Alec Ash

Buy the book

UK edition (Amazon) or from publisher (Picador)

US edition (Amazon) or from publisher (Arcade)

US paperback (titled China's New Youth, pub. 2020)

Audiobook (Amazon/Blackstone Audio)

Praise for Wish Lanterns

"Wish Lanterns announces the arrival of a talented young observer of today’s China. Alec Ash documents the lives of Chinese millennials with detail, insight, and sympathy, and his book is an invaluable resource for anybody hoping to understand the country’s future possibilities"

Peter Hessler, author of River Town

"Alec Ash has given something miraculous: a living, breathing portrait of China’s future—and, thus, a portrait of the world’s future. Deeply reported, and alive with the full complications of truth, Ash’s chronicle of young lives in China will endure"

Evan Osnos, author of Age of Ambition

"Alec Ash's book has opened a window in the wall between China and the west for us to see the hopes and fears of these young Chinese who are struggling to build their lives in a world that their parents could never dream of"

Xinran, author of The Good Women of China

"A gem of a book. Its brief chapters flow like a skillfully crafted set of interconnected short stories, yet all are rooted in the real life experiences of six individuals. An impressive debut book by a writer to watch"

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, author of China in the 21st Century

"Alec Ash hangs out with China's "post-80s" generations to give us a series of fascinating and insightful snapshots of where the country might be heading"

Paul French, author of Midnight in Peking

"A beautiful and thoughtful book about the life of young people in China. Alec Ash has succeeded in giving us an intimate and complex portrait of the one child generation. I enthusiastically recommend you to read it"

Xiaolu Guo, author of I Am China

"A completely novel take on contemporary China. The result is a work of heart-felt reportage and also great suspense, as we wait to learn each character's fate. I couldn't put it down"

Michael Meyer, author of In Manchuria

"Raw, heartfelt and ultimately inspiring. Ash effortlessly dissolves stereotypes with this refreshing and nuanced portrait of individuals who are shaping the China of tomorrow"

Rob Schmitz, author of Street of Eternal Happiness

"Alec Ash weaves the joy, heartbreak, drama and trauma of this group, making up a highly realistic, and at times poetic, portrait of the people who will likely have the greatest future impact in the world today"

Kerry Brown, Professor of China Studies, King's College

"A fascinating mosaic that gives us a wonderfully vivid sense of what it's like to grow up today in China. Alec Ash gives an immediate feel of just how contradictory life is in this dynamic but still unresolved country"

Orville Schell, Director, Center on US-China Relations

"Through deep dive longitudinal reporting and masterful storytelling, Alec Ash lets readers feel closely connected to the coming of age experience in today's China"

Eric Fish, author of China's Millenials


Wall Street Journal – Howard French

Washington Post – John Pomfret

Financial Times – Jonathan Fenby

Prospect – Rana Mitter

Standpoint – Graham Hutchings

South China Morning Post (from Asian Review of Books)

LA Review of Books

That's Beijing

The Nanfang

Bookish Asia

HK Magazine

City Weekend

Author Q&As

New York Times – with Ian Johnson (中文版)

Wall Street Journal – with Teping Chen

Forbes Asia

The Diplomat

Young China Watchers

Bookish Asia

Smart Shanghai

Oxford Today

That's Shanghai

The Beijinger

World of Chinese

Why I Write

Il Libraio (Italian)


Preface (on Chinese youth, at SupChina)

Xiaoxiao (on childhood, at Picador)

Dahai (on netizens, at Lit Hub)

Fred (on politics, at ChinaFile)

Snail (on internet gaming, at Anthill)

Lucifer (on reality TV, at Anthill)

Mia (on generation gaps, at LARB)


Sinica (and again)

Barbarians at the Gate

PRI: Whose Century Is It?

Council of Foreign Relations

Intrepid Times


BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week (archived on Soundcloud)


WildChina book talk

ChinaFile book intro

TEDx Beijing (also on Youku)

Book talks

London, Oct 5 2016: Asia House, London

Cheltenham, Oct 7 2016: Cheltenham literary festival

London, Oct 13 2016: Westminster University

Oxford, Oct 14 2016: Oxford China Centre

Hong Kong, Nov 11 2016: Hong Kong literary festival

Shanghai, Mar 11 2017: Shanghai literary festival

Beijing, Apr 11 2017: Beijing Bookworm

Zurich, Jan 31 2018: Asia Society Switzerland

Milan, Feb 2 2018: Confucius Institute

Foreign language editions

German (Die Einzelkinder)

Italian (Lanterne in Volo)

Catalan (Senyals de Llum)

Korean (link tk)


Beijing book launch, with live music from Lucifer

Beijing Bookworm talk, with Christina Larson

Shanghai Literary Festival, with Mia

TEDx Beijing talk (see videos above)

Asia Society Switzerland talk, Zurich


A BBC Book of the Week

"A talented young observer of today’s China" – Peter Hessler

"Lyrical ... a telling portrait" – Washington Post

"Alive with the full complications of truth" – Evan Osnos

"Compelling and beautifully written" – Prospect