Category Archives: Rabbit in the Moon by Deborah and Joel Shlian

Another Tiananmen Anniversary (June 4, 2013)


Once again, it’s June 4th and another anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre of 1989.

Hard to believe 24 years have passed since hundreds, if not thousands, of unarmed protesters were shot in the square and with those years, so much change.

Anyone who visits China today will see cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou that are more modern than most American cities where sophisticated residents dress in the most fashionable styles, drive brand new cars and carry the most up-to-date electronic devices.

More than 300 million Chinese have risen to the middle class and there are allegedly 83 billionaires in the Chinese parliament.

While the economy has embraced quasi-capitalism with a vengeance, the politics of one party rule has remained. Twenty-four years after a brief promise of democratic reform, the leaders’ aim to squelch any mass political protest is unwavering. Even though some of the new leaders installed in November had, as young men, expressed  sympathy with the short-lived student democracy movement of 1989, no one really expects any  announcement of regret about the massacre or  overruling  of the official verdict that the protests were a counterrevolutionary rebellion that had to be crushed.

To learn more about the events of June 4, 1989, read the award winning international thriller, Rabbit in the Moon by Deborah and Joel Shlian.



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Filed under Deborah Shlian, international thriller, Joel Shlian, June 4th incident, Rabbit in the Moon by Deborah and Joel Shlian, Tiananmen massacre

Chinese New Year 2013

Year of the Snake

Year of the Snake

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year!

Today (Sunday, February 10, 2013) is the first day of this important annual celebration marking the start of the new year according to the Chinese lunisolar calendar. The holiday is also known as the Spring Festival because in pre-modern times it was the seasonal sign that farmers in China had to start sowing their fields.

The date usually falls in the months of January or February and each new year is represented by one of the twelve creatures of the Chinese Zodiac. 2013 is the year of the Snake, also called the Junior Dragon. According to ancient Chinese wisdom, a Snake in the house is a good omen because it means that the family will not starve.

People born under the sign of the snake (1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013) share certain personality characteristics. They are said to be cunning, thoughtful and wise. They are also great mediators and good at doing business.

The characteristics of the Snake are tempered by one of the 5 Chinese elements of Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth overlaying a 5-year cycle of characteristics on the original 12-year cycle.

In 2013, that element is water. Water Snakes are influential and insightful. They are good at managing others, are motivated, intellectual, determined and resolute about being successful at whatever they do. Although they are affectionate with family and friends, they tend to hide this side of their personality from colleagues or business partners.

More than a billion people around the world will be ushering in the Year of the Snake with festivities that last for a few weeks after new year’s day.

Not only is holiday celebrated in China, but also in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations, including Taiwan, Macau, Mauritius, Philippines,Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, as well as in Chinatowns  everywhere from Canada to the US to Africa to Australia.

Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Chinese new year vary widely. People will pour out their money to buy presents, decoration, material, food, and clothing. It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly cleanse the house, in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for good incoming luck. Windows and doors will be decorated with red color paper cutouts and Chinese poetry about good fortune, happiness, wealth and longevity.

Typically on New Year’s eve, Chinese families gather for the annual reunion dinner which is a big feast. Dishes include pork, duck, chicken, sweet delicacies as well as fish. The tradition is that the fish is not finished during the meal, so that it can be stored overnight – a belief that the years will be blessed and profitable. Families end the night with firecrackers. Early the next morning, children greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and receive money in red paper envelopes. The Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone.

Celebrations traditionally run from Chinese New Year’s Day itself to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese calendar.

We wish a happy, healthy, prosperous and peaceful year to all!

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Filed under China, Chinese New Year 2013, Chinese Zodiac, Rabbit in the Moon by Deborah and Joel Shlian, Year of the Snake

New Discovery by Longevity Researchers in Mice

Reverse aging in mice

Reverse aging in mice

Since one of the themes in our international mystery thriller Rabbit in the Moon is finding the secret of longevity, we’re always on the lookout for what’s new in longevity research.  

 In a study published online Jan. 31 in the journal Cell Reports,biologists reported a discovery about the aging process in mice might one day help efforts to develop treatments for age-related diseases in humans. The authors say they were able to turn back the “molecular clock” in old mice by placing a “longevity” gene called SIRT3 into their blood stem cells.

This gene  belongs to a class of proteins called sirtuins, which are known to regulate aging.

 When the gene was inserted into the blood stem cells of old mice, the formation of new blood cells was increased. 

 Principal investigator Danica Chen, an assistant professor of nutritional science and toxicology at the University of California, Berkeley says that this  is evidence of a reversal in the age-related decline in the old stem cells’ function.

 The finding “opens the door to potential treatments for age-related degenerative diseases,” Chen said.

 When we wrote our novel we were aware that researchers have been searching for the secret of longevity for decades. Although our story supposes that someone in China in 1989 had found the key to doubling man’s lifespan, as far as we know that was pure fiction.

 One of the obstacles for any scientist to succeed in this quest has been the understanding of the aging process.   Once assumed to be a purely random and uncontrolled process, it is now believed to be highly regulated and possibly even open to manipulation.

 “Studies have already shown that even a single gene mutation can lead to lifespan extension,” Chen said. “The question is whether we can understand the process well enough so that we can actually develop a molecular fountain of youth. Can we actually reverse aging? This is something we’re hoping to understand and accomplish.”

 So stay tuned. Scientists may find the secret yet!

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New Year’s message censored – how will the new Chinese government respond?

Joel and I spoke at two local book clubs the other day – happily people are still reading “Rabbit in the Moon” and seem anxious to engage in discussions about China – not only about the events we wrote about in our novel (i.e. the short-lived student democracy movement that was brutally squelched at Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989), but also the changes in the country since then. They were especially interested in understanding how the new leader Xi Jinping, who has expressed a commitment to more openness, is dealing with dissent.

Like Joel and me, they’d read the New York Times report about how Chinese reporters and editors working for the reform-minded Southern Weekly newspaper complained after the propaganda chief altered a front page New Year’s message. And unlike 1989 when there was no Internet to help spread news of dissent, today more and more dissenters in China are testing the limits of government censorship by going online.

Last week, because the journalists felt the intrusion of the propaganda chief, Tuo Zhen, went above and beyond even current censorhip practices (Internet censors are constantly checking for key words like “Tiananmen” or “Charter ’08″, the online proclamation that China should embrace democracy which sent Liu Xiabo, winner of the 2110 Nobel Peace Prize to jail for 11 years), they published their  complaints on Twitter-like microblogs called weibo.

The original New Year’s message titled “China’s dream, the dream of constitutionalism” reflected the journalists’  hope that China would become a country ruled by law and the constitution. Here’s what they had written: “Only if constitutionalism is realized, and power effectively checked, can citizens voice their criticisms of power loudly and confidently.” The version altered by the propaganda chief that ultimately appeared in the paper, was titled “We are now closer to our dream than ever,” and praised the work of the ruling Communist Party, leaving out any of the original references to constitutionalism, democracy and equality.

According the the New York Times article, within 24 hours of reading the weibo posts,  the Central Propaganda Department in Beijing deleted them, shut down the Southern Weekly journalists’ accounts and warned all Chinese newspaper editors and reporters not to discuss the New Year’s greeting on any public platforms.

Like 1989, this push-back from the government, only created more controversy. On January 4th, a group of prominent former Southern Weekly journalists including the director of the China Media Project based at the University of Hong Kong  issued a strongly worded open letter criticizing minister Tuo Zhen’s actions, describing them as “dictatorial”,  “ignorant and excessive”. The letter, which demanded that the central government fire Tuo, not punish the Southern Weekly journalists, and allow the paper’s editorial committee to resume normal operations, was later endorsed by more than 50 former journalists in a separate online letter. Chinese citizen supporters carrying posters calling for freedom of the press protested in front of the newspaper’s office complex. Celebrities in China protested via their microblogging accounts.

Now it will be interesting to see how the government reacts. The New York Times quoted Zhang Lifan, a political commentator’s weibo from Friday January 4th: “The incident will testify to the direction of political reform.”

Not surprising, word is that the new government is not happy. Despite Xi Jinping’s promise of more openness, there has been a recent stepped up policy of suppressing any public criticism of the Communist Party, particularly via social media on the Internet.  The central government does not want to be told what to do by a local newspaper, but they also don’t want the situation to become another Tiananmen.

A real life drama. We’ll all be watching.

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January 12, 2013 · 2:23 pm