China sojourn…

Amanda Curtin(photo by WEI Donghua)

Photo courtesy Wei Donghua

I recently took a four-week break from the blog—from all social media, in fact—when I joined the 2019 Sun Yat-sen Writers’ Residency in China. The residency promotes the reading and writing of world literature by providing the space for international writers to engage with Chinese literature, culture and people.

I had the privilege of sharing these four unforgettable weeks with seven other writers—Damien Wilkins, New Zealand; Abigail Parry, United Kingdom; Geoffrey Nutter, United States; Alecia McKenzie, Jamaica; Ignacio Vleming, Spain; Helmuth A. Niederle, Austria; Irene Santori, Italy—as well as the residency creator and director, Professor Dai Fan, her colleagues from Sun Yat-sen University, and three groups of translation students.

During the residency, writers each had a piece of work (mine, the short story ‘Gratitude’, from Inherited) translated into Mandarin, and I found the process of working with student translators Junhai Yang and Yueyie Kong fascinating, rewarding, and occasionally confronting. I learned that some words in English have no literal equivalent in Mandarin, and a common question from the students—Does this mean…?—required stepping back in time, into the genesis of the story, to find ways of explaining overall intention as well as words and sentences. It gave me an appreciation of the collaborative art that translation is—or can be—and of the students’ sensitive, careful work. During the residency, each writer gave a reading of the work translated, with both the English and Mandarin versions projected on screen.

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Aside from providing time to write—and reflect—the residency gave us an outstanding opportunity to experience aspects of Chinese culture and history, life in cities and villages, and some of China’s amazing landscapes. We spent time in Yangshuo (Guanxi Autonomous Region), Gejiu City (Yunnan Province) and the Guangzhou and Zhuhai campuses of Sun Yat-sen University (Guangdong Province), and I gained a sense of just how vast China is on the day we spent eight hours on a high-speed train, covering more than a thousand kilometres.

Here are a few visual highlights.

Yulong riverside, surrounded by karst mountain formations, Yangshuo…




View from Green Dragon Bridge


Mountain Song, Yangshuo…

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Artists and calligraphers, Yangshuo…




Not a very good student!

The coastal city of Zhuhai…





The art of tea…




Gejiu City…




Azheke Village, Yuanyang Prefecture…







Visits to schools and colleges…





Filed under Events, Writing

16 responses to “China sojourn…

  1. Chinese ducks! Tea! How could you tear yourself away? Such gorgeous pictures and it sounds like you had an amazing experience, Amanda. Yes, it must be special to hear your words in another language. And it is very good to have you back xx

  2. Brenda Crane

    Fabulous pictures and fascinating insights into
    China. Another odd synchronicity for me today
    as I’m reading ‘The Sinkings’ and am loving being back in Scotland with you again on the page, more so when today I read my maiden name for one
    of your characters who sends genealogical information to Australia for your protagonist!
    Can’t wait to discover how Willa and Wee Jock
    evolve. Thank you for another atmospheric and
    thought provoking read.

  3. marlish glorie

    Wow! stunning photographs. Thank you so much for sharing, Amanda. China looks like a magical land.

  4. A beautiful opportunity and fabulous memories captured on film. Susan

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  5. Wow! What an amazing experience. Thank you for sharing, Amanda.

  6. jyotimckie

    Looks such an incredible visit! Loved the costumed people and the calligraphy.

  7. Ling Li

    I love the pictures of terrace field where reflections of clouds and mountain bathed in the golden sun thrill the eye …

  8. Gosh, what a splendid experience:)
    Does this mean your next novel might be set in China?

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