Notes on the Mosquito

by Xi Chuan
Translated by Lucas Klein
Illustration by Ivana Bugarinovic

Ten thousand mosquitoes unite into a tiger, reduced to nine thousand they can only unite into a leopard, reduced to eight thousand and they can only unite into an immobile chimpanzee. But one mosquito is just one mosquito.

The hemophagous mosquito, the female mosquito, in the same category as the leech and the vampire, to which could also be added the bloodsucking bureaucrat, landlord, capitalist. Were all creatures under heaven to be grouped according to diet, they would then be grouped into carnivorous, herbivorous, and hemophagous.

Mosquitoes are everywhere in the crevices of history. They have witnessed and even participated in executions, human severance by horse-cart, embankment ruptures on the Yellow River, the peddling of sons and daughters, and yet the twenty-five books of the dynastic histories contain not one mention of the mosquito.

When we bump into a mosquito today, its ancestry could be traced back to the era when Nüwa repaired the heavens (Nüwa was a beauty, or so is told in The Investiture of the Gods. Nüwa delighted by nature in mosquitoes, though such is not told in The Investiture of the Gods).

Yet the longevity of a mosquito is nearly fixed between sunup and sundown, or between two sunups and sundowns, and therefore in all a mosquito’s life it might on average only meet four or five people or twenty or thirty pigs or one horse. This suggests that mosquitoes have developed no viewpoints concerning good and evil.


Xi Chuan (penname of Liu Jun) was born in Jiangsu in 1963 but grew up in Beijing, where he still lives. One of contemporary China’s most celebrated poets, having won the Lu Xun Prize for Literature (2001) and the Zhuang Zhongwen Prize (2003), he is also one of its most hyphenated littérateurs—teacher-essayist-translator-editor-poet—and has been described by American writer Eliot Weinberger as a “polymath, equally at home discussing the latest American poetry or Shang Dynasty numismatics.” A graduate of the English dept. of Beijing University, where his thesis was on Ezra Pound’s Chinese translations, he is currently employed at the Central Academy for Fine Arts in Beijing, where he was hired as an English instructor, then taught Western literature in Chinese translation, and now teaches pre-modern Chinese literature. He has taught at New York University (2007) and University of Victoria (2009), and is currently translating the work of Gary Snyder into Chinese.

Ivana Bugarinovic was born in Belgrade in 1982, where she graduated from the Faculty of Applied Art, University of Art in Belgrade, in the department for textile design.

She is currently working as a graphic designer at Student’s City Cultural Center in Belgrade during the day, while freelancing as an illustrator at night. She is also an active musician – a drummer – and she loves to sew. Her main inspirations are fairies, animals and nature as well as fashion, given that she graduated as a textile designer.