Article By Tim King
Here at Xianease, we eat, sleep, drink and crap all things Xi’an. We kind of have to, because we want to tell you as many interesting things as we can about this fair city each month. Some months are tougher than others, but we’ve still managed to make a hundred issues over nine years, never missing a single one. For this month’s Top 5, we thought it would be fun to take a look back through our archives for some must-read issues of Xianease. Print copies of these back issues are now extremely rare and valuable collectors’ items that go for hundreds of thousands of RMB on Taobao, but you can find all these and the rest of our archive at xianease.com.
01 ISSUE #1 APRIL 2010
Everything must start somewhere, and we started here. The culmination of eight months of planning, the very first print issue of Xianease is a shotgun blast of experimentation and earnestness. From the bilingual articles, to licensed content from the Onion, to a centerfold map of downtown Xi’an that has no subway lines on it, our very first issue is a monument to humble beginnings and a testament to just how much can change in nine years. Of course, it also has that iconic cover of a homeless man, which is to Xianease as that picture of the Afghan woman with the piercing eyes is to National Geographic.
02 ISSUE #50 September 2014
Our fiftieth issue is jam-packed with good stuff, a great indicator of just how big the purview of Xianease had become in just a few years. Recipes and travelogues and interviews with people living the dream of NOT being English teachers in Xi’an are just some of the goodness in this one. Also of note are a couple of bar reviews I did when I was in my “drunken smartass” phase(I went really hard on one; they are now closed), and a gargantuan feature on bike trips in the south of the city, which required the entire staff to bicycle up and explore Yanta on an amazingly hot day (“It was like we were barbecuing on the street,” one of our staff recalls).\
03 ISSUE #72 SEPTEMBER 2016
When we were making this issue, I’d been in the editor’s chair for a little under a year. I think this was a pretty good issue overall, lots of great articles, but I include this one in the Top 5 almost solely because of Jade Dragon. Jade Dragon, if you weren’t around for it, was a memoir written pseudonymously about a foreign woman’s experiences living in the Shaanxi countryside. Part 6 of the tale appeared in this issue (unfortunately it became the final installment), and people were shocked, confused, amused and everything in between about it. Rumors I heard included one from a student at an international school who told me that their administrators freaked out when they read it and pulled all the issues they had that month; another person told me that some corners of the Xi’an female expat community were kind of upset with me about it. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but it’s pretty wild and you need to read it.
04 ISSUE #78 APRIL 2017
It seems that there’s some magic around the April issue, something intangible that seems to make those issues better than most. This one from two years ago has what is, hands down, one of the best covers we’ve done, and has a really great diversity of perspective from a roster of very interesting contributors. An MMA fighter wrote about what sports can teach us; some IB teachers turned in thoughtful pieces about their students and the world they live in; a Chinese man wrote a beautiful piece about an exciting and emotional trend in modern Chinese culture; an English teacher gave us a ponderous look into the trials and tribulations of her daily life. And somewhere, in all of that, I hid a tiny picture of an air conditioning unit because someone dared me to (showed them, didn’t I?).
05 ISSUE #85 NOVEMBER 2017
One of the highest compliments I ever received about an issue of Xianease was a comment someone gave me about this one. That person called it the “something to talk about” issue, probably based on a long exploration of Chinese branding that appears in the back of it, or an article in which I made up a bunch of new words to help you better describe the Xi’an experience, or the article we put together about getting prepared for winter. One thing’s for sure, that person wasn’t talking about the Top 5 that month, which was Top 5 Soups, which was probably one of the biggest trolls I ever did. Unless you like soup. In that case, this is probably your favorite issue.