Translated by Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping
Art by Veronica Cross
I had heard of Xishuangbanna’s spectacularly colorful night life, but of course I didn’t experience it until I moved here.
As soon as the sun sets, groups of young Dai minority women wearing tube skirts come out from the large tropical rain forests in the mountains—almost like slender seahorses in the ocean. Pinned to each one’s hair is a fresh-scented flower. They come to work in this small town in the foothills. What kind of work? I asked a young girl named Yuxiang. She answered, “Night tours.” My God, night tours! How wonderful!
The young guy Yanbo told me that the air in Xishuangbanna is miasmatic. You know this just by looking at the white mist clinging to the mountains. Whatever you do, don’t interact with the girls from the mountain villages. They’re all sorceresses who steal people’s souls. How can a man go on living in this world when his soul has been snatched away? I didn’t believe Yanbo. In that place where mountain banyans and foxtail palms face each other across the streets, I had seen the ghostlike tube skirts break away from the ground intermittently under the dim streetlights. I thought that must be their “night tours.” The young women here really do have the ability to steal souls, but exactly how do they do that? I shouldn’t have expected Yanbo to answer this kind of question. In my view—I know they won’t agree—Dai people give irrelevant answers. For example, Yanbo answered by saying, “You’ll figure this out in the summertime.” But I felt his answer had nothing to do with the seasons, nor with duration, but was related to a certain transformation of the scene that escaped people’s attention. The Dai people’s thinking was wide open and nimble, often enigmatic.
In the fierce sunshine, the little town encircled by mountain ranges fell asleep. Hardly anyone was out and about on the streets and alleys. Even the dogs walked around in a daze. Living in an apartment building, I waited. I knew everyone was waiting. This is a town that never sleeps, though it isn’t a prosperous modern city, either. It’s a town where people murmur in whispers. People come and go in the night market, which glows with lights. Wooden boats slowly ply the river; women sing on the boats. Street stalls are filled with young people drinking. But this is all on the surface; it isn’t the core of this small town. When it’s time to light the lamps, the little town gradually wakes up. After dinner, I left home and walked toward the centipedelike alleys on the riverside. In the alleys, there are graceful acacia trees, and a scent similar to that of osmanthus flowers drifts in the air. Perhaps the scent comes from the flowers that the Dai women wear in their hair. I squinted and saw a few girls turn into an even smaller alley. They weren’t Dai people; it seemed they were the Bulang minority. The flowers in their hair wobbled like phoenixes—this was what I saw under the dim streetlight. I rushed toward the corner where they had turned and disappeared, but I didn’t find any side alley. There was only a wall made of stone, apparently enclosing a park. I felt my way along the wall, but didn’t notice any gap in it. The osmanthus scent was stronger here. Entering the shadows, I continued walking ahead. They surely had gone through the wall—these Bulang girls.
“Yuanfeng, how come you’re walking here alone?” An alarmed voice came from a dark place.
“I’m chasing women. What about you?”
“So am I!” Little Ji laughed.
He jumped over to the streetlight and told me that he had moved from the interior to Xishuangbanna six years ago and had been inextricably ensnared in love. Every night, he had to come out and wander around until early morning. He was so used to this that it was like an addiction. I met this guy in a teahouse. We usually were just nodding acquaintances. Now, he had suddenly confided in me. Was it because he’d been intoxicated by the fragrance or because of being in the dark?
“Is your sweetheart here?” I asked Ji.
“She’s everywhere, but never where I am.”
We walked side by side, but I couldn’t touch him, because his body had dissolved. “Ah, Xishuangbanna!” I sighed. The streetlights were spaced far apart, so most of the places I passed were in the dark. I listened attentively to the clatter of Ji’s footsteps: dada, dadada, dada . . . such a strange sound for footsteps. I had to find something to say, because these footsteps were giving me goose pimples. I asked Ji if he knew the Dai girl Yuxiang. Ji said sure, he knew her. Wasn’t Yuxiang the one who hurt people just by looking at them? Ji said he had seen Yuxiang topple his colleague to the ground with her gaze—and the poor guy hadn’t been able to speak for two days. There were many girls whose gaze hurt people, but he had never seen anyone as formidable as Yuxiang. When I heard this, I felt sort of proud of myself: Yuxiang was my tea buddy. Every week or two, we would meet in the teahouse.
“In a place like this, you’d have to be dead not to fall in love”
A group of young Xishuangbanna guys appeared in our field of vision. They looked dispirited and their steps were soft. They wore black clothing. Ji grew excited, and his footsteps now became normal. He made a megaphone with his hands, as if shouting to that group of people, but I couldn’t hear anything he said. As they brushed past us, I suddenly heard Ji say something.
“They’re going to jump off the cliff—the cliff called ‘the path of the brave’ on the mountain on the south side, the one with large Buddha carvings.” Ji’s voice was full of admiration.
“Is Yanbo with them?” I asked.
“Of course. After crossing the cliff, one can meet young girls. Yanbo was most enthusiastic about this.”
“I see.” I asked Ji again, “Why do they look so anxious?”
Ji said, “They’re just a little worried, that’s all, before they reach the cliff. As soon as they get there, everything will change.”
“How will they change when they’re there?”
“They’ll become arrogant turkeys. They fly a lot better than turkeys do.”
“Then aren’t they afraid their souls will be stolen by the girls in the mountain villages?”
“This is exactly what they long for day and night.” Ji began laughing.
As we were talking, I stretched my hand out to the left and grabbed something like a cotton stalk. My palm felt numb and my hand bounced backward. Was this withered cotton stalk young Ji’s body? But he was still able to speak, and his train of thought was clear. I looked up, and pointing to the shadow ahead, I asked, “Who’s there?”
“Shhh. Not so loud,” Ji said. “That’s my dad. He’s out for some fun.”
The shadow leapt and climbed the stone wall—jumped into the garden enclosed by the wall. His landing set off a volley of screams. It was a miracle that this old man was so vigorous! Ji said his dad had come to Xishuangbanna only last year. And now, like Ji, he had become ensnared by love. “In a place like this, you’d have to be dead not to fall in love,” Ji said.
We still had a ways to go. Now I could no longer hear Ji’s footsteps. Maybe he had left me? Ji was right: here in Xishuangbanna, who could help falling in love? I was in love, too. It’s just that I didn’t love one particular girl: I loved all the enchantresses. Every day, I hoped that the sun would soon set behind the mountain, because the enchantresses naturally belonged to the dark. I knew that as a man from the outside world, I would be the most appealing to them. Yet, more than a year had passed, and I still had been unable to approach any local girl. Their interest in me was limited to watching me from a distance. This was distressing. I couldn’t even compare with Ji’s old man. As I was thinking this, a hand gripped my shoulder. I touched that hand right away with my left hand, and felt the smooth back of a girl’s hand.
“Who are you?” I whispered.
“Good lord!” I was so surprised I nearly choked.
He let go and disappeared. This was truly a land of demons, this Xishuangbanna.
I came to a small bar. Floating in front of its door were two triangular scarlet banners. This was the only building on the street. The lights were faint, illuminating only these two banners. The inside of the bar was odd: upon entering, one could see that it was even darker than outside. There were no lights on the wall or the roof; there were only a few floor lamps on the luxurious carpet.
I was lucky. There were two girls in the bar tonight. I couldn’t get a good look at their faces. The two of them were chatting.
By the time I finished a glass of champagne, their conversation had become animated. I heard the plump girl repeatedly say: “Tangle, fight.” I couldn’t hear anything else they said. The rather tall girl became more and more impatient. Her eyes flashed green like a cat’s. Raising her glass, she was trying her best to stand up, but her companion pulled her down to her seat. “Tangle!” the plump girl shouted. I noticed that the flower in her hair was yellow.
They resumed talking, their voices lowered. I pretended to be staring at the wine in my glass. For some reason—probably my own wishful thinking—I thought these two girls had come here because of me. I also thought that something was going to happen tonight, right here in this bar. The proprietor wasn’t at the counter; only a lazy server was sitting there. I used to think guys were always buying drinks in a bar for the girls from the mountain villages. It hadn’t occurred to me that the girls might come to drink on their own. I made up my mind that I wouldn’t approach them; I would just watch and see what was going to happen. I was nervous, and my hand was shaking.
However, nothing happened. The two girls stood up, and—holding onto each other for support—walked out of the bar. Their silhouettes disappeared quickly into the night. “Two hookers,” the proprietor said to me as I stood at the door looking out. His tone held both contempt and admiration.
“Mr. Qiu, people who work in ‘night tours’—are they sex workers?” I raised my voice.
Mr. Qiu laughed out loud and finally answered, “Are you speaking of ‘night tours’? That’s the kind of work that Xishuangbanna offers. Are you asking what kind of work that is? No, I cannot answer you. Nobody can. This is a serious question.”
He seemed vexed and turned back in, leaving me alone outside.
I looked at my watch. It was two in the morning. After walking a while, I came to a street corner. Ahead of me were two small alleys, one on the left and one on the right. The locals called these alleys “coffee alleys,” because of the numerous coffee shops there. I chose the alley on the left. A big teahouse was wedged between many coffee shops in this alley. It was in this teahouse that I had become acquainted with Yuxiang and Ji—on two different occasions.
I couldn’t find the teahouse. Maybe it was closed, or maybe something was wrong with my eyesight. I walked to the end of this nameless little alley, then turned around and came back. On my way back, no one else was in the alley. Even the coffee shops were closed. It was dark all over. I retraced my steps, intending to go through this small alley to the street on the other end.
“Yuanfeng, you still don’t get it after all this time.”
To my surprise, it was Yuxiang speaking. She was standing next to me. Her voice was hoarse: Had she been drinking?
“Yuxiang, where did you come from?”
“From the bar over there. The whole time, I was sitting next to you at the same table. You didn’t notice. You were watching the show at the table across from us. You were absolutely absorbed in it. And yet they abandoned you—the same as just now: you paced back and forth in this small alley with no results. This alley abandoned you.”
She held her hand out to me, and I held it. It was a man’s big rough hand. It certainly wasn’t Yuxiang’s hand. I uttered a shocked “Oh!” and the hand impatiently threw off my hand, as though throwing off something dirty. “Yuxiang,” I said in confusion. All around, it was still. She had faded away. The rare fragrance of the flower in her hair lingered in the air. I stood in the little alley, unable to decide what to do. “Yuxiang, Yuxiang!” I shouted inwardly. I remembered how unfathomable she had been standing under the foxtail palm in the early morning after rain.
All the streetlights were dark, except for one at the end of the street that was still lit. Next to it was a huge traveler banana tree that was like an evil man spreading out to shroud all the secrets behind it. I stood there for a while and then mischievously circled the tree. I saw nothing but a brick wall. Screams of young girls came from cracks in the wall. I stood in the dark shadows. From one wave after another of screams, I understood the secrets of the traveler banana tree. Just like me, it was not a native of this place. What had it gone through to take root in this small town of Xishuangbanna? I once thought I could understand it, but on this kind of night, communicating with it in silence, I was bewildered.
All right, I had reached the main street again—Peacock Street. The lights here were glorious, and people were hidden amid the shrubs and trees. Next to the sidewalks there were many rows of trees—some flowering and some fruit bearing. There were so many men and women, and yet the whole street was quiet. Why didn’t they make any noise? The shops were closed, but the neon lights of the shop signs were still flashing. The owner of a small shop was lying in a hammock under a tree and looking at a picture album by the light of the streetlight. I stood in front of him, waiting for him to look up. But he was absorbed in the album.
“What are you looking at, Yanliu?”
“The Flora of Xishuangbanna.” He sat up.
“Don’t you see the plants every day? Why bother reading about them?”
“There are so many exotic plants that I’ve seen only in my dreams. It isn’t fair!”
He ignored me and lay down again to look at his book.
Although everyone was hiding in the undergrowth, Peacock Street didn’t have any secrets. Under the bright lights, everything was visible to everyone, though some things were unanswerable riddles.
The street stalls had closed, and the tables and chairs had been moved. The only thing remaining was the smell of food in the air. Probably because there was no wind, the air was stagnant. A white-haired old man stood in front of a small inn, contemplating.
“Are you waiting for someone, sir?” I approached him.
“No. I can’t bear to be away from her.”
“Yes. Xishuangbanna. She’ll be gone soon. I sense the secret rays of sunlight.”
On the wooden tower of the inn, a Dai girl dropped a red flower—perhaps one plucked from her head. Was she also trying to keep Xishuangbanna from leaving? Passion surged in my heart again. Tonight, I was so lucky! I took my leave of the old man and the young woman and continued walking ahead. Soon, I reached the place where the mountain banyans and the foxtail palms faced each other across the street. What was that? One, and then another—shadows, or small suns, fusing together with star-like plumeria flowers . . . So many, so many young women. Could this be the cliff?
I wanted to stop for a while, but my pace had picked up. I charged directly into the plumeria shrubs and saw young girls without legs suspended in the shrubs. In a split second, a big brown dog began barking furiously. It pounced on me, knocking me down. It was three times the size of an ordinary brown dog. It bit my neck, but not very hard. It was more like nipping. Its claws pressed me down, and I couldn’t budge. I looked beyond its ear to the tree, and I saw a beautiful woman suspended in a stream of blue air. I was enraptured! “She—” I said softly. As soon as I spoke, the brown dog disappeared, and at the same time, the young girl under the flowering tree disappeared. I climbed up from the ground, and saw the long line of beautiful women leaving: they were going away from the foxtail palm into a small street. “She—ah!” I yelled in a low voice. The place where I was standing darkened at once: the street lights and the decorative lights went out; as far as the eye could see, only places in the distance were still brightly lit.
With great difficulty, I walked out of the darkness and looked at my watch. It was already four-thirty. In Xishuangbanna, it didn’t turn light until almost seven o’clock. It was now the darkest time before daybreak. Weren’t there any lights? Lights couldn’t banish the dark. Someone whispered to me, “I wanted to stop for a while inside, even if only for five seconds. But I was flung out. I didn’t belong there.” It was Yanbo who said this, his voice full of longing and dismay. With an understanding smile, I responded in the direction of the voice: “Xishuangbanna?” At once, a stranger’s bass voice answered, “This is a town that never sleeps.”
The bass voice sat reading a book on a wooden chair under the street light. It was a thick book, but I noticed that the pages had no words. I drew close to him, but he didn’t want to talk to me. He was waiting for me to leave. The moment I started to move, he spoke.
“One kind of night tour isn’t walking around, but being motionless. Yuanfeng, we don’t associate with each other, but we meet every night in that casino next to the mountain. My name is Yanmeng.”
“Nice to meet you, Yanmeng. Does your book say anything about what happened tonight on the cliff?”
“As a matter of fact, it says that everyone flew across. Listen: the young girls are singing below the cliff.”
We sat shoulder to shoulder. That’s right—I could hear the faint singing. I shifted my gaze to the darkness I had just left: in the dark, countless pinpoints of light were bubbling up. Were these the sun’s secret rays of light that the white-haired old man had spoken of? When I was in the dark, I hadn’t seen them. Look: they were forming a pattern. And that enormous pattern was leading directly to heaven . . . an inner voice was saying: “Your eyes, my eyes.”
As Yanmeng turned the pages, three butterflies flew out from the book. With a thump, he closed the book and shut his eyes.
I should go. The street corner was just ahead. Three young guys were standing there.
“Are you going to the casino?” one of them asked me.
“No, I’m going to the cliff.”
“Xishuangbanna is the cliff. Do you mean you intend to fly out?” he teased as he looked at me.
The singing voices echoed from the other side of the stone wall. I remembered what Yanmeng had just said to me. Oh, I had such a poor imagination! This was the difference between the indigenous peoples and outsiders.
Though I walked far away, I could still hear the young guys talking about me: “He doesn’t like this place.” “He’s looking at it with the cool eye of a bystander.” “Look at the way he walks—how can he see the cliff?” The three of them broke into raucous laughter. And over at the wall, the girls’ singing suddenly grew louder . . .
I was ashamed. My eyes stung as if soapy water had slid into them. I wiped my eyes repeatedly with my sleeve. Behind me, someone was calling my name over and over again, but I couldn’t open my eyes. I crouched down at the roadside. I sensed several strangers surrounding me. One asked his companion, “This outsider—is he afraid of the sunshine?”
All of a sudden, I realized something, and in spite of the pain, I struggled to open my eyes. Ah—it was daylight! After I wiped my eyes again with my sleeve, they adapted. I looked all around, but didn’t see anyone.
At the gate of my apartment, the cannas were as red as fire. The girl Yuxiang stood waiting for me in the midst of the cannas.
“Yuanfeng, you’re back. I’ve been worried about you. It isn’t peaceful here at night.”
“Thank you. I didn’t know you thought the same thing. Indeed it isn’t peaceful. Do you think it’s beautiful?”
“Yes, of course. I’m a daughter of this place.”
She cheerfully took her leave after arranging to see me again at night at the cliff.
Xishuangbanna’s torrid daytime heat was torture. Even if I hid in my apartment and closed the curtains, the sunlight still irritated my nerves. Even the thick dark drapes couldn’t stop the sunlight’s close pursuit. In my half-waking state, I always saw the same scene: a large whale’s skeleton was beached on the seaside that stretched far into the distance, and a five- or six-year-old boy was standing beside the skeleton and singing. Could I be the whale that had lost its physical body? Under the high vault of the sky, black juice was still boiling inside the exposed skeleton. The boy surely heard the strange sound coming from the air-dried bones. Outside the window, downstairs, the girl Yuxiang was shouting the same thing: “This time, you mustn’t be left behind again.” I tossed and turned in bed. I wanted to come to an agreement with the sunlight, but this was nearly impossible. Once, I wanted to enter my previous history—I had actually already set out, but it vanished in a flash, leaving only the glaring rays of light.
I awakened in the afternoon, and after washing up, I headed to the restaurant. I ran into Ji in the corridor. He said he had come here to look for his dad. His dad was on the fifth floor.
“I ran into him last night,” I said, meeting his eyes.
“He’s an eccentric guy, isn’t he?” As he said this, Ji gestured vaguely.
“I think that your dad has many doubles. He doesn’t want to open up his soul to others.”
“Yes, indeed. Yet, it’s because of this that girls are crazy about him. Xishuangbanna’s young girls . . .”
I watched him disappear into the elevator. Then I remembered that I should have asked him about the cliff. Never mind. He was a loser.
I ate a lot, probably because I had used up so much energy the night before. The only other person in the restaurant was the proprietor, Mr. Ho. The drapes were all closed: this suited me just right. This proprietor was new here.
“Where are you from, Mr. Ho?” I asked.
“A mountain village about thirty miles from here.”
“Were you able to adapt to city life?”
“Oh, absolutely! When I make enough money, I’ll do the same thing you’ve done—rent an apartment and hang out on the streets at night. This place is fascinating. If it weren’t for having to make a living, I’d have given up working a long time ago.”
Mr. Ho walked over to me and said softly, “Just now, before you came down, I saw a beautiful woman-snake stick its head in. I closed the drapes to lure it inside. Then you arrived, and as soon as you did, it slithered away. Life here is so rich. Life is fleeting; I need to make money fast. I came here in order to find my sweetheart—someone had seen her in this town. Back then, we parted on the riverbank . . . If my life were like yours, I’d be able to find her. Oh.”
In the dim light, I saw how handsome Mr. Ho was—like an ancient warrior.
At the door, young Ji was calling me, and I walked out of the restaurant.
I saw that he was bursting with life, as if he had become a new person.
“Yuanfeng, I want to jump from the cliff—this very night! I’ve found the courage now.”
“Did you see your dad?” I asked.
“No. But I saw a beautiful woman. Just now. Turning a corner in the corridor over there.” His face glowed red.
“Do you mean the snake spirit?”
“Oh, my, Yuanfeng, you're really smart. She’s so beautiful. I used to be afraid of her, but today, when she and I exchanged glances, I suddenly changed my mind.”
After I returned to my room and drank a cup of Yunnan’s Pu'er tea, I was in a better mood. I opened the drapes halfway and gazed at the grass across the way. The beautiful woman-snake was stationed in our building. Maybe she was the bridge for outsiders like me to communicate with Xishuangbanna. I didn’t need to be anxious. Just now, young Ji had told me, “There are cliffs everywhere here. It’s just a matter of summoning the courage to fly across them.” When Ji told me he had found the courage, I sensed that I had courage, too.
At this moment, I remembered the stone wall and the singing from the other side of the stone wall. Were they perhaps the cliff? Why hadn’t I thought earlier of jumping over it? Ai, ai—I was so old-fashioned. There were so many nights that I had passed by it. And the singing—I’d been familiar with it for a long time. I had experienced all of it and forgotten it. I had simply been a bystander. Actually, the cliff and the women had been beckoning me from the very beginning. This was a tender kind of patience. I had finally seen the virtue of this town. Maybe everything would open up to me if I stopped being a bystander. The local people had told me: Xishuangbanna opens one’s self; no details are ever hidden. That’s right: she had been open to view from the very beginning, but I hadn’t recognized this.
In the corridor outside my door, someone was knocking on my neighbor’s door – knocking courteously and patiently. My neighbor was a man from the north. He was clearly in the room: Why wasn’t he opening the door? Was it a girl knocking at the door? This man came from the icy cold north: would he open his door and his heart for a local girl? As I listened, the golden serpent appeared. It crossed the grass and came to the acacia tree. Under the tree, its wonderful body stood up and we looked at each other. Oh, my! Even in the daytime, Xishuangbanna could smell the smoke of war. Watching the golden serpent dancing was exciting. I decided to jump over the wall tonight—maybe not jump over it, but bump into it. In the corridor, the girl was shouting, and then she left, leaving a phantom world behind to the man from the north. His heart still hadn't thawed. When I was thinking of hailing the krait, I noticed that my arm was numb. I couldn’t move it. My neck was numb, too. And my head was fixed in one direction. I felt that the snake’s expression was severe. Mother Earth was rumbling. I could not make a sound.
Inwardly, I said, “I want to.”
At last, it was night. Before this, Xishuangbanna had been fighting with the sun for control of this territory. Little by little, the rays of light had retreated. When all of them had vanished, the town that never sleeps was resurrected. It wouldn’t be easy for outsiders to adapt to living here, because all objects were filled with that kind of equivocal expression that made outsiders afraid to make any move. Outsiders, who were used to a world with distinct outlines, saw things from fixed angles. Once in this chaotic town, most of them lost their sight during the night. I was an outsider, too. I had experienced the confusion and pain of losing eyesight, and now—step by step—I was regaining it. I had conquered my fear. And as I watched, the inner mechanism of this heroic town was gradually revealed to me.
As soon as I walked out of the apartment building’s gate, I realized I was being followed. I was heading to the alley with the acacia that I had gone to yesterday. Next to the alley was a park enclosed by a stone wall. I walked a while in the alley and then looked back: I saw a man wearing a turban steal into this small alley. He dodged into the dense dark shadows. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was still following me. He and I were the only two people in this alley. I saw that familiar corner and reached out to feel the wall. But the wall had vanished, and it was the air that my hands touched. There was no light where I was standing; the streetlights were far away. I couldn’t be sure if what I was facing was the cliff or the wasteland. Perhaps the wall around the park had been demolished? I had decided to bump into the wall. When I was in the ready-to-go position, I suddenly heard a belly laugh, and then a flashlight was trained on my face. I couldn’t see him, but I knew it was the one who had been following me.
“Yuanfeng, tonight belongs to you. Everything that you’ve seen and that you haven’t seen: they will all come to rendezvous with you,” he said.
“Do you mean I don’t need to jump from the cliff?” I was a little disappointed.
“You just did. Why make things difficult again? Just go to the right. There is no danger in Xishuangbanna. The roads are open in all directions.”
He turned off the flashlight and left me.
I headed to the right: in that direction lay the park. It was dark everywhere in the familiar park. Not until I had walked for a while did I see several little lights hanging from the plumeria shrubs. The faces of four or five legless young girls showed through the clusters of flowers. I ran toward that tree and couldn’t help shouting, “Yuxiang, I’m here! Wait for me!” To me, they were all Yuxiang. My head was spinning.
The next moment, I fell into a pit. Luckily, the bottom of the pit was soft mud. I lay there. Above me, meteors showered from the sky. One by one, the young guys flew over through the brightly burning meteor shower. Oh! Those young guys—oh—the heroes in this heroic city. Young Ji and Yanbo were among them. The bell tolled from the vault of heaven, and the universe shuddered. Lying in the pit, I became the chronicler of this spectacle.
Fall / Winter 2023
Can Xue (pseudonym for Deng Xiaohua) grew up in Hunan Province, and subsequently lived for a number of years in Beijing. Now living in Xishuangbanna in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province, Can Xue has been at the forefront of experimental writing in China since 1983. She has written several novels and numerous short stories, and has been translated into a number of languages. She has won or been longlisted for literary awards in the west. I Live in the Slums was longlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize.
Chen Zeping and Karen Gernant
Chen Zeping, who was professor emeritus of Chinese linguistics at Fujian Normal University, Fuzhou, China, and Karen Gernant, professor emerita of Chinese history at Southern Oregon University, have collaborated in translating contemporary Chinese fiction for more than twenty years. Seven of their book-length translations of Can Xue’s works have been published. They have also published translations of works by Zhang Kangkang, Alai, Zhang Yihe, Zhu Wenying, and many others.
Veronica Cross is a visual artist, writer, DJ/radio host, independent curator, and material culture specialist. Her studio practice includes painting, video/film, photography, assemblage, and installation, and explores femme expression, healing, communion, memory, and the potentialities of found objects. Cross studied at the School of Visual Arts, SUNY Empire College’s Studio Semester Program, and more, later earning her BA in studio art & entrepreneurial studies with an art history minor at the University of Southern Maine and her MFA in visual art at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is a member of The Second Story Gallery in New Orleans, LA.