Eating with My Mouth Open | The Saturday Paper

I grew up thinking there were seven fundamental flavours: suān, tián, kǔ, là, xián, xiān, má. The first five translate easily – sour, sweet, bitter, hot, salty – but the other two don’t own a home on the English tongue. It was a shock to realise that something as material as flavour could be coloured and even erased by language. But eating has many dimensions beyond what happens in your mouth, as Sam van Zweden chronicles in this thoughtful debut, Eating with My Mouth Open.

Eating with My Mouth Open | The Saturday Paper

Ghost in the Mirror | Disobedient Daughters

I have an essay in this gorgeous publication that accompanies the Disobedient Daughters exhibition at Counihan Gallery. Edited by curator Sophia Cai and designed by Joy Li, you can order a copy through the publisher, Heart of Hearts Press.

If you’re in Melbourne, please also check out the exhibition which is on at Counihan Gallery, from 6 February to 21 March. Thank you especially to artist Meng-Yu Yan, whose work my piece riffs off.

Event: Silent Dialogue book launch

Silent Dialogue logo

There’s a book launch for Silent Dialogue 沉默的对话 tomorrow night in Collingwood if you’d like to join us in a celebration and meet some of the folks involved in the project. The book is an illustrated multilingual publication that accompanies the Silent Dialogue exhibition with images of original artworks and specially commissioned pieces of original writing by leading scholars and writers from across the country. I’ll be reading from my essay in the book, ‘We need new names’, which looks at the politics of changing your name.

Fri 5 Feb 2021
6:15 pm to 7:30 pm
Art Echo Gallery, Collingwood
free | booking required

You can also order the Silent Dialogue book here.

Performance: Amplify | Arts & Culture Maribyrnong

Apologies for the super late notice but I’m doing a gig tonight! It’s part of Amplify, a series of live music and literary performances by local artists from the Western suburbs. Tonight is Tariro Mavondo, Gabriela Georges, Ruby-Rose Pivet-Marsh and me.

Mon 1 Feb 2021
doors at 6 pm, performances 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
live in-person at Bluestone Church Arts Space, Footscray, or livestream online
tickets from $5 + booking fee | book here | more info here

Not For Broadcast | The Saturday Paper

‘[Evading censorship] felt a lot like a game, actually – a futile yet addictive game that made your heart race as you tried to jump from story to story, ducking and weaving, squeezing as much as you could through an ever-shrinking space.’

For The Saturday Paper’s culture section, I wrote about reliving the anxiety and adrenaline of working as a journalist in China while playing the dystopian newsroom simulation game Not for Broadcast. Read it here.

Arts writing mentorship | Sangam

Are you a South Asian arts writer living in Victoria? Sangam: Performing Arts Festival of South Asia and Diaspora has put together this pretty incredible paid mentorship. You get:

  • a workshop with me and Sonia Nair on 6 Feb 2021
  • support to write a response to a work or works at Sangam 2021
  • assistance securing a publication outcome with Sangam’s publishing partners, Peril Magazine and South Asian Today
  • $300 participant fee

EOIs close this Fri 15 Jan so apply now! And follow Sangam on Facebook or Instagram for more info about the festival. The full program will be released 17 Jan and the festival takes place 20 Feb to 13 Mar at Abbotsford Convent, the Drum Theatre, Dancehouse Melbourne and Bunjil Place.


2020, wrapped

pie chart showing Jinghua Qian's publications in 2020

Damn, what a year. All I remember is feeling utterly gobsmacked and speechless at every turn, so it’s quite a shock to look back and find that somehow I rustled up all these words. Huge thanks to everyone who commissioned or booked or hired me – or sent me a coffee – going freelance at the start of lockdown was frankly terrifying and for a moment I feared I had done something very stupid. I could not have survived without the support of editors, collaborators, readers and friends. I couldn’t be more grateful. Here’s some of what I’ve been up to…


Underfoot – secret histories of Footscray, June 2020, with Liz Crash.

Essays and opinion

We need new names, Silent Dialogue / 沉默的对话 (print, forthcoming).

Ghost in the mirror, Disobedient Daughters (print, forthcoming).

I can’t apply for another grantUn magazine 14.2 (print, audio and digital).

Walking away, backwards; or woman-lite in women’s litFeminist Writers Festival, 20 November 2020.

Sexting at the end of the worldKill Your Darlings, 14 September 2020.

Adding people of colour to a racist workplace isn’t the answerOverland, 7 September 2020.

Navigating Australia’s mutual obligation system has been humiliating and counterproductiveThe Guardian, 31 August 2020.

Genderfeels in nomads’ landThem, 13 August 2020.

It doesn’t work like thatVCOSS, 16 July 2020.

How coronogamy (coronavirus-induced monogamy) has changed my sex life, MTV, 24 June 2020.

What’s wrong with saying ‘ni hao’HuffPost, 15 June 2020.

Labor’s attack on migrant workers is a painful reminder of our sad historySydney Morning Herald, 7 May 2020, with Sanmati Verma.


Still lifeThe Saturday Paper, 12 September 2020. Originally commissioned for Assembly for the Future (text and audio).

May and June, On immortality and kindness, 5 August 2020 (text and audio).

Voluptatem (forthcoming – commission for Deborah Kelly’s CREATION project).


A buoyant life, The Saturday Paper, 14 November 2020.

Chinatown Melbourne is a one-way street that took a turnCulture Trip, 29 June 2020.

The lack of diversity in Australia’s sperm banksABC, 11 June 2020.

US independent booksellers rally together via, Books + Publishing, 6 May 2020.

Coronavirus ban prevents Chinese artists from entering Australia, ArtsHub, 6 February 2020.

Authors raise thousands for firefighters amid fresh attacks on the arts, ArtsHub, 15 January 2020.


Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) review – delightful and distinctive queer romcom, The Guardian, 27 November 2020.

LoadedThe Saturday Paper, 7 November 2020.

RevengeThe Saturday Paper, 26 September 2020.

Guilt mountainMeanjin, Spring 2020.

Tell Me Why game review: a poetic exploration of memory against a stunning Alaskan landscapeThe Guardian, 14 September 2020.

The Baby-Sitters Club: the perfect PG escape for millennials and their kids – or anyone, reallyThe Guardian, 20 August 2020.

Sex, life: The fundamental queerness of ‘Vida’The Monthly, 16 July 2020.

‘Dear Australia’: dispatches from a world overdue for a reckoningThe Guardian, 2 July 2020.

Sneaking up for a gut punchWitness, 20 March 2020.

Asia TOPA: Virtual IntimacyWitness, 17 March 2020.

Dragon Ladies Don’t WeepPeril, 11 March 2020.

Saigon, Arts Centre Melbourne/Asia TOPAArtsHub, 17 March 2020.

Samsara, Arts Centre Melbourne/Asia TOPAArtsHub, 12 March 2020.

Sva Kranti, Footscray Community Arts Centre/Asia TOPAArtsHub, 4 March 2020.

Torch the Place, Arts Centre Melbourne/Asia TOPAArtsHub, 19 February 2020.

Boobs, Arts Centre MelbourneArtsHub, 3 February 2020.

Yellow peril isn’t what it used to beMeanjin, Summer 2019/2020.

Lists and lifestyle

A local’s guide to SeddonTime Out Melbourne, 5 November 2020.

Playlist: Music of the SinospherePeril, 24 June 2020.

Playlist: Teacup in a stormPeril, 31 May 2020.

Talks, panels and workshops

Beyond monogamy, Wollongong Writers Festival

The virtual co-presence of the internet, Bleed Festival

Editing critical writing, Editing Micro-Festival

The Drop-In sessions for Djed Press, The Suburban Review, Western Sydney University’s The Writing Zone

Panel for Critics’ Campus, MIFF

Lecture for RMIT School of Media and Communication

Presentations (with Liz Crash) for Maribyrnong City Council and Women’s Circus

The personal is political, Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health conference


Inaugural writing fellow, Liminal magazine x Hyphenated projects

Shortlisted, The Australia Institute writer-in-residence program

Interviews and press

Online: Interview #147 — Jinghua QianLiminal, 7 September 2020, by Maddee Clark with illustrations by Viet-My Bui.

Online: NüProfile: Jinghua Qian on why ‘China-watching’ is problematic, and un-belonging in AustraliaNüVoices, 30 September 2020, by Annabelle Jarrett and edited by Jessie Lau.

Radio and online: Senator Eric Abetz’s controversial questions about loyalty rattle Chinese communities in Australia, ABC, 22 October 2020, by Bang Xiao and Stephen Dziedzic.

Television and online: Report reveals racist abuse experienced by Asian Australians during coronavirus pandemic7.30, ABC, 23 July 2020, presented by Jason Om.

Podcast: Life Under LockdownTransdemic podcast episode three, 19 July 2020, by Sam Elkin, Gemma Cafarella and Darcy O’Connell.

Online: Critics step aside in show of solidarity for greater diversity in media, NITV News, 28 June 2020, by Nadine Silva.

Online: Profile in Correspondences newsletter, 5 April 2020, by Emma Thomson.

Press for Underfoot

Radio: Sense of Place: Jinghua Qian and Liz Crash, FootscrayBlueprint, ABC Radio National, 10 October 2020, presented by Jonathan Green.

Radio: Liz Crash and Jinghua Qian on UnderfootTuesday Breakfast, 3CR, 22 September 2020, presented by Genevieve Siggins and the Tuesday Breakfast team.

Print: There’s great stories underfootMaribyrnong and Hobson’s Bay Star Weekly, 8 July 2020, p 10, by Benjamin Millar. Also online on 12 August 2020.


I also made more than a dozen playlists – hear here – and ate my way through every single meat pie sold at the supermarket. I’m so ready for a new year and new obsessions. Fingers crossed for 2021.