Friday, February 14, 2014

Who is San Mao, the romantic chronicler of China-Africa relations?

File:Sanmao (sakka).jpg
San Mao (photo: Wikipedia)

Not long ago, I received an email from Tom Devriendt, an editor of Africa is a Country, "a blog that engages with reporting on Africa". He asked me if I knew of San Mao (三毛):

I recently came across the name of Chinese/Taiwanese writer San Mao. To be honest, I had never heard of her before. She turns out to have been a prolific writer, and -- some claim -- her work remains important (for better or for worse) in shaping a popular image of Africa in China.
Some references I've found on the web include:
- a trailer for a documentary (which never seems to have been finished): http://vimeo.com/8005426

- and a couple of blog features:
  h
ttp://www.idealshanghai.com/features/1717/

http://thelostseasons.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/the-life-of-san-mao%E3%80%8A%E5%9B%9E%E5%A3%B0%E3%80%8B/

Africa is a Country is interested in finding out more about San Mao, and so am I. Do any readers know more? Has anyone heard of her?

Update, February 18: We find, thanks to a tweet from Winslow Robertson @Winslow_R and another from Paul Farrelly @paul_farrelly a fascinating article about San Mao in the journal of East Asian History: "San Mao Makes History" and "San Mao Goes Shopping."  Wow. Twitter as a research tool? 

9 comments:

  1. I knew about her more than 20 years ago.
    Best Regards
    sjw

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dr. Brautigam, glad that you brought up San Mao! She is one of my favorite writers and adventurers and was among the various reasons driving me to study abroad in Taiwan for one semester. I actually just came back from a January trip to Taipei including a third visit to San Mao's former apartment.

    San Mao stands as a remarkable feature in contemporary Chinese literature. She built up her fame not only by publishing eye-catching travelogues in multiple languages as she traveled intensively all around the globe, but also by her legendary transnational romance with Jose, a Spanish engineer. When traveling with Jose to Sahara controlled by Spain in the 1970s, San Mao wrote The Stories of the Sahara, which is the masterpiece of her works.

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  3. Dr. Brautigam, glad that you brought up San Mao! She is one of my favorite writers and adventurers and was among the various reasons driving me to study abroad in Taiwan for one semester. I actually just came back from a January trip to Taipei including a third visit to San Mao's former apartment.

    San Mao stands as a remarkable feature in contemporary Chinese literature. She built up her fame not only by publishing eye-catching travelogues in multiple languages as she traveled intensively all around the globe, but also by her legendary transnational romance with Jose, a Spanish engineer. When traveling with Jose to Sahara controlled by Spain in the 1970s, San Mao wrote The Stories of the Sahara, which is the masterpiece of her works.

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  4. Dr Brautigam, I am a Malaysian Chinese. San Mao was a very famous writer when I was young (about 40 years ago). Most of the Chinese in Malaysia (who knows Mandarin) would probably know her. She wrote a book called 三毛流浪记 (the adventure of san mao). I think she is married to a westerner (spanish ?) (with a big beard) and live in sub shara africa (???). They were deeply in love. However, her husband later died during scuba diving. After that, she has been wandering around the world and wrote the abovementioned book (apparently one of the many). Not sure what had happened to her now...

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  5. sorry 三毛流浪记 not written by san mao. my bad. But the other details I told should be correct

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  6. 橄榄树 (Olive tree) is a song associated with san mao. I learn to sing it when i was a primary school student. It is about a traveller

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jp2JMjwdnYY

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  7. Anyone who is interested in knowing more than the remarkable writer from Taiwan, San Mao (三毛), please go to the following link --

    http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/三毛_(作家)

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  8. She has writen one book about Sahara because she has spent some time with her husband living in the desert. But there are some people who doute whether the life in Africa is like what she has writen

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