Easter Egg: Screenplay at the end of the post. 🥚✨
🌏 Harvard China Forum 💡
April 12th to 14th, Harvard College China Forum happened.
Remember last year when I was the Programming Associate in charge of the Culture Panel (ft. Fang Wenshan 💕)? As the Programming Chair this year, I oversaw how my amazing team put together an entire conference’s worth of content together. China’s growth will be one of the defining stories of our time and perhaps, we have shaped that narrative somehow.
Nothing beats months of brainstorming, invitation-writing, cold-emailing, drafting of panel descriptions and discussion questions, numerous color-coded spreadsheets, coordination of individual speaker logistics (400+ WeChat notifications and overflowing inboxes every day), the introduction of panelists to each other, staying up late at night at the GSD (Graduate School of Design) reviewing design details, and of course, the three forum days when everything came together — like the greatest show, painstakingly and lovingly built, scripted, and performed by numerous hands; like something that seemed to pass too fast but still endures, gathering minds and presenting ideas like cradling two brilliant continental halves of an earthly heart before a thousand people.
The number of speakers:
120+ (including Kevin Rudd, Jin Liqun, Yu Zheng etc.)
The number of panels:
11. (Finance, Entertainment, Pharmaceuticals, Technology, Arts, Culture, Philanthropy, International Relations & Development, Music, Philanthropy, and Entrepreneurship)
The number of keynote ceremonies:
The number of attendees:
Thank you to each of you who made this another great year. ❤ I’ve learned so much from this journey that never ceases to amaze me — at what other institution in the world would this be possible? The incredible caliber of speakers, the sheer depth of dialogue, the commitment from everyone involved, and the team that handles this professionally demanding role outside of our busy Harvard lives.
The other day at an IOP (Institute of Politics) dinner, I met another student who asked me intently, “Do you think we should be afraid of China? Like with their One Belt, One Road initiative?” It is moments like this when I’m convinced that there is a great need to bring thinkers from the U.S. and China in dialogue on all fronts, at a place of learning where misunderstandings and stereotypes really do still exist BUT, at least, where people are curious and seek more answers beyond the reign of media and the limits of historical subjectivity.
Blessed to be here and I hope I can keep growing alongside this forum.
paper-writing woes 😪
In the dimly lit DeWolfe common room, I’m curled up on the couch against the floor-to-ceiling windows. I felt timeless. It could be 2AM or 5AM. The hours are collapsing into one other.
In the hours spent typing away, tiny black letters crawl over the blank page on my laptop screen like an ant army, expanding the boundaries, encroaching on the ever-expanding territory of whiteness… My thoughts flowing and flowing, like a stream punctuated by soft, rhythmic punches on the keyboard.
It’s a draft for my History & Literature sophomore essay — 3000 to 4000 words in length, on any topic that has to do with ’empire’ or ‘imperialism.’ My topic of choice? Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians (not the movie!!). What does CRA have to do with imperialism? At first glance, not much. After two days of reading, knee-deep in literature, all kinds of thoughts jump around my spinning head: what does the novel tell us about ‘Chineseness’? How can we understand class — in particular, the elite Chinese diasporic subject? How are capitalism and mobility in interplay? In the background, against which all the drama, catfights, and ostentatious displays of wealth are set, there is the postcolonial city-state of Singapore, where I grew up in.
Behind me, tiny filaments of light are seeping through the blinds, painting my bare legs in stripes. Bleary-eyed, I press one finger on a blind and peer out of the window. Gentle, pale sunlight touches my cheek.
I look at the digital clock. It’s 6:28 AM.
Here marks the first time in college I’ve stayed up all night writing an essay. It’s not cool — the big, red pimple on my chin will be a battle scar — but it feels like a college ritual that has finally happened. Here’s what happens when you have three papers due in one weekend.
April is tough, tough, tough!!!
🤖 what have i been reading? 🧟
For the latest paper in one of my courses, “Forbidden Romance in Modern China,” I’ve decided to write a screenplay adapted from the most violent scene in Yu Hua’s Classical Romance 余华的《古典爱情》— it’s a short story that parodies the literary archetype of the Scholar-meets-Maiden romance (think: Peony Pavilion 《牡丹亭》) by subverting it with irrational, absurd violence that recapitulates the trauma of the Cultural Revolution. A climactic moment in the story is when the scholar is in a tavern and discovers that his long-lost beloved is being chopped alive for consumption in an adjacent room.
I decided to re-write that particular scene of monstrosity and bleakness into the format of a screenplay. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for my short 6-page screenplay. Hands down, the most violent thing I’ve ever written.)
How to represent the unrepresentable? How to imply violence? How to avoid explicit gore, yet still create suspense and dread?
As someone who is adamantly and unabashedly terrified of horror and thriller films — the scariest movie I watched until I turned 16 was Spirited Away (imagine your parents turning into pigs?!) — I decided to approach this academically. I researched the best thriller films (they had dreadful names… Like Texas Chainsaw Massacre… And some that were more normal like Hitchcock’s Psycho.) and read their screenplays to study how they conveyed violence.
The result? I was shivering in broad daylight and was terrified to turn off the lights at night. (My roommate also happened to be away. T_T)
In the meantime, to relax my English-addled brain, I also fell down the rabbit hole of Chinese novels which are CRAZILY GOOD. The genre of choice has been a mix of mystery and speculative fiction — one that I really liked is about being infinitely suspended in a Matrix-like game that simulates real-life unsolved cases.
Sigh, happily reading while floundering in a sea of deadlines. Now I’m five days away from leaving campus and ending my Sophomore year. Books are time machines!!!
Lots of love,
5 thoughts on “April is tough. And brilliant. ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ”
yay im so happy you made it through april!!! can’t believe you are ending sophomore year so soon
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❤️❤️❤️ i love you zhao – sending you virtual hugs and cheek squishes
All the best for your papers Sel! when are you coming back? let’s hang out ya 😉
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YAY thank you isabella 💕💕 back on May 5th, done with my final papers by the 14th haha – can’t wait to see you!!