, and just as they begin to reconnect, the most carefully guarded secret of all threatens to tear them apart forever. Depicting a China at once timeless and ever changing, A Thread of Sky is a beautifully written story of love and sacrifice, history and memory, sisterhood and motherhood, and the connections that endure. (Publisher’s Marketing)


Coming in May:


By: David Henry Hwang

Springing from the author’s personal experiences in China over the past five years, “Chinglish” follows a Midwestern American businessman desperately seeking to score a lucrative contact for his family’s firm as he travels to China, only to discover how much he doesn’t understand. Named for the unique and often comical third language that evolves from attempts to translate Chinese signs into English, Chinglish explores the challenges of doing business in a culture whose language—and ways of communicating—are worlds apart from our own. David Henry Hwang’s “best new work since M. Butterfly, this shrewd, timely and razor-sharp comedy” (Chicago Tribune) received its Broadway premiere in fall 2011.

David Henry Hwang is the author of the Tony Award-winning M. Butterfly, the Pulitzer Prize-finalist Yellow Face, Golden Child, FOB, Family Devotions, and the books for musicals Aida (as co-author), Flower Drum Song (2002 Broadway revival), and Tarzan, among other works. (Publisher’s Marketing)



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