Everyone’s been bamboozled by The Orient. You. Us. Most fast food restaurants.
From Brooklyn to Singapore, we’ve watched and read about Chinese food, culture, and history through the lens of people who (sometimes) know of The Orient but don’t always get it.
Even those in our most trusted English-language media have described something as mainstream as bubble tea, as “blobs” from the Far East (the new “Orient”). And much of the media from the actual Far East are not capturing the full picture either. For example, the kids in China want to talk about the futility of life through memes but the Chinese media prefers that they didn’t. This is a missed opportunity to capture a depth that’s so key to human connection.
It’s clear that somewhere between blobs and banned memes is an opportunity for stories with greater cultural context and less exotic freakiness. That’s why we packed our bags and moved to Hong Kong six months ago to create this new publication: Goldthread.
Covering Chinese culture means knowing that, in 2018, we speak to each other in English but also in Cantonese and Mandarin and Hokkien and memes. That home could be in a different land but a part of our history comes from some place mostly known as the big bad freaky Orient. Our team is made up of journalists and filmmakers from the U.S. to Asia, here to report from the ground but also here to teach each other how to say “fuk” (福) in various dialects that often sound nothing alike.
But covering something as multi-dimensional as culture from this region, and especially China, is not all romantic self-discovery. Uncovering the truth in the shadow of a rising global power can be as ugly as it is eye-opening. Like unpacking why some Cantonese speakers resist Mandarin: it’s a heartache wrapped up in a relatively young history of foreign conquest and domestic civil war.
Understanding China and culture is not just for our benefit. We believe these stories are necessary to educate everyone on how the world might change in the next five years. This is not mere speculation—it’s statistics. China has more millennials than the U.S. has people, so if the day ever comes when China’s 20-somethings realize that eating extra avocado toast is better than owning a home, we, along with the global avocado industry, are all going to be sorry we weren’t ready.
So in the words of Anthony Bourdain, the late American explorer who pointed out that you could live in China your whole life yet not know a goddamn thing about it: "Walk in someone else's shoes, or at least, eat their food.”
Let the feast begin.
Victoria & Dolly