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S02 Episode 3: Subor Smash Bros. Ultimate
China’s videogame historians + Flash in the Pandemic + Gold Miner: Absolution + High iQue Society + Nintendo’s and don'ts
In the house this week: Zoe, Krish, GM, ChineseNintendo, Bo, Slowork, Tianyu, Even, Aaron, Simon, Yan, and Henry.
Tianyu: Welcome to Episode 3. This is the second in a two-part series about video games in China.
In our last episode, we looked at Steam’s community in China, specifically how indie developers and gamers wrestle with the global platform under tightening government restrictions. But how did we get here? Lost in the ~China video games discourse~ is a forgotten generation of Chinese gamers who turned to Nintendo copycats (branded as “learning machines”) and pirated Flash game web portals.
This episode examines that unique video games history through the eyes of China’s games historians and archivists. We consider two lost futures: 4399 web games, and the iQue Player.
First up, Flashers.
Krish: The first online phenomenon I ever obsessed over was a series of animated shorts called Xiao Xiao, each episode of which featured gorgeously choreographed stick-figure fights.
This was the mid-2000s, and every Xiao Xiao drop, provenance unknown, came with immense anticipation. It was the kind of mysterious oddity the web seemed built for, a proto-meme distributed like xeroxed zines via downloadable Adobe Flash files. I didn’t know it then, but Xiao Xiao was a breakthrough hit of China’s so-called “Flasher Generation,” a rag-tag assemblage of young designers, illustrators and animators in the early 2000s who were using the then-new Flash platform to create games and craft weird experiments.
It’s hard to overstate how magical this aspect of the early web was. It enabled people like me, a 10-year old on screeching dial-up connections in India, to follow a Beijing-based animator’s work through email-chain forwards and dodgy links.
Flash and browser games are often seen as marginal to videogame histories, but the Flashers in China created shared memories for an entire generation. The experimental playground they pioneered was a gateway into gaming for thousands of designers, coders and illustrators.
Their wild creativity (and rapacious piracy) was also a glimmer of what an open Chinese web might have looked like.
In this episode, Zoe unpacks the legacy of Flash games in China, and speaks to the historians and vloggers preserving them—as heritage, as memory, and as signposts to a different kind of internet. To paraphrase the writer David Stubbs, maybe the games of the past carry not just a glow of nostalgia, but “possible dormant futures that have merely been deferred.”
Flashing for Fun and No Profit
By Zoe Mou
Zoe: Web games are Chinese millennials’ shared memories. In elementary school in the early 2000s, our weekly “computer class” was the highlight—all kids wore their shoe covers to attend it. Before my family bought our first home PC in 2005, this 45-minute class was my sole access to computers and the internet. Clearly, in this scenario, I had to get as much as possible out of this rare encounter with the web. Enter browser games. The secret sauce that amped up my weekly 45-minute dose of happiness.
Before the rise of the mobile game, browser and PC games were everything. With our generation’s then-limited access to electronic devices, we were either on QZone (QQ空间) planting and stealing vegetables, or mining gold through a browser window.
Krish: Many of these browser games were built on Adobe’s Flash, a programming language and platform that, from 2000 onwards, created this explosion of DIY developers and small studios globally. The influence of Flash on modern games history is inescapable. Entire genres—endless runners, escape rooms—were popularized by Flash developers, and its designer-centric user interface meant animators, illustrators and writers, not just coders, could now self-publish games easily and go viral overnight.
Zoe: Back then, teachers and chicken parents were the only obstacles that stopped kids from playing video games.
Few even understood the medium, and these browser games spread quietly without any government scrutiny or moral panics (I should feel grateful for being raised in the 2000s). They didn’t need any “gamer” skill sets. The satisfaction of leveling up, the smooth animations, and the sound effect combination were appealing to every 10-year-old. It felt like watching an animation, but I could also interact with it. Isn't that what all video games are?
Zoe: Okay fine, but what I meant was that the learning curves for these web games were quite gentle. In some makeover games, players just have to click on virtual clothes, makeup, and accessories on the screen to put them on a cartoon character. That’s it. The hardware requirements were also not high. You didn’t need fancy high-performance video cards or high-core-count central processing units. In the era of slow ADSL connections, the games were able to load successfully (most of the time).
Zoe: Let’s talk about “Chinese-localized” Flash games first, the “汉化”的Flash游戏. Very much the 字幕组 or subtitle groups of games culture, these were fast, loose, and wild in their diversity. Really representative of their time.
I reached out to GM, a Bilibili vlogger and archivist of flash games in China to help explore the topic. His channel introduces both popular and rare games from the era, and interviews the original creators.
During our chat, we agreed on what a more proper title for him might be: a web game historian.
Zoe: So Flash became the main language for creating browser games in China beginning in the late 90s, and the first generation of Flash game designers called themselves “Flashers” (闪客). In 1999, 1st gen Flasher Gao Dayong (边城浪子) created “Flash Empire” (闪客帝国), China’s first Flash games platform. It hosted many of the OG Chinese browser games including Crazy Flasher (闪客快打) and the aforementioned Xiao Xiao series (小小作品). Flash’s ease of use made it quickly popular among Chinese netizens. It wasn’t just games—this famous animated music video for Cui Jian’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll on the New Long March” (新长征路上的摇滚) was created in this era by Flasher Lao Jiang (老蒋). After it appeared on Flash Empire in 2000, Cui Jian himself approached Jiang and asked him to help produce some live visuals for his shows.
GM: People found these things magical because it was unimaginable at that time: images moving, sounds playing on your browser. Now the whole world is filled with GIFs and streaming video, but back then such things were not popular, and videos were not common. Hence Flash found its first opportunity to thrive.
Zoe: By the time I was tip-toeing into computer labs in the early 2000s, the most popular browser game pages were on 4399.com and 7k7k.com. 4399.com was established by Li Xingping (李兴平), who also founded the online listings portal hao123.com. Like hao123, 4399’s goal was to be a “hub” for anything you might need. Behold this magnificent piece of 2000s Chinese web design:
Gold Miner (黄金矿工) was widely acknowledged as the top flash game of this time. Gold Miner’s rules were quite simple: get the gold, avoid the rest. In the game, an old man (netizens nowadays call him “old Lionel Messi”) stands at the top of the screen, fishing for gold embedded in the ground below him. At the start, his grappling hook oscillates back and forth in an arc until the player pushes a button, which sends the hook shooting downward in a straight line to grab whatever is in its path. The goal of the game is to collect as much gold as possible before time runs out while avoiding undesirable items like rocks and underground critters.
The game was made by developer Dan Glover in 2003, but its spread through the Chinese web was marked by cracked versions and copycat hackjobs. Most websites just pirated the game in its entirety from its original version on the Game Rival site without the creator’s authorization, and all attempts at encryption and copy-protection failed. GM reached out to Dan Glover in 2020, and Dan didn't even know his game was wildly popular in China until...2021.
GM: None of the Flash game designers I interviewed for my own vlog channel were aware of the fact that their games became viral in China. There is no exception. None of them.
Zoe: Gold Miner’s experience was the norm. Most web games on 4399 and 7k7k were pirated. Regardless of my sympathies as an avid childhood fan, I have to say browser game sites are a bunch of shameless copyright thieves. According to multiple Zhihu and Douban users, more than 98% of web games on 4399.com are reproduced without the original game creators’ authorization.
Even Chinese independent game developers usually couldn’t prove that they owned their own game’s copyright and typically resorted to creating a special version for 4399 to replace pirated versions on the site. Meanwhile, foreign developers didn’t even know their games had been pirated. In a nutshell, 4399 blatantly robbed these games from their creators.
GM: These platforms infringed game copyright for sure, and often even their stolen versions were stolen from foreign pirate groups and crackers.
In sharp contrast, and the dominant global source of Flash-era creativity, was Newgrounds, a kind of Steam for Flash games. The site was like a community/BBS where everyone could share their own designs and exchange ideas. Newgrounds accepted all types of Flash designs with no discrimination against designers’ skill levels or techniques. So games like Dad n’ME (狂扁小朋友) could get discovered and spread globally. In my opinion, Newgrounds was why Flash games flourished and developed so fast.
Zoe: In a way, 4399 and its peers in China were just vultures scavenging the left-overs from the master predators.
GM: It’s hard to tell whether these pages at least did some good to promote Flash games, since without these websites, some games might never have been known and played by so many people.
Zoe: I consider the golden age of Flash games as the Warring States period of internet history. During the Warring States period philosophies and schools flourished in an era fraught with chaos and bloody battles. Chaotic, but it was also known as the Golden Age of Chinese philosophy since thoughts and ideas were developed and discussed freely.
Krish: It’s fascinating that a similar flourishing (of both avant-garde experiments and softcore sleaze) was happening in China in another medium at the same time: comics. The indie underground comics anthology SC (Special Comix, 特别漫画) was, like Flash, an equalizer of sorts—curating but not gatekeeping the work of many young Chinese comic artists. The contents page of any SC compilation reads today like a dream team of some of the biggest names in the field, and I wonder if Flash was similarly a riotous proving ground for China’s future coders and designers.
Simon: I missed out on this era in China, yet the scene of a few stolen minutes in the computer lab playing Flash games does really bring me back to middle school. Maybe part of the reason we feel so much nostalgia for this era of gaming and computer games is because there was a more clearly defined divide between online/offline.
Tianyu: I was born too late to witness the early days of indie games developers, but in the early 2010s a lot of the young programmers I knew of had started their career writing ActionScript 3. For me, I grew up with Seer (赛尔号) and Mole’s World (摩尔庄园), both online adventure games (for kids) designed by the Shanghai-based studio TaoMee. Happy Farm (开心农场) and its clones were also very popular once, during the heydays of SNS platforms Renren, Qzone, and Kaixin (better known as 偷菜, the game allows you to grow and steal crops from neighbors). As web payment remained inconvenient, I had to go to convenience stores for top-up cards (Tencent’s QQ卡 and TaoMee’s 米米卡). It was much more difficult for independent developers to monetize.
Even: This is an open question, but I wonder how Flash games interacted with/fed into the small gaming companies that started building “social games” in this period. There were a lot of acquisitions as well as outright theft BY foreign companies of Chinese-designed games (Happy Farm to Farmville being the most well-known example), driven by this fascination with monetization that Tianyu mentions.
GM: Flash, and Flash games, made the social game scene possible. It was a symbiotic relationship—the entire Facebook games genre that emerged around 2009 with companies like Zynga would not have existed without the “non-profit” Flash scene that came before.
Aaron: I really think the Chinese game world’s origins in flash and other casual forms of the medium led to Chinese mobile game companies becoming the international juggernauts they are today. While major talent in other countries was consumed by console wars and next-gen specs, Chinese game-makers had little problem moving from flash and browser games into mobile games that anyone with a phone could pick up and play, no matter where they were in the world. Much like what happened with broader internet culture, it’s ironic that games often made with zero expectation of profit helped establish one of the most aggressively monetized and lucrative types of games.
GM: Definitely. A big part of this energy came from the fact that most designers got into Flash purely out of interest and passion. No one thought that they could make money from it. Although the commercialization of Flash animation was relatively early, around the beginning of 2000, Flash games did not generate any profits for anyone until 2007 or 2008, when sophisticated advertising code could be embedded into games, or web ads in general began to take off.
Before the social games era, there was no money to make. It just attracted this wide group of people with diverse interests to join the community and make games. It was pure enjoyment, a “抱着玩的心态.”
Zoe: I believe this is the grassroots and proletarian nature of Flash games.
GM: China’s Flash community was also fairly isolated. Apart from the rampant piracy, there was no substantial exchange between China and other Flash scenes except for Xiao Xiao.
Xiao Xiao is probably the only Chinese-made Flash creation that spread beyond the country. First of all, with no doubt, the quality and the creativity are phenomenal. In addition, the stick figure aesthetic traveled easily, and capitalized on the global popularity of kungfu films and franchises like The Matrix.
Krish: It’s tragic that Xiao Xiao was just an anomaly—the sole breakthrough hit of the scene. It’s important to clarify here that it was the community that made Flash what it was. Part of the tragedy of Flash is that it belonged to a company (Adobe) that didn’t know what to do with it, and consistently failed to make it more robust and open.
Zoe: Yes, Flash faded from relevance by the late-2000s, and was retired completely in 2020. Security concerns and irrelevance meant Flash was no longer bundled with Windows or modern browsers, making many of these older games unplayable. Fortunately, Flash game archival projects like BlueMaxima (and GM’s own work) have saved many classics, and underscored the importance of Flash-based web games and animations to contemporary web culture at large.
GM: After Flash’s gradual exit from history, the major coding language to create web games was HTML 5. However, the popularity of HTML 5 is nowhere close to Flash’s. The key reason being H5 is not as easy to learn, and so the golden age of Flash games just can’t be recreated anymore. Despite Adobe’s missteps, Flash opened the gate to everyone who wanted to try creating animations or video games as long as you had the heart to learn. The software was available to download (or pirate). The creation process was simple and straightforward—frame by frame by frame. And that was it.
Zoe: There was an “irreducible individuality” to the Flash scene that seems lost in today’s web. It was vibrant, bringing to life so many fun animations and games. In my opinion, it was the most creatively liberating web technology of the 90s and 2000s—both a generational marker and the inspiration for those who would later shape Chinese animation. It was more than just a mere web technology. It created habits of mind, ways of knowing. It introduced a whole universe of new aesthetics.
I miss the Flash era. It was a time when “censorship” wasn’t the primary frame around which creativity on the Chinese web was measured. When talent, ideas and creativity could flourish just because people came together for fun. And to mine more gold than anyone else.
Krish: Our second story this episode looks at a similar kind of wildly ambitious creativity, but in hardware rather than software.
China banned foreign videogame consoles in 2000, but the ban didn’t stop console gaming. Not even a bit. It just redirected the energies of the industry to a madcap array of modified shanzhai devices, locally produced alternatives and mod-chipped knockoffs:
The sublime ideal of this era of hardware creativity appeared in 2003. This was the 神游机 or iQue Player (pronounced “I.Q”), a slightly insane officially-sanctioned Chinese variant of the Nintendo N64 console created to dodge the console ban, and allow Nintendo a path into the mainland market.
The iQue Player had big ideas. It had downloadable games and plans for a digital storefront before Steam even existed. Nintendo games at the time were consumed almost exclusively by proxy, through knock-off machines like the Subor “Famiclone” (小霸王), and the iQue promised a radical solution to the quirks of Chinese regulations, and China piracy.
Spoiler: it was a failure.
But its failure was consequential. There is a through line, in part, from iQue’s sunset and the eclipse of console gaming by PCs to the boom (and bust) in wangba internet cafes (网吧), the moral panics framing gaming as spiritual pollution, all the way to today’s curbs on game time and game licensing.
The iQue is worth remembering not just as a failed experiment but a big “what if” moment in China’s gaming history. To learn more, I interviewed @ChineseNintendo, a games archivist dedicated to building an online resource for iQue.
The story of Nintendo in China that we discuss isn’t just a nostalgic evocation of an already-known history. Parts of it prefigure what is happening in the Chinese games industry today.
Maybe it might even predict an unmapped future.
The Any% History of Nintendo in China
By Krish Raghav, with @ChineseNintendo
Krish: So, how would you like to be introduced?
ChineseNintendo: “He was not the first person to research iQue. He merely shared it with the western world, got over the language barrier, and helped build a worldwide community interested in a forgotten piece of gaming history in China.”
Krish: Perfect. So let’s start by setting that history in context. Because of China’s...unique experience with videogames, gamers here have a very different "timeline" of what games or systems are canonical. In a way, it upends traditional games history.
So, in the early 2000s, what was Nintendo’s position in the country? What games did gamers know, and were there any surprising differences between Nintendo's image in China and elsewhere?
CN: China’s gaming timeline is indeed different compared to that of developed nations, most notably for its fragmentation.
In terms of Nintendo, a large number of gamers moved from the GameBoy Advance to the PlayStation Portable, which surprisingly overshadowed the Nintendo DS in China in terms of popularity, and the abbreviation “PSP” was a synonym for handheld gaming devices until smartphones gained popularity in China. Many people didn’t know Super Mario Bros. (1986) was more than just the first Famicom title until they heard about Super Mario Odyssey (2017), missing out three decades of evolution in this world-famous franchise.
Krish: Can you talk about how iQue ended up becoming the representative of Nintendo in China? The central figure here is the founder Dr. Wei Yen (顏維群) who, before founding iQue, was an influential figure in the development of computer graphics.
CN: It may be loosely related to the 2000 console ban itself. The ban of all import videogames created a vacuum for a (legal) console gaming market in China, which could be easily circumvented by branding original designs as “domestic” consoles. Plus, most of the fear of videogames from Chinese parents and educators in the 1990s was probably targeted towards more “violent” or “explicit” arcade titles, which Dr. Yen saw as a path Nintendo games could avoid (at that time) for a more family-friendly experience.
Many articles written by Dr. Yen in the early years of iQue show his dream of educating children with the power of Nintendo games, specifically slogans like “Rouse potential and surpass the limits of intelligence” (激荡潜能 超越智慧), but it’s up to the reader’s jurisdiction how much that was a true wish and how much that was just marketing bluff.
However, the console ban affected more than legal import of gaming hardware, as it extended to the scrutiny of all gaming software and hardware being imported into China. Games took months to approve, which hampered iQue’s plan of releasing iQue Player games swiftly. Seminal titles like The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask were said to have been rejected for having “too dark” a theme.
Krish: The iQue Player fwiw is a bit of a hardware miracle. It’s basically the entire console compressed into a controller that just plugs into a TV. I’m exaggerating slightly here, but we wouldn’t see that kind of design in the mainstream until the Wii U decades later.
So could you talk about what made the iQue Player stand out, and what grand plans they had for it? In your mind, was it just a weird curiosity or did it leave any lasting impact on the gaming industry in China?
CN: In short, it was iQue’s redesign of the Nintendo 64, a brand new design to sell as domestic gaming hardware, and an all-digital distribution method to reduce costs of shipping and prevent piracy. It was later discovered by iQueBrew, a community of iQue Player homebrewers, that the iQue Player also possesses superior processing power compared to the N64.
iQue had great plans for the console’s digital storefront—iQue@Home, or 神游在线 (Literally: iQue Online) in Chinese. There were plans for online multiplayer, and an official forum for gaming fans, among others.
One could say Dr. Yen envisioned systems equivalent to, and predating, the Nintendo eShop, Nintendo Network, and Miiverse, or even Steam’s combination of storefront, community and multiplayer services. But it would be a bit of an exaggeration to say it kickstarted future digital distribution in China. iQue was a pioneer, but its grand ambition fell short due to both lack of player interest and technical limitations, so it did not make much of an impact. It was a forgotten grand plan.
Krish: You’ve archived a lot of their ads and promotional campaigns from that time, and there’s something refreshing about how…localized their marketing was.
CN: Much as I love iQue’s content under Dr. Yen with their autonomous and unique takes on advertising Nintendo IP in China (compared to Tencent’s more conservative approach today), I have to sadly admit that iQue in itself was a huge commercial failure. As such, it served as a warning to the executives of Nintendo how not to approach the Chinese market.
Krish: That sense only deepened with the failure of the iQue, and then, the failure of the Nintendo Wii in China. Can you talk about iQue’s “darkest year” of 2008?
CN: The failure to release the iQue Wii was probably the worst blow iQue had in the 2000s. With the Beijing Olympics on the horizon, it was a no-brainer to release the Wii into China. There was soaring interest in sports, not to mention the chance to put out a Beijing Olympics themed videogame featuring Mario.
If the iQue Wii had successfully made its entry into China alongside the Olympics, more people in the country would have learnt about the company, and through Mario & Sonic they would have gained a fresh new perspective on the red plumber they had previously only thought of as a pixelated character on the Famiclone.
But the Wii failed to get government approval. It was heavily believed that reforms within the government that year caused import game consoles to be scrutinized more strictly, and iQue wasn’t really able to pass off the iQue Wii as an “Interactive Multimedia System” like its handhelds. If the Wii played DVDs, would that have changed the course of history?
Krish: This led to iQue, and by extension Nintendo, pretty much retreating from China for a half-decade.
CN: iQue in the early 2000s worked closely with gaming magazines, communities and websites—doing events, giveaways, and other types of activities. But it was largely ignored in the Chinese gaming community as a whole.
I started reading Chinese gaming media in 2010, and boy, Nintendo did not have the most positive image. With iQue falling out of the spotlight and official Chinese support gradually dying out, it was obvious that fewer gamers and gaming media thought highly of the company.
Nintendo was often accused of sinophobia by disappointed gamers in the early to mid 2010s, and some infamous made-up articles mocking Nintendo were published during that time, one of which claimed Shigeru Miyamoto’s wife left home due to domestic violence.
I believe the abundance of Onion-level articles and focus on the negative side of Nintendo was something of a supply and demand relationship: The lack of Nintendo fans meant publishing articles against the company would not hamper their viewership.
Gaming media now paint Nintendo in a much more positive light, thanks to the popularity of the Nintendo Switch at home and the abundance of same-day Chinese language support. It was unimaginable for a Nintendo fan in 2015 that most future Nintendo games would have official Chinese translations, let alone available at launch. We have iQue to thank for that.
Yan: I found out recently that the iQue remains a really popular piece of hardware among speedrunners, because an unintentional consequence of the shortcuts and enhancements the device had to make in China is that it runs certain games (like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time) without lag, making speedrun tricks easier to execute.
CN: You’re correct that iQue has a special relation to speedrunning since Chinese is a relatively concise language, which means faster text scrolling compared to other languages. Thus, many Ocarina of Time speedrunners tried their hands on the iQue Player version, and the world record for Super Mario Odyssey ran the game in Chinese text, translated by iQue.
Krish: Can you tell us more about games archiving in China, and how you got into it? I know of certain prominent general-purpose “retro gaming” Weibo accounts like Retro冷饭王, and there’s Chengdu’s 环球电子游戏文化博览馆 (Global Videogame Cultural Museum)—but where does iQue archiving reside online?
CN: My first iQue product was an iQue DS Lite purchased in 2009, but the iQue brand did not mean anything unique to me yet. Three years later, among the messy arguments on Baidu Tieba r/3DS over buying vs. pirating 3DS games and blaming Nintendo for neglecting Chinese speakers, I met OldBag and other iQue/Nintendo fans who gradually educated me on the history of Nintendo’s struggle in China, and that Nintendo’s current neglect was due to its past failures. These people later became the founding members of the QQ server “iQue Research Group.” Don’t try to ask for an invitation to the QQ chat or bother befriending OldBag though: iQue Research Group is more of a shitpost server today, and OldBag has retired from the frontlines of iQue Research and only dips his toes once in a while in the matter.
I don’t know much about the field of archiving in general. However, my datamining and research (if you can call my time crawling the Wayback Machine “research”) has contributed to the knowledgebase of gaming historians in China like @RetroDpad. There are many aspects of retro gaming in China (such as emulation, upscaling retro consoles, technical breakdowns etc.) which I am not well versed in, so I won’t say I’m part of the core of ‘game history’ yet, although I do consider myself something of a game historian on a specific subject.
I also have to thank my American friend and internet archivist DKL3 and my Canadian friend Bman, who reached out to me in 2017 in the interest of pursuing and archiving iQue content, and it was then that I realized a lot of the ideas we considered common knowledge were entirely unknown in the anglosphere.
The largest project in my plan is to make some kind of informal “documentary” on iQue and Nintendo, one not only showcasing hardware and software related to the company’s history, but also giving an in-depth discussion of the sociopolitical background at the time of release, as well as the technical caveats that make iQue products unique. I’ve had this idea for quite some time but had to put it on hold due...well, life.
Krish: Looking forward to that. Thanks so much, CN!
Tianyu: That’s it for Season 2 Episode 3. Remember to update your plugins and ignore browser security warnings. Next time: flying pigs in wind vents.
Krish: Outro music is the gorgeous new electro-soul album from singer-songwriter Fishdoll, a friend of the newsletter.
Moonsense is out November 18. Here’s lead single “Remember It’s Just a Dream / 夢而已:”
Zoe is a Dongbei migrant worker based near Chaoyang.
Krish is a comic book artist in Beijing who once made Flash games that no one will ever play.
Slowork is a Beijing observer and an oddity illustrator.
Bo is a Shenzhen-based illustrator and animator. He believes in making life fun.
GM is on Bilibili.
ChineseNintendo is on Twitter.
Tianyu Fang is a writer in California. He dreams of moving to a farm, where he will be growing real crops—and stealing his neighbors’.
Yan Cong was born in Xicheng, grew up in Haidian, and is now based in Amsterdam, via New York and Chaoyang. She’s currently obsessed with the game Unpacking, which you cannot play on flash, but can play on Nintendo (Switch... and Steam).
Henry Zhang is a writer who lives in New Haven and dreams of Chaoyang.
Simon Frank lives in Chaoyang and has roots in New Haven.
Aaron Fox-Lerner is a New York-based writer. Somehow he had no idea the stick figure animations named “Xiao Xiao” he watched as a middle schooler were from China.