Mian Mian Says

Mian Mian 棉棉 is a writer from Shanghai.

A mainstay of the 00后 Beijing-Shanghai art community, Mian Mian’s confessional blog writings published in On High In Blue Tomorrows《于忧郁的明天升上的天空》 are scattered with bands, albums, films, poems and lyrics, some of which I have collected here for you to enjoy.

There is something about trawling that I like. The thrill of a bargain genetically inherited from an Asian bloodline. The delight in digging through second-hand records in the wooden coffers of Wellington’s record stores. The flick and pluck of counterfeit DVD sleeves in Hong Kong night markets. So the street front pù miàn 铺面 bookstores of China, where cheap deals are recited over a megaphone like a modern day sales mantra, are essentially my spiritual homeland.

Last year, amidst the stacks of dusty, plastic-wrapped reprints of ancient primers and gaudy coloured children’s books, I found a copy of On High In Blue Tomorrows by Mian Mian. Intrigued by the choppy hair and dark shades of the figure on the front cover, I took the book home and entered the personal recollections of a writer, music-lover and survivor of addiction, often dubbed as a New Generation Writer 新生代作家.

Mian Mian On high

Image by Kiwese.

Mian Mian gained a reputation as a post-Mao era, 70后 (born in the 70s) wild child, with the publication of her sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll novel Candy《糖》in 1999, based upon her own life experiences as a party girl flitting between Shanghai and Shenzhen. In the 80s era of reform and opening up, Deng Xiaoping saw Shenzhen transform from a tiny fishing village to a ‘special economic zone’ full of factories, new cash and people from all over the country trying to make it.

In the early 90s, a young Mian Mian ran away from Shanghai to join the action, as with new money brought parties, drugs and hedonism. Heartbreak, hopelessness and heroin followed. In 1995, her parents dragged her out of Shenzhen and placed her in a Shanghai rehab clinic. She published her first book two years later. Candy was published in the same year as Wei Hui’s Shanghai Baby《上海宝贝》, which is also about drugs, sex and parties and also banned in China. The two books are often likened in this way.

Mian Mian’s prose in On High In Blue Tomorrows is colloquial and clear, it reads like a personal journal. It is not heavy with literary descriptions or obscure chéngyǔ 成语 (idioms), which means as a learner, it is easy to read and enjoy.

“My books are not for intellectuals,” Mian Mian said to Jonathan Napack in an NY Times interview almost fifteen years ago, “my readers are in the streets, in a disco, listening to cool music.”

The inner sleeve reads:


Mian Mian’s writings are mostly about liberation, self-destruction and self-rescue. Her personal life has recently undertaken a huge change with giving up smoking, drinking and eating meat.

The blog entries date from 2005 to 2008, through which she writes about the illness and death of her father, her reflections on her previous life and novels, being a writer, her relationships with friends, the universe and Buddha. Her posts touch on daily life and encounters – trying to give up smoking, going to YY’s club in Shanghai, as well as a lot of movie watching at home.

Below I have included some of the music and films she mentions in these entries written in brown along with my own English translation in black. She often mentions and promotes the work of her friends, which is what blogs are for, right?

  • Jiang Xin 姜昕

Recommend baby Jiang Xin's album 'I'm An Unusual Flower'! It is even better in the moonlight! She is as beautiful as vanilla!
I believe the happiest thing in life is finding the road you want to take, then having lots of close friends along that road. I think that's what 'Rainbow 2006' is about. The song is an all-encompassing bridge, not a bridge of the human world, but one that connects people and spirits, life and death, the past and the present.
Talking with Jiang Xin is a pleasure. Her purity has power, she makes the little details come to life.
I asked her: "Do you believe in love because the person is beautiful, or has talent, or because they love you?" She immediately responded: "Absolutely not. Love is fate."
Her manner, attitude and voice is unparalleled. Using beauty, youth, music, love and troubles and destiny, she bears witness to a Beijing underground that will never return again.
  • Muma 木马

Muma was formed in 1998, consisting of members Muma (guitar/lead vocals), Cao Cao (bass), Feng Lei (keys), Huhu (drums)
Some people say that listening to Muma is cold, but I think it is a kind of warmth. They sing so honestly about grief, buried youth, the good years and strange dreamscapes.
Out of Muma's three albums, I am most inclined towards the first two.
I remember a song off the new album called If There is One Person I Hate, That Person Is Myself. It is only a name, and I can see their old stubbornness. The new album doesn't make me lose hope, I'm already well-acquainted with that sound from the depths of night, the same way I have come to understand Radiohead.
Some years, in the late hours of night, I find myself in Muma's sound, on the streets of disorder, in my room, picking up my already broken heart.
  • Wild Children 野孩子

I keep forgetting: I saw Wild Children play at Su He Art Space and cried. Back at home I listened to their CD and cried some more. They are so clean!
  • Sonic Youth

If you want me to
I will be the one
That is always good
And you'll love me too
But you'll never know
What I feel inside
That I'm really bad
Little trouble girl
Remember mother?
We were close
Very, very close
Sha la la you taught me how to fit it good
Sha la la flow down life you understood
Sha la la curl my hair and eye lash
Sha la la hitch my cheeks and do my lips
Sha la la swing my hips just like you
Sha la la smile and behave
Sha la la a circle of perfection, it's what you gave
Sha la la then one day I met a guy
He stole my heart, no alibi
Sha la la he said: "Romance is a ticket to paradise"
Sha la la momma, I'm not too young to try
Sha la la we kissed, we hugged, we were close
Very, very close
Sha la la we danced in the sand
And the water rose - higher and higher
Sha la la until I found myself floating - in the sky
I'm sorry mother, I'd rather fight
Than have to lie
If you want me to
I will be the one
That is always good
And you'll love me too
But you'll never know
What I feel inside
That I'm really bad
Little trouble girl 
我的好朋友Anto... 想起她我会想起这首歌。。。她给我发过这首歌的歌词,而这首歌我以前很喜欢。
My good friend Anto... when I think of her I think of this song... She sent me the lyrics and I also liked this song before.


  • Lotus by Anni Baobei《莲花》安妮宝贝


Anni Baobei 安妮宝贝. Image from Smart Shanghai.

I seriously recommend Lotus by Anni Baobei to everyone. One look at it and I cry. This book is blessed, containing important information and moving emotions. I'm not someone who reads books often and given my busy schedule I generally skim through to the end, but then I have regrets because this way of reading doesn't respect the author. So I implore you not to do as I have.
Our writing styles are very different, though similar in the way we are always searching for 'meaning.' This wasn't my phrasing but I think it is absolutely correct.
  • Love Streams《爱的激流》

Today I saw another sad film, but it was so great! It was Love Streams by independent American filmmaker John Cassavetes,
This film told the story of two heartbroken people. Exquisite, lively, interesting and sad. The acting was so good. The director is the lead actor, so handsome! I love him so much!
  • Summer Palace 《颐和园》

Yesterday I watched Summer Palace and cried for ages.


Today I watched Carmen, a Spanish film from 2004. I never find characters that resemble myself in literature or film, so I was shocked to find so many details that reminded me of the old me. So strange, and at key moments in the film she would speak the same as I did: "either leave me or kill me, I don't love you."

And plenty more. Mian Mian has been pretty quiet on the writing front recently, but you can find her blog (which this book was based on) over on Sina!