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Creating Across Cultures by Michelle Vosper

This collection of profiles celebrates the artistic achievements of sixteen visionary women from a region of surprisingly diverse cultures despite their geographical proximity. From literary figures like Nieh Hualing and dance icons like Yang Meiqi, to bold contemporary artists Yin Xiuzhen and Lulu Hou, their creativity covers a wide range of literary, visual and performing arts. These courageous women often had to defy cultural expectations in order to heed their artistic drive. Their artworks delve into the social realities of their times, and their personal stories provide an intimate portrait of the historical trajectory of Greater China over three generations. Written by journalists and scholars with deep knowledge of the arts in Asia, and richly illustrated with images of art and historical events, the collection reveals the vibrance of women’s art in the region.

The profiled artists:

NIEH HUALING, born in Wuhan, China, is the author of more than two dozen books of fiction, critical essays and English translations. In 1967, along with her husband Paul Engle, she established the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, which was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1976.


LIAO WEN is an arts writer, critic and curator, whose unerring eye for emerging artists and trends helped to shape Chinese contemporary art. She curated one of the earliest exhibitions of Chinese women’s contemporary art (in 1995) and introduced a pioneering Chinese look at feminism in art with her book No More Nice Girls (2002).


CANDACE CHONG is a prolific, award-winning Hong Kong playwright, whose timely plays have captured the essence of the sui generis Hong Kong identity. Written in Cantonese, her works have resonated deeply with a new generation of theatergoers in Hong Kong.


YIN XIUZHEN is a leading contemporary artist in China whose installations have been exhibited in major museums across the world. Using recycled materials, she explores issues of globalization and seeks to preserve a memory of disappearing lifestyles resulting from excessive urbanization and development.


CHOI YAN CHI is an installation artist, painter, educator and cultural advocate, who has helped to build contemporary art in Hong Kong for more than thirty years. She was a pioneer of new art forms, from installation to cross-media performance, and founded one of the city’s first independent art spaces.

蔡仞姿,裝置與概念藝術家,在香港當代藝術三十多年發展中發揮了至關重要的作用。她是新藝術形式的先驅──從裝置、跨媒體表演到創立香港第一個獨立藝術空間1a space。

LULU HOU is a conceptual artist, scholar and educator, whose works raise awareness about the realities of marginalized people in Taiwan society. In recent years she has expanded her portfolio to include the preservation of architectural and cultural heritage in southern Taiwan.


JAFFA LAM is a Hong Kong artist who specializes in the creation of large-scale, site-specific works, mixed-media sculptures and installations, usually made with salvaged materials such as crate wood, old furniture and recycled fabric. Lam’s art involves and reflects strong elements of community, connection and collaborative processes.


YANG LINA is an award-winning filmmaker based in Beijing. A pioneer among contemporary Chinese directors, her unflinching documentaries have illuminated the plights of China’s marginalized, including women, children and the elderly.


BUN-CHING LAM is one of a growing number of Chinese women composers who are active on the international stage. A daughter of Macau, she is a passionate student of Chinese art, literature and aesthetics. Lam’s music is beyond East or West, dissolving boundaries to become an art that is truly representative of today’s interconnected world.


WANG XINXIN is a master performer of the musical genre called Nanguan. Originally from Fujian, she founded the Xinxin Nanguan Ensemble in Taipei in 2003 and performs traditional repertoire as well as contemporary adaptations of Chinese poetry and Buddhist sutra.


TIAN MANSHA is a master performer of chuanju (Sichuan opera) and a creator, teacher and director of xiqu, or traditional Chinese opera forms. Her repertoire includes classical pieces, Shakespeare adaptations, contemporary commissions and avant-garde xiqu works.


WU NA is a virtuoso performer and teacher of the guqin, an ancient stringed instrument that dates back nearly 3,000 years. Her personal and musical mission is to create a contemporary voice for the guqin, one that has relevance in today’s China and beyond, while still preserving the instrument’s core spiritual and aesthetic values.


YANG MEIQI, a renowned dance artist and educator, established China’s first modern dance troupe, the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, in 1992. Yang, who has been called the “Mother of Modern Dance in China,” nurtured the first and second generations of modern dance choreographers in China and is the leading force behind modern dance education.


PISUI CIYO is an award-winning choreographer, performer and educator born into the Atayal tribe in Taiwan. Her works of multimedia dance theater combine traditional indigenous art forms with Flamenco and modern performance art to create an expression of the contemporary indigenous artist.


MUI CHEUK YIN, a modern dance choreographer based in Hong Kong, is one of the leading dance-makers in East Asia today. She performed as principal dancer with the Hong Kong Dance Company for a decade and has created more than fifty works for ensembles in Asia, Europe and North America.


WEN HUI is a choreographer, actor, documentary filmmaker and founder of Living Dance Studio, which became China’s first independent dance theater collective in 1994. She has choreographed more than twenty groundbreaking multimedia productions that have toured the world.


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The Kite Family by Hon Lai-chu

A patient escapes from an asylum to spend his life as the perfect mannequin in a store display; a luckless man transforms himself into a chair so people can, literally, sit on him; after living alone is outlawed, a woman who resides quietly with her cat is assigned a role in an artificial “family.” These are just a few of the inhabitants of Hon Lai-chu’s stories, where surreal characters struggle to carve out space for freedom and individuality in an absurd world. The Chinese version of The Kite Family won the New Writer’s Novella first prize from Taiwan’s Unitas Literary Association, was selected as one of the Top 10 Chinese Novels Worldwide, and was awarded a Translation Grant from the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts.

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Snow and Shadow by Dorothy Tse

Long-listed for the University of Rochester's Best Translated Book Award 2015

Dorothy Tse’s stories often start on a note of innocence, but an abrupt twist invariably brings us up short: dreamscapes descend and the pages become populated with ever-weirder characters. Strange occurrences are juxtaposed in ways that confound logical expectations. These stories are not for the faint-hearted—violence and sensuality abound. Limbs, even heads, are lopped off with regularity. Yet scenes can be so outrageous that we find ourselves laughing. Tse’s bold narrative experiments leave us alternately beguiled and deeply unsettled.

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