Interested in China? Here's a list of our favorite Chinese movies, blogs, books, news websites, language resources, etc. Think we've left something out? Email us your suggestions here.
After much debate, our five favorite Chinese movies and one amazing documentary.
1. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon has amazing fight scenes. The characters chase each other across tiled rooftops and atop 10-story high bamboo trees by jumping fifty feet in the air. I saw this movie before I ever went to China and I knew I'd have to go there sometime just to see the physical beauty of the countryside and China's ancient architecture.
2. In the Mood for Love
Movies shot by the Director Wong Kar Wei are shot beautifully, like moving paintings. In the Mood for Love is, I think, his best. It depicts Hong Kong in the 1960s. It's worth watching just to see the insides of HK apartments back then and the hairstyles and the dresses women wore! The movie's sequel, 2046, is also worth seeing.
3. Suzhou River
Suzhou River is filmed with a handheld camera and you can see a first person view of riding through Shanghai on the back of a motorcycle and floating down the winding Suzhou River on a boat. The opening scene of the movie is one the most haunting scenes I've ever seen. It starts with a blank screen and only dialogue:
woman: "If I leave you someday... will you look for me?"
woman: "Would you look for me forever?"
woman: "Your whole life?"
woman: "You're lying."
4. Not One Less
Not One Less is a movie about a 13 year old girl who goes to a neighboring small town in China to teach the village kids. Fascinating discovery of life in rural China. It's in Mandarin and most of the dialogue is elementary level (kids are the main characters). I must have watched Not One Less ten times by now to help me practice my Mandarin.
5. Kungfu Hustle
Hong Kong actor Stephen Chow, directed, wrote, and starred in Kungfu Hustle. It's my favorite martial arts movie of all time. I'm glad it got as much international attention as it did: 27 nominations, 18 wins including an MTV Movie Awards "Best Fight Scene" nomination and a Golden Globe nomination for "Best Foreign Language Film." Rent Kungfu Hustle if you're just looking to watch a good fun movie. You'll forget it's in another language.
China: A Century of Revolution
This fascinating documentary is directed by Sue Williams; Zeitgeist Films, DVD released 2007. An amazing six-hour documentary series chronicling the history of modern China, it includes rare archival footage and eyewitness interviews. You can buy it on Amazon here.
China: A Portrait of a Country
Written by James Kynge, Karen Smith, Liu Heung Shing; Taschen America LLC, 2008. A photography book documenting the development of the People’s Republic of China since 1949, it includes the work of Pulitzer Prize–winning photojournalist Liu Heung Shing.
Death of a Red Heroine
by Xiaolong Qiu
I’m a sucker for a good murder mystery and this is a riveting one set in Shanghai. It follows Chief Inspector Chen as he solves a crime and navigates government corruption. In the course of solving the mystery, we glean amazing insights into Chinese culture, Chinese hstory, and Chinese food (the Inspector is a foodie). The author is a Chinese expatriate from Shanghai who now lives in St. Louis, Missouri, which gives him a unique perspective of life and work in China. If you love this book like we do, check out its four sequels.
Lonely Planet China
This is a great guide book for traveling around China and finding places off the beaten path. All listings and pricing information is up-to-date and it has a lot of inexpensive options for backpackers. Armed with this book, you can go just about anywhere in China and get the best out of your adventure.
One Billion Customers
by James McGregor
One Billion Customers is a fascinating look at what it's like for a foreigner to do business in China. Beyond that, it provides practical advice for businessmen headed to China who will have to jump through the political and social hoops in the communist country. The author James McGregor tells personal stories that are often funny and always insightful. He knows what he's talking about. McGregor was the Wall Street Journal Bureau Chief in China and Taiwan, former CEO of DOW Jones in China, and has lived in China for 20 years. We had the opportunity to have dinner with him in Beijing and he's a great guy.
The Search for Modern China
by Jonathan D. Spence
China has an extremely long and complicated history. This book is the authority on China’s history, from ancient times through the present. It reads a little on the academic side, but is nonetheless enthralling.
Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China
by Fuschia Dunlop
This memoir chronicles Fuschia Dunlop’s time in China, from when she first arrived in China as a newbie and knew little to nothing about the culture or food to her being the first foreigner to train as a chef at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine in Chengdu, Sichuan, China. It is full of funny observations, stories, history, and a few choice recipes. Fuschia is also the author of two amazing Sichuan Chinese cookbooks.
Behind the Wall
by Colin Thubron
This book chronicles the 10,000 mile journey from Beijing to Tibet of the author, Colin Thubron, around a post-Mao Zedong China when few Western people had yet to visit the closed off country. It's a beautifully written, insightful travel book that paints a magical picture of China. Although much has changed since he wrote the book, many deeply ingrained culturalisms remain today.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
by Lisa See
Lisa See's beautifully written novel follows the lives and friendship of two women in rural 19th century China. This was during the days that women practiced footbinding. Girls as young as six would have their feet bound (this was excruciating painful as one can imagine) and for the rest of their lives they could hardly balance to walk or even stand. The ideal "beautiful" foot was 6 centimeters (approx. 2.4 inches) in length. It's a powerful, captivating story of the spirit of these two women and the traditions and culture in old China.
The Fortune Cookie Chronicles
by Jennifer 8. Lee
Jennifer 8. Lee (yes, 8. is her middle name), investigates the origins of Chinese food in America. The book opens with a story about the winners of a 2005 Powerball lottery when 110 people all picked the winning numbers. Normally only 2-3 people win. It turned out that the winners had all eaten at Chinese restaurants and played the numbers they received in their fortune cookies. In this book, Lee travels all over the country interviewing the winners of the lottery and the Chinese-American owners of the restaurants where the cookies were served. What emerges out off all this is a comprehensive and hilarious picture of the profound effect Chinese food has had on American culture and how Chinese food has morphed into something different here in the States. For example: Spicy Szechuan Alligator served at a Cajun-Chinese restaurant outside New Orleans.
Appetite For China
The Amateur Gourmet
The Girl Who Ate Everything
White on Rice Couple
The Wednesday Chef
Goldilocks Finds Manhattan
Eat Drink and Be Merry
Living in the Kitchen with Puppies
I Live in a Frying Pan
ONLINE INGREDIENT & COOKING SUPPLIES
A beautiful, user-friendly website selling a curated selection of great cookware.
This is the best online Chinese-English dictionary we have found. You can input English, pinyin, or Characters and it includes tons of slang words. On many of the entries they use the word in a sentence. Another great thing about this site is they have a place where you can draw a character on the screen with your computer mouse and look it up that way. It doesn't pay too much attention to correct stroke order which is nice.
This is a GREAT subscription-based language program for learning Mandarin. Every day the website is updated with new podcasts that you can download and play on your iPod. The podcasts are either elementary, intermediate, or advanced level and they include a short conversation with dialogue and then the two hosts talk about the new words and grammer. The themes of the podcasts are very useful. For instance, when Mary Kate needed to go to an optometrist in Beijing, she listened to the Choosing A New Pair of Glasses lesson before going which helped her brush up on vocab like "lenses" and "eye examination". In addition to the podcasts, you can download written transcripts of each lesson with English, pinyin, and characters, a vocabulary list, and exercises with the new words. Subscription prices start at $14/month but the first 2 weeks are free.
Qingwen iPhone Dictionary App
I used this app all the time the last time I was in living in Beijing. Like most Chinese dictionary apps, you can input pinyin or draw the characters on the screen. It also lets you save a words into "word lists" that you can call up later. For example, I have a list named "food words" and one named "computer words". The best thing about this app though is that it includes phrases and colloquial words that other dictionary apps don't.
PERAPERA-KUN Web Browser Extension
This is my favorite online Chinese language tool. The Firefox extension is downloadable here and it's also available for Google Chrome. Check out perapera-kun's wordpress though for a step by step installation guide. You'll need to install their Chinese language dictionary as well. It's definitely worth the effort! Once you have it installed, simply put your cursor over any Chinese character on the internet and a small pop-up window will appear with the translation. It's smart too, recognizing phrases and characters that form words when next to each other.