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What is Chinese?

Xiao Ke x Zi Han

A country, a culture, a community or an identity? A question is a mirror: come see yourself in this one.

What is Chinese? was an international collaboration that ruminated on the connections and distinctions between people the world over. Almost a quarter of humanity can trace ethnic roots to Chinese culture, but how does that manifest in our everyday lives?

Shanghai artists Xiao Ke and Zi Han have travelled the world interviewing more than 140 members of the Chinese diaspora, and their video interviews and portraits are the launching point for this multi-faceted work. Part documentary, part performance this curious series of encounters and insights speak to how we live today and imagines what awaits us tomorrow.

Due to COVID, the live performance element of this work was cancelled in March 2020. The group instead collaborated in an online residency which resulted in the creation of the film ‘If I Were You’. 

What is Chinese? is co-commissioned by Arts House through the City of Melbourne and Asia TOPA through Arts Centre Melbourne, with support from the Sidney Myer Fund. This ongoing project has been supported by Taipei Performing Arts Centre. Made with the funding support of European Union and Ministry of Culture and Science of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia. This production is also made with the support of the Besen Family Foundation and The Australia Council for the Arts. Produced by Bureau of Works (AU) and Materialise (HK)

Presented as part of Asia TOPA 2020


Concept and Director Xiao Ke + Zi Han

Dramaturg Ophelia Jiadai Huang

Producers Erin Milne, Stephane Noel


Arts House
North Melbourne Town Hall
521 Queensberry St,
North Melbourne