Archived entries for Ginger wRong Chen

A Cup of Perfect Tea

by Ginger wRong Chen

I am pacing around the house and constantly telling myself “Settle down!” “Easy!” Yet instead, I only feel my throat grows drier; a knot is growing bigger in my stomach, and I check my look over and over again in the mirror for, God knows, how many times already.
Have I got anything right? I’ve tidied up the sofa, the table, the vases on the shelves. I’ve sprayed the mixed aroma of rose and ylang-ylang in every corner of the house, all the places where I suppose me and him will stand, sit, or lie down. And I’ve put on my favorite outfit, the silky one-shoulder draped dress in light blue, if I remember it correctly, he once said light blue is his favorite color.
And the tea I am going to serve is this year’s King of Anxi Tieguanyin. It should be the real deal since it came directly from a wholesome tea farmer in some village in Anxi, Fujian. I remember yesterday how proudly my father told me and my mother that he was finally able to obtain a piece of “the King” and he told the story in such a manner that it is doomed to be awarded “Adventure of the Year” in this family. However, today both my parents are out of town for some colleague’s, can’t remember his or hers, wedding and they are going to be away for the whole weekend. I sure can imagine, when they come home after the wedding, my father is going to be real mad about the missing King, but I don’t care. Every father makes sacrifices on the road of his daughter’s pursuit of romance. Continue reading…


H.A.L. proudly presents: Kelly Tsai live in the ‘Hai!

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Beauty and the Barbarian

by Ginger wRong Chen

Second by second, the bitterness is brewing stronger and stronger as the sweet longing turns sour.
One day, three days, a week, two weeks, four weeks, she hasn’t shown up. Not a word, not even a peep. The moment hatred starts to bud, it is self-nurtured already.
Luke has been sick in bed for one month. His face is pale with sunken eyes and cheeks. His used-to-be-neatly-trimmed mustache has grown into chaos. The last time he saw Zhenzhen, she said: “Of course I will come back. If a little disease can stop me from seeing you, what is my love worth?”
Good question! What is her love worth?
She hasn’t visited him once ever since. He feels abandoned.
“She is probably somewhere inside the Han District entertaining her friends. Those so-called ‘friends,’ God knows who the hell they really are. I dare to say some are her lovers, some are just lovers. She is such a shameless bitch,” he thinks to himself. “I am in pain; she is having fun, bitch, a thousand times a bitch!”
“Ouc…” A sharp pang hits his chest.
If he had the energy, he would have gone into the Han District to seek her out and humiliate her. It would require a lot of costume and make-up work — he needed bronze to turn his white skin yellow; for his deep eyes and high nose, he would use a pair of big sunglasses; and for his blond hair, a black wig was a must-have — but all the trouble would be worth it.
He knows how much she hates losing face. She wants everyone to think of her as a precious flower, even sometimes appearing a little too exotic or wild to the common taste, but always fun and delicious. She can’t handle being laughed at in public. That would kill her. Yes, that would kill her real nice. Continue reading…


Readings From the people’s republic of

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Author Spotlight!: Ginger wRong Chen


Ginger wRong Chen

Ginger is a female writer; wRong is an incorrect writer; Chen is a Chinese writer. Ginger+wRong+Chen is a female incorrect Chinese writer, who manipulates the art of storytelling into short stories, film and TV scripts. Find her works in Party Like It’s 1984 or on our website.

Ginger’s featured story:

House on Fire

Five Questions For Ginger wRong Chen:

HAL: When you just can’t find that character, line, idea etc. What do you do to get your creative juices flowing?

GwC: Dip yourself into the blankness. Make it deep. Then jump out of it. Go do whatever rubbish you feel like, for instance, slicing some ginger, I mean the ginger ginger. Now let your subconsciousness do the rest of the work. Sooner or later you will have something, hopefully something good. The point is to have faith in the unknown part of your brain. You don’t need to know how it works. You just need to know it is working, and it works.

HAL: What is the first book you remember? Continue reading…



by Ginger wRong Chen



I picked up the phone and heard his voice weak and in slow motion, “I…think…I…am…dying.”

It was the first guy I dated in Shanghai. He was dying, always dying, at least once in every five weeks: fighting, pneumonia, car accident, overdose, allergy attack…

He simply couldn’t prevent himself from getting into emergencies.

Till now, I can still hear his “I…am…dying” from time to time, when I stand at a crosswalk with cars coming from every direction; when I look down from 100 Century Avenue, feeling the nausea or when people finally build up their nerves and ask the number one of the top ten boring and clichéd questions— What’s Shanghai to you?

Seventeen minutes after I answered his call, I showed up in our apartment, panting, short of breath. Not an easy task, considering how tough it is to get a taxi when you really need one in Shanghai. I actually ran that day, on heels. No kidding. He was lying in the middle of the living room floor, marble, icy cold, with knees, elbows his neck bent towards his chest, like a cocoon. I knelt down and leaned down next to his curled-up body. His face was pale as wax, sweating, shivering.

“Oh, poor thing, you ARE dying.” I confirmed his assumption.

I looked around and saw a plate of oyster shells. I picked one up and took a sniff: Phew! 
 “Honey, you don’t eat oysters that are bathed in a sauna.”
 My eyes stretched a bit further and landed on an empty bottle of Hongxing Erguotou. 
 “And you certainly don’t mix them with cheap Baijiu that burns your organs.” 
I stood up, recovered my poise, took off my coat, walked to the coat hanger, hung my coat, approached the bar, made a Negroni, took a sip, put more Campari in, took the second sip, satisfied, I walked back to the man who was in pain. I wasn’t being indifferent or cool, I had just thought through the suitable procedure for his situation. I am a trained caregiver, I know what I am doing: 
 I laid down a blanket with a silk surface and stuffing of down by his side. I rolled him onto the blanket.

I took off his shirt, pants, and socks.

I wiped his face, fingers, toes, back and stomach with a hot towel.

I wrapped him up with a thick wool blanket with soft cotton cover.

Then I went to the kitchen, put a pot of milk on the gas stove. While stirring the milk, I threw in fennel, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, and star anise. I kept on stirring till from the pot rose the pungent smell of spices. I turned off the gas and poured the liquid into a white porcelain bowl.

I walked back into the living room with the aromatic milk and an empty bucket with black plastic bag lining.

I put the bucket by his head and started feeding him the milky soup I just made.

He sniffed it and frowned.” You need this.” I insisted.

There is no place for a dying man to negotiate.

After three spoons, he rushed his head over the bucket and started vomiting. Oh, those rotten oysters marinated with Baijiu mixed up with human juices. How colorful!

He kept on retching long after his stomach was emptied. It felt like he was throwing up his stomach, his liver, his guts, and his testicles. As he was vomiting, he couldn’t stop murmuring, “God…I’m…dying…oh…I’m…I’m…dy…ing.”

“You are not dying. You are getting better.” When he finally calmed down in peace, I gave him a glass of pure water so he could wash the stink off his mouth.

He was still pale, but more like rice paper than wax now. No more sweating and shivering. He rested with eyes closed, still with bent knees, elbows and neck, more like a baby than cocoon, peaceful and clean, inside and out.

I lay myself down by his side and wrapped an arm around him from behind, and said, “I think you want all these.”

“Mmm.” weakly he made an ambiguous sound. I couldn’t see his face, so I could not know what expression he had.

“I think you want to get sick. I think you want to be taken care of.”

“Mmm.” Another ambiguous sound.

The next morning, when I woke up, I found a pillow in my arms, a letter attached:

My Darling One,

You are absolutely right. I want all these.

I want to get sick, so sick that all I care is to get well.

I want to hit bottom, so I can go back to live with the minimum needs.

So all the desires and obsessions aroused by commercial machines would be cleansed out of my body.

Living in Shanghai, poison is my best medicine; you call it getting sick; I call it detoxification.

And of course, to know that I am not alone when I am sick, that’s comforting too. I know this is not love, only companionship. But still, it is something.

The finest way to wake up in Shanghai: minimum needs, total satisfaction. It won’t last long, so I have to run.



I’ve been keeping this letter till today. It is attached to the dressing table. Every time I put on my mask, sorry, make-up, I read it once.

The first advice I got in Shanghai was love is a luxury. Companionship is minimum need.

And it never stops being true.



House on Fire

by Ginger wRong Chen

The fire alarm went off at 2:13 in the morning. In five minutes, peopleʼs attitudes shifted from “What the hell is that noise?” to “Is this real?” to, finally, “Run, there is no time!”

They rushed out of the building, in pajamas, bathrobes, sheets, unmatched shoes, crumpled pants worn overnight, dresses that had been put on only a few hours before yet already smelling of blended perfume, cologne, cigarette butts and over-fermented alcohol. They ran with terrified eyes, trembling shouting, and hysterical crying.

Standing at the edge of the roof, with eight floors beneath him, Cheung looked down at the gathering crowd. He was startled to see humans as one species of this planet standing so close to each other. It seemed unnatural.

By the pool where the last fish died 29 days ago, Mr. Wang wrapped Mrs. Wang in his arms, stroking her hair with all his tenderness, comforting her “we are safe now, we are safe now”. Are they really the couple who live next to my door; the ones programmed to fight from 8:11 to 12:12pm every night?

For a moment, Cheung was so confused that he thought there might be two pairs of Mr. and Mrs. Wangs living in his building. The Mr. Wang he knew says things like “Canʼt you see, weʼre dying here?” and his Mrs. Wang yells, “You think I want to live like this?”

To Mr. and Mrs. Wangʼs right, sitting on a stone stool, was the grumpy old lady who curses everyone walking past her door, “Damn all of you! One day you will all grow old too. One day! ” Who is she holding? Cheung squinted. Is that the ʻnoisy monsterʼ she refers to? The five-month-old baby living across from her door was bundled up in her worn 70ʼs military coat. “She hangs that coat outside the window every sunny winter day Cheung thought to himself, which makes it around 45 coat-hangings a year.

Tonight, everything seems…Cheung searched for the right word in his head …unfamiliar.

He heard yelling.

“Donʼt jump, Cheung! Don’t do it!”

He heard his name. it must be a hallucination. ʻCheungʼ? Who would know my name in this building?…He was almost amused. Yet he couldnʼt help looking over in the direction of the hallucinated sound. He saw a young girl in blue bathrobe. Her hair was drawn back in a ponytail, not as tight as normally he would see on her, but it certainly was a ponytail. He knew this girl in a sense he recognized her face. She lives in apartment 8D, right above me. By the sound delivered through the ceiling, he could tell when she was home, when she went to bed, when she was sleeplessly strolling from kitchen to balcony, when she was moving the furniture around, and when she had a visitor. He liked her ponytail. It goes well with her oval-shaped face. There were times, he really wanted to talk to her, but there was no chance. For three years, he just couldnʼt find the right time to talk to this pretty girl living right above him. But he knew her name was Yu. He got to know it because he had peeked into 8Dʼs mail-box. Though there was no mail in it, he saw the bills addressed to her. He felt himself quite clever for coming up with this peeking trick.

But still, it would be much nicer if Iʼd have got the name from her in person. There had been a pity in his way of name-sneaking.

“Itʼs eight floors! Donʼt jump, you won’t make it! ” Yu cupped her hands around her mouth. “Take the stairs to your left. You still have time. Run Cheung! Run!”

At that moment, Cheung started  to feel the heat coming up to him from Apartment 7D. Is my house on fire? What did I forget? Did I not put out the flame after I burned all my personal belongings in the bathtub? Maybe a spark jumped out, landing on the old magazines by the toilet? Maybe the stove? Was I so absorbed with preparing for this suicide that I forgot to check the gas tonight?  Was that…”


The explosion hit like a bomb. From where he stood it was just a dull thud. Strange.

Cheung was thrown from the roof by the shock wave.

He was falling. He could see fear on the faces of the people on the ground. Tonight, it is fear that makes people stand together.


More stories by Ginger wRong Chen


Revenge of the Butterfly

by Ginger wRong Chen

My name is Bella Butterfly. My late boyfriend’s name was Bobby Butterfly. We lived on a tropical island with white sand and palm trees.

Three years ago, a lady and a man came to the island. He called her “Sweetheart,” she called him “Bastard.” Bastard kept saying to Sweetheart, “Come on, sweetheart, give me another chance.” And Sweetheart never changed her reply, “Leave me alone.”

The third day they were on the island. A bright, breezy afternoon, me and Bobby were playing on a leaf, rolling and laughing. But all of a sudden, the leaf broke away from the branch. Surprisingly, it didn’t land on the floor. It flew steadily in the sky. We looked up. It was Bastard. He held the leaf in his hand. We were excited at the beginning. After all, It was our first experience of flying. Five seconds later, we saw Sweetheart. She was lying on the white sand, a Sangria in hand. As he said, “Come on, sweetheart, ” he brushed the leaf against her face, back and forth. Bobby was thrown to the edge. He held onto the back of the leaf. But his full and round body was dangling down. “Oh, my god!” Sweetheart screamed, “what’s the matter of you, get that disgusting worm off me! ” She jumped to her feet and stomped Bobby to death.

I was so sad that I made myself a silky house with no windows and door. I stayed inside days and nights, mourning for Bobby. My tears formed colorful wings on me.

I wanted a revenge.

Seven days passed. I knew I was ready. I opened the windows and let the sun shine in. With my new wings, I flew around the island. I found Sweetheart lying in a hammock. Her skin was much darker than I thought. But I recognized her bellybutton ring, and the Sangria in her hand. I hid deep inside a magnolia, waiting for my chance. Surprisingly, the same thing happened like the day Bobby died. The magnolia started flying. It was Bastard. As he said, “Come on. sweetheart!”, he brushed the flower against her nose.

“Perfect! ” I thought to myself. “Aim at her face.” I thrust my way out.

“Oh, my god! ” She gasped. “ A butterfly! How did you do this? It’s so beautiful! ” She kissed him.

Together, they caught me and brought me back. For three years, I’ve been nailed to the wall in their house.

The first year, when Sweetheart said, “This butterfly saved our love!” Bastard said, “She is a godsend!”

The second year, when Sweetheart said, “This butterfly saved our love!” Bastard said, “Urhur.”

This morning, when Sweetheart said, “This butterfly saved our love!” Bastard stared at me, anger in his eyes.

At that moment, I looked out the window. There it was, Bobby’s smiling face in the sky.


No Sugar

by Ginger wRong

It was a beautiful morning. The sky was clear blue, the sun quietly shone onto my bed, the breeze stroked my face, just like he would do to me had he been home. Half asleep half awake, I reached out to the other side of the bed, whispering his name, “A’Le…A’Le…”  No answer. The emptiness pulled me out of my dream. I opened my eyes and said to the imaginary him, “I miss you, so so much!”  Then I shut my eyes tight, so I could see him speaking softly to me, he said, “I know, babe, I miss you too,”  his eyes brimming with affection. “Just wait a few more hours, I am coming. I will see you soon.” I said, He smiled, his typical one-eye-winking naughty smile,  that kind of smile that had never failed to make me smile.

A big day for me, finally I was gonna see my dear A’Le again. No more sleepless long nights, no more tears soaked up by the pillows, no more imagining him lying by my side. It was the day I was going to leave Shanghai, the city where me and A Le fell in love and had spent so many significant moments of our lives together. It was time to say good-bye to this city. We were going to reunite again in a different place.

I was ready and a bit nervous. Before I leave, I decided I would like to have my last cup of coffee according to my and A’Leʼs morning routine. For our morning coffee, I was in charge of warming up the milk, he would be in charge of grinding the beans. Every morning, he would ask me, “Honey, how fine you want the beans?” I would answer, “As fine as you.”

Then I would ask him,”Honey, how hot you want the milk to be?” He would answer, “As hot as you.” Then we would laugh a little, and in five minutes, we were enjoying our first sips of the coffee that day. Happy.

Of course, that morning, it was only me, So I had to warm up the milk and grind the beans by myself. It took me longer, but the coffee was great, strong and rich, just the way we liked our coffee to be, I also poured him a cup, because I knew he was making one for me also at the other side of the world. I knew he was waiting, waiting for me to go.

I finished the last drop of my last cup of coffee in Shanghai. I rose, walked to the balcony and jumped.

Falling down from the twentieth floor, I saw A’Le waving hello to from the other side of the world. I smiled before meeting the pavement.


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