2021: Chinese SF/Ham Radio Web Novel: We Live in Nanjing

I follow the Shenyang Amateur Radio Club on Weibo social media. They passed along a glowing review of new online novel We Live in Nanjing in which a ham radio operator plays a central role. This novel, by Tianrui Shuofu, in November 2021 won the Science Fiction Galazy Award for best online science fiction novel.

Tianrui Shuofu, now in his mid 30s, has published several other science fiction novels including Dying on Mars 《死在火星上》 and No News From Titan 《泰坦无人声》

Online novels bring income to websites and presumably to authors as well by earning money from the advertisements that accompany each of the chapters of the novel online. At left I put an image of part of the webpage featuring We Live in Nanjing. Many hundreds of millions of Chinese prefer to read on their phones. Many writers reach their audiences through online advertiser supported literature or membership-supported website that allow members to download books at an affortable price. Some online novels move on to bookshelves as well. We Live in Nanjing has just been published in paperback in China.

Tianrui Shuofu web novel Dying on Mars 《死在火星上》
Tianrui Shuofu online novel No News From Titan 泰坦无人声
Tianrui Shuoufu martial arts novel The Words of Buddha Cannot be Spoken 佛说不可曰

Shanghai’s Xinmin Evening News discussed We Live in Nanjing and celebrated the vitality of the online science fiction genre in China.

Last night, China’s highest science fiction award, the 32nd China Science Fiction Galaxy Award, announced the winners. Writer Tianrui said Fu won the “Best Online Science Fiction Novel Award” with “We Live in Nanjing”, which is the fifth consecutive time that ReadWrite Group’s online literary works have won the highest award in the science fiction field.

The Galaxy Award was established in 1985 under the name “Galaxy”, and the winning works represent the highest level of Chinese science fiction creation. This year’s Galaxy Award has awarded 18 prizes, including Best Long Story, Best Middle Grade Novel, Best Short Story, and Best Internet Science Fiction. We Live in Nanjing” tells the story of a high school senior boy living in Nanjing who accidentally contacts a girl living in the same geographical location in 2040 through his ham radio station. The two face the apocalyptic natural disasters together but manage to survive. The jury believes that this is a very rare hardcore science fiction work with radio as its theme. The author blends the blossoming modern era and the uninhabited future into the same story, and through the dialogue across time and space, the two young people who try to save the world, deliver the warmth of humanity.

Li Wei, Vice Chairman of Jiangsu Association of Online Literature and Professor of Nanjing Normal University, evaluates the book as “a Chinese version of the story of high school students saving the world”. Li found the book shows rare aesthetic style of science fiction works in addition to professional science fiction settings, exciting stories and delicate emotions. The “new science fiction” experiment. Tianrui said Fu created “I’m on Mars” in 2019 won the 30th Galaxy Award “Best Online Literature Award”, he also became the first online literature writer to win the Galaxy Award twice.

In recent years, along with the continuing enthusiasm for the creation of science fiction themes, online literature has become an important platform for incubating works of science fiction. Over 510,000 writers in the ReadWrite Group alone have been writing science fiction novels online. They have produced a large number of outstanding works. Many have won major awards in the science fiction field. In addition to the two works of Tianrui said Fu, “Rebirth of Super Battleship” 《重生之超级战舰》created by Rainbow Gate, “Under Deep Space” 《深空之下》created by Final Eternity, and “Thousand Year Retrospective” 《千年回溯》created by Thing in Fire won the Science Fiction Galaxy Award “Best Online Literature Award” in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

In order to further help the development of science fiction industry, in September this year, under the guidance of the Shanghai Science Association, ReadWrite Group and a number of organizations have joined forces to launch the “Science Fiction Dream Sailing Plan”, in literary creation, popularization of knowledge and science, exhanges between people in different industries, creative design, film and television production and other areas. Through the dialogue between science fiction writers and experts and scholars, the science fiction essay contest, the promotion of science fiction book lists, the cultivation and development of science fiction themed intellectual properties, and the creation of derivative literary and creative brands and products, the program is building a platform, opens up channels of communication and providing resources for outstanding science fiction creators.

Xu Yisheng in the Xinmin Evening News, November 20, 2021

Tianrui Shuofu was interviewed recently on the Jiangsu Provincial Broadcasting Station’s Evening News program.

Tianrui Shuofu was interviewed recently on the Jiangsu Satellite Television’s Evening News program.

We Live in Nanjing 《我们生活在南京》

Excerpt: Introduction, chapters 1 – 3

Let’s pick a point in the spatio-temporal coordinates of human history.

Let’s take a look at 1887. Location: 8 degrees 24 minutes east longitude, 49 degrees north latitude.

The old German town of Karlsruhe.

It lies at the northern entrance to the densely grown Black Forest. The Rhine quietly winds through Karlsruhe. It is a small, quaint town with scattered buildings nestled in the sunlight among the verdant trees.

On this quiet, peaceful afternoon, the sunlight falls through a gap in the curtains of one of the buildings at Karlsruhe University onto a young man’s feet.

The room is dimly lit with a long long wooden table.

At the end of the table, a horizontal cylinder with many copper wires, an inductance coil, wound thinly around it.

At the center of the long table lies set of barbells – at least they look like barbells.

See the Famous Scientists blog article “How Heinrich Hertz Discovered Radio Waves

At both end are big hollow copper balls as big as a person’s head. The two copper balls are connected with a two-meter-long thin solid copper tube. At first glance it looks like a long, thin barbell. But it isn’t the same as a barbell, because there is a break in the middle of the copper bar: the gap is about two centimeters wide.

The two hollow copper balls are connected to the back of the inductor coil with a wire.

And the inductor coil is connected to a wire to the battery under the table.

Then, with the young man holding the open copper ring, the entire setup was ready.

He knows very well what each component of this equipment is for, the coil, is a voltage transformer: it can transform the weak battery voltage to a high enough voltage. The two copper balls act as a capacitor used to accumulate an electric charge. One side is positive, the other negative. When sufficient electric charge has accumulated on the two sides of the capacitor, then a high-voltage current will be able to instantly break through the air gap between them.

The young man closed the circuit switch.

A soft “pop” sound.

Lightning as a light blue arc jumped across the gap in the center copper rod.

But that wasn’t all.

Getting that blue arc was not the purpose of the experiment.

He lifts the C-shaped copper ring in his hand – the copper ring has a small opening, slowly approaches the table, and holds his breath.

One step, two steps, three steps ……

A tiny “pop” sounded like the voice of a ghost! But not from the experimental device on the table, but from the copper ring in the young man’s hand.

Transparent, pixie-like faint electric sparks erupted in the opening of the C-shaped copper ring.

His eyes widened in surprise. After relentless efforts, he had finally caught this invisible and untouchable ghost floating in the air.

A mysterious hand somehow pushed the energy from the spark generator on the table to the copper ring in his hand. Without wires, without any medium, without any connection! A spark jumped across the gap in the tiny C-shaped copper ring in his hand. It was a miracle.

Maxwell’s theory was perfectly verified.

On this day, mankind transmitted the first electromagnetic wave dispatched intentionally to the universe.

That young man, a teacher at the University of Karlsruhe, was named Heinrich Rudolf Hertz.

That year he was thirty years old.

Heinrich Hertz (Wikipedia)

Let’s pick another point in the spatiotemporal coordinates of human history: July 11, 1998.

A Nanjing Amateur Radio Club team consisting of Bai Zhen, Wang Ning, and Zhao Bowen were participating in the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) High Freqency World Championship. They used an Icom 725 radio transceiver. They set up their radio and antenna in the hot sun on Purple Mountain. The radio transceiver they put on a small table on the grass under the shade of a tree. They began operating at 8 AM that day.

Their antenna was a horizontally-oriented dipole antenna running north-south direction, tied with a rope between two trees. From a distance it looked like a clothesline.

“CQ! CQ! CQ!” called Bai Zhen, holding a hand microphone in one hand and holding on to a pen in the other. As he spoke in his home-fermented English spoke as he sat on his chosen frequency. “Bravo-Golf-Four-Mike-Xray-Hotel Contest! BG4MXH! QSL?”

“Juliet-Alfa-One-Delta-Charlie-Kilo!JA1DCK!QSL?” soon came the clear reply to his headset.

Bai Zhen signaled OK and began to record the contact in his log.

The other party’s call sign was JA1 ……1 ……

What came after that?

“Juliet-Alfa-One……again?” Bai Zhen had to ask him to repeat.


The call sign began with J. It was a Japanese ham.

“No wonder, his English is worse than mine!” Bai Zhen thought silently to himself as he replied, “Roger!

“QSL! Thank you!”

“Thank you! 73!”


The Japanese really do speak very poor English.

That their sixty-ninth contact. Everything was going well.

Website of the International Amateur Radio Union Announcement about the 2020 IARU HF World Championship.

The IARU High Frequency Championship is the world’s largest event for amateur radio enthusiasts. Points are awarded based on the distance and number of stations contacted. The more stations contacted and the greater the distance, the higher the score.

“CQ! CQ ……”

Immediately Bai Zhen started calling again. Their goal was to connect to 500 stations during the 48 hours of competition.

But before Bai Zhen could finish his sentence, as soon as he let go of the hand mike, a very sharp noise erupted on the frequency, piercing his eardrums like a needle.

“Holy shit!”

“What’s wrong?” Wang Ning and Zhao Bowen, who were squatting on their heels playing cards nearby, turned their heads.

“It seems like there is interference ……” Bai Zhen peeled off the headset on his head, “What’s going on?”

“Could the interference be coming from the mountain?” Wang Ning put the Jianli Bao soft drink in his hand on the table, reached out and took the headset, put it on his head. “Crap!”

“Something strange is going on!” Zhao Bowen also listened, “Look at the 6-meter band?”

“Six meters is all messed up.”

“12 meters?”

“There is a whirring sound on12 meters.”

“What is that whirring sound?”

“It’s some strange signal that’s on every frequency.” Bai Zhen casually twisted the dial on the transceiver and was a little surprised, “We are being jammed by something that is on all bands.”

Wang Ning and Zhao Bowen unconsciously look at the sky. Nothing flying up there, right?

Running into this kind of thing could be the end of the ham radio contest for them. Bai Zhen, however, wasn’t willing to give up. He turned down the volume, slowly twists the dial, sweeping all the amateur radio bands.

Perhaps there really was a powerful source of interference nearby. That source transmitted indiscriminately on all frequencies. The noise overwhelmed all the other signals on the bands.

“There’s nothing we can do about it.” Wang Ning squatted back down and started to play cards again, “Old Bai you leave it alone, come on, let’s play cards!”

“Play cards?” Zhao Bowen said.

Bai Zhen did not pay attention to those two, he lay on the table trying to see if anything was wrong with the radio transceiver. He checked everything he could think of for ten minutes, but still didn’t get anywhere. Even am experienced ham like Bai Zhen had never seen anything like this. He secretly asked himself if the city of Nanjing was being attacked by a powerful electromagnetic pulse? Were we at war? Were the U.S. imperialists on their way to attack us?

“Bai, just don’t worry about it. Let’s stop playing … do you like popsicles? Let’s go buy some popsicles.”

Wang Ning squatted in the shade of a tree, out of breath so called out a bit weakly, as he flicked the bottom of his undershirt back and forth to fan himself.

Nanjing in mid-July is so hot that even dogs get depressed!

Bai Zhen wiped a handful of sweat on his forehead and suddenly perked up, “Wait …… wait! I hear something!”

“What?” Wang Ning and Zhao Bowen, squatting under the tree. They weren’t playing cards anymore. Their tongues were hanging out, panting as hot as a dog.

“I hear someone ……” Bai Zhen slowly turned the knob and frowned, “The signal is very faint, I can’t hear it very well.”

Icom725 couldn’t filter out all the noise, but still, in the background noise, Bai Zhen could hear a faint human voice. His eyes narrowed as he focused on the voices.


“How do you know who it is?”

“…… Look up in the sky, it’s over your head!”

“A shooting star, look, it’s a shooting star!”

“We have to put this thing in its intended location or it won’t explode. Nuclear weapons have limited explosive power.”

“They’re coming down from the sky.”

“Help me, please, help me ……”

Men and women’s voices all yelling and all jumbled together. Bai Zhen was baffled. Who could be spouting all that nonsense on this frequency?

“We’ll see you later.”

“Pop!” With a loud bang, all the voices stopped abruptly, Bai Zhen looked up, and Zhao Bowen turned off the radio.

He took off the headset from Bai Zhen’s head, “Stop messing around, let’s go down the mountain to buy food! Go buy the old popsicle! Old – ice – stick – yo ho -!”

That was it for this year’s IARU HF contest. Bai Zhen and the two other hams had run into inexplicable interference and so their contest effort ended in failure.

The following year, Bai Zhen failed his college entrance exams and joined the army. He then served twelve years as a communications soldier in the PLA North Sea Naval Fleet Communications Center. He was demobilized in 2012. After returning to civilian life he drove a taxi in downtown Nanjing.

Zhao Bowen was admitted to the Physics Department of Nanjing University in the same year Bai Zhen joined the PLA. Zhang stayed at Nanjing University after he got his PhD. Now he is an associate researcher at Nanjing Purple Mountain Observatory where he does research on space physics and electromagnetism.

Wang Ning, on the other hand, spent many years flitting from one thing to another. He eventually joined the office of the Nanjing Wireless Commission where he to this day directs their radio monitoring station.

Let’s finally pick another spot in deep time.


At this very moment.

You are now looking at your cell phone screen. It doesn’t matter whether it is an Apple, Huawei, Xiaomi, Samsung or OV phone, they are fundamentally no different from that C-shaped copper ring in Hertz’s hand back then. All the text, pictures, sound and video are modulated into electromagnetic waves, received by cell phone antennas via communication base stations and wireless routers, and then demodulated into signals that humans can understand which enter your eyes and ears.

Every second of day and night in this world, long wave signals penetrate the deep ocean, short waves oscillate through the ionosphere, UV waves rampage down into cities. They are all part of another world where we cannot see with our naked eyes.

More than one hundred and thirty years have passed since 1887 when humans first mastered electromagnetic waves. Theoretically speaking, due to the principle of the conservation of energy, the first human-initiated electromagnetic waves are still oscillating in this universe, although they will have decayed to the point that no one can receive them. Electromagnetic waves are like tiny ghosts, wandering this noisy earth, perhaps causing a sudden jump of electrons in a component of your cell phone integrated circuit. A spark, a flash but so faint but unknown to anyone except the universe itself.

At the moment that unnoticed spark comes, you will be rubbing your sleepy eyes. You will not realize though that you have received the greeting of the young man named Hertz from one hundred and thirty years ago in deep time.

This is a story about radio. This story happened in 2019. Now nearly two years have passed. During those two years the author spent a lot of energy to visit around, collating materials from all sides, before summoning up a little confidence to put it into manuscript form an offer it to the public. I have tried not to make any major errors in writing all this down. If some of the people involved do see it someday, I hope I am not making a big mistake. If the parties concerned should see my humble work, I hope that they will get a laugh out of it.

The characters that appear in this story have all been given pseudonyms.

66 Muxu Avenue, Qinhuai District, Nanjing.

This is one of the few neighborhoods in the city where people can still afford to live. The housing is old but still decent. Years ago an apartment cost RMB 30,000 per ping [3.3 square meters]. Now nobody buys an apartment there.

The young woman carried her bag through the main entrance. Flourish vines lined the walls of the residential buildings on both sides. Overlapping round green leaves covered the pink marble walls which had not gotten any attention for many years.

She lived in the second unit of building 11. She took a left and walked twenty meters to another door. Her apartment was number 804.

The old building does not have an elevator so she climbed the staircases one by one. The climbing was still quite tiring. She went up five floors before catching her breath. Then she slowed her pace, carrying a heavy cloth bag in her hand that was dripping all the way up.

When she reached the seventh floor, she tapped on the door of 703 and shouted, “Master Huang! Old Huang! I’m back! It’s Banxia!”

No response. Maybe he was still asleep.

Old Huang had always been a man who lived night and day upside down.

Hanxia reached upstairs panting, the cloth bag in her hand shaking, the scarlet sticky liquid soaked through the fabric and spilling on the steps.

She didn’t notice, and it kept dripping the whole time she was climbing the stairs.

The eighth is the top floor with two apartments facing one another door to door. The outer door from the staircase opened but the inner door was blocked by different stuff, a rope to dry clothes hung across the stairwell pulled. Banxia squeezed through under a black jacket which brushed against her hair.

At the door of their own apartment, the bag switched hands as she felt for the key in her pocket. With a twist of the key and a creak, the door opened. She put down the bag to exchange her shoes for slippers.

“Mom and Dad, I’m home.”

Her parents sat on the sofa. Banxia looked around, saw that some dust had accumulated during the day and so she went over to do some dusting.

Some of the dust had blown in through the window. They had forgotten to close the living room window the previous night. There were even fresh bird droppings on the floor.

“I went to see the teacher. The teacher is still as strict as ever. I talked to her about the results of today’s study. Not much progress. Studying on my own is really difficult.”

The girl rested there for a moment, then hugged her dad’s shoulders, “If only there was someone who could teach me, please Heaven, send me a guru, a good-looking one would be best.”

Heaven still had not answered her request.

She has prayed many times, she stood on the roof of the building and shouted to the sky: Heaven -! Please send me a handsome man…! The kind of handsome man who can be my ox and horse to help me carry wild vegetables…!

Unfortunately, Heaven only agreed to fulfill half of her request.

No handsome man.

Oxen and horses would have to suffice.

I don’t know how many wild buffaloes pooped while wandering in groups down Cloverfield Street in front of the door, waving their tails and spreading their shit everywhere.

“There are a lot more deer droppings on Muxu Street, I don’t know what kind of deer, but there must be a large herd of deer coming here, I’ll go back tomorrow and see if it’s the same herd that came last time.”

“There is less and less water in Crescent Lake. The bottom of the lake is all silt. I think the lake will go dry soon. I passed by there today and saw a bunch of tin cans in the mud at the bottom of the lake, I have no idea who threw them out there.”

The girl gave her parents a shoulder squeeze as she spoke.

They both just sat there motionless.

“Today I still didn’t run into anyone. All you can do is just try again on the radio tonight. Do you really think that anyone will hear you? Although I haven’t been able to contact anyone, but the the teacher said to keep on trying. She said that someone will hear you. What day is it today? September …… September 5th? Ah no, it’s September 6th.”

“I’m going to cook. We’ll have another person eating with us tonight, I’ll bring the teacher back to eat with us tonight.” Banxia got up, dragging the cloth bag from the doorway into the kitchen, leaving a dark red trail. “Oops! It’s leaking, it’s making a mess on the floor.”

She hurriedly dragged the bag into the kitchen, and then “slammed” the kitchen door shut.

Half an hour later, the hard thud of the kitchen knife was heard.

“It’s hard to chop.”

“So hard, is it a spine?”

“Oops, the head fell into the sink.”

“I can’t do it, Dad! Mom! Do you mind if we have ribs tonight? If not, I’ll cook ribs!”

Soon the house was filled with the rich smell of meat, and the soup pot in the kitchen rumbled.

A mouse slithered down from the ceiling and climbed up the floor to the sofa, then up the sofa to the shoulders of the parents, tearing their clothes.

Banxia was in the kitchen when she heard the squeak and poked her head out to see the mouse.

She rushed over with a spoon in her hand.

“Damn rat!”

She swung the spoon.

The mouse shrieked and disappeared under the sofa.

The rats are really annoying, and these rats are not afraid of people, when night comes they charge out like a demon. Banxia, lying in bed at night can hear them on the floor rustling around. They make so much noise that people can’t sleep

If you fall asleep, they get even worse. They will get into your bed, into the sleeves of your clothes, and into you hair. Banxia more than once woke up early in the morning to find something moving in her hair.

She combed a small mouse out of her hair. It wiggled as it squeaked on the ground.

Come on, breakfast is ready.

A few minutes later, her face full of soot and sweat, Banxia took the hot aluminum pot out, wrapped in a rag handle, bending and twisting all the way hissing backwards to breathe in the pot on the coffee table.

The creamy soup in the pot spilled over the edge and spilled onto the table.

“Hot, hot, hot, hot! So hot.” The girl put her finger in her mouth and stomped her foot as if it would cool her down faster. She stirred the soup in the pot with a spoon and brought out a stack of four bowls from the kitchen.

She placed each of the four bowls on the table, saying as she did so.

“These are Dad’s.”

“This is Mom’s.”

“This is mine.”

The last bowl was pushed to the edge of the unoccupied table.

“This is the teacher’s.”

“The teacher is a guest, so the teacher comes first.” With a heated smile, Hanxia fished out a boiled palm from the soup pot with chopsticks and put it in that bowl, “Here, it’s cooked to perfection, don’t be polite.”

After saying that, she closed her hands and took a deep breath.

“So Dad, Mom, Teacher, I’ve started!”

No. 66 Clover Garden Street, Qinhuai District, Plum Blossom Villa Zhong Qin Yuan.

It is an hour’s walk to the Purple Mountain and a ten-minute walk to the Crescent Lake with its nice scenery and city walls. The area has wonderful fengshui and apartments that cost over 30,000 RMB per ping.

Bai Yang rode his bicycle fast over the Muxu Street, quickly passing under one street light after street light. He turned left into the community gate, rushing over the speed bump with one wheel suspended in mid-air suspended, then crashing down, riding into the night and disappearing in a flash of smoke under the surprised eyes of the security guard.

“Don’t go so fast–!” said the security guard, poking out of his booth as he shouted.

“Yes, Uncle Cai!”

He was in a hurry.

He had to go to bed by 12:00 every night, and if he wanted to do something before he went to bed, he had to get home as soon as possible.

Home is in the second unit of building 11, twenty meters to left.

Eighth floor, 804.

Bai Yang parked his bicycle downstairs and locked it, then carried his school bag all the way up the stairs, and the sound-controlled lights in the hallway lit up from the bottom to the top of the building the second he stepped through the door of the unit.

The first thing you need to do is to take out the key and open the door, put down the bag in the entrance hall and change your shoes.

The night snack that Mom makes she usually puts in the rice cooker to keep warm. The rice cooker is on the dining room table, plugged in.

If Bai Yang comes back hungry from his evening studies, then there is always something to eat.

Night snacks are usually noodles or rice. Bai Yang does not usually go home to eat, so Mom will leave a separate dinner meal in the rice cooker to heat.

He uncovered the pot, steaming hot fried noodles.

Bai Yang tried to touch the bowl, it was not too hot, so he picked up the bowl and went back to his room.

“Xiao Yang?”

As he passed his parents’ bedroom, his mother’s confused voice came through the room door.

“Well, I’m back.”

Bai Yang replied.

“Oh, you’re back, go to bed early.”

Mom fell asleep again, and Pop’s snoring was as loud as ever.

Bai Yang returned to his room with the midnight snack, his room is small. Its single bed barely allows the door to close. The desk lies against the bay window. On the right is a tall bookshelf filled with reference books.

The first thing you need to do is to take out the midnight snack and brush your teeth, Bai Yang took a deep breath and took out his phone from under the table to look at the time.

11:30 pm.

Bai Yang sat up straight in his chair, pulled the curtains, a lamp on, and then solemnly pulled out a roll of toilet paper on the table, no matter what happens next, first put a roll of toilet paper is always right, late at night, all is quiet. He is a young bachelor, alone, he has some craft work to do that he can’t do during the day.

From this moment on, he will have to change his identity.

In addition to high school senior , he has another identity –

A rascal? Of course not. It’s ham radio operator. It’s ham.

What is a ham?

Ham is HAM or more formally amateur radio enthusiasts.

Bai Yang reached down to uncover the plastic sheet on the shelf, “swish”, revealing the black radio underneath.

That ICOM 725 shortwave radio. It looks a bit like the old CD player in the 1980s.

This is a family heirloom my father passed down to me.

That antique could go into a museum.

He turned on the external power supply at the other end of the bookshelf, pressed the POWER button on the radio panel and the radio started to power up. The old yellowing LCD screen with its small level meter lit up. The frequency readout showed 7.2750 MHZ. Out of the speaker came just meaningless white noise. Bai Yang inserted the headset and hand microphone into their jacks, pressed the SSB button to go into the single sideband communication mode, pressed the TUNER button to adjust the antenna tuner to match the antenna to the transceiver’s frequency. He began slowly twisted the knob to listen around the frequency.

His fingers moved nimbly. Now he felt like the underground Communist Party member Yu Zecheng in the TV series “Lurk“.

The 2019 Chinese Civil War spy drama Lurk in available on YouTube in Chinese. See English Wiki page on the series.

Of course, he was also like an old man who listens to the radio before going to bed.

Tonight, Bai Yang was going to make the first long-distance contact in his ham career.

The so-called radio contact, is in fact, finding someone to talk to. The biggest difference between this and cell phone calls is that you do not know what you can contact, and do not know how the radio waves will be refracted by layers dozens of kilometers up in the ionosphere. Radio stations do not have phone numbers and no telephone operators. They have no fiber optic cable across the ocean so they can not dial for one-on-one communications. Putting it in simple terms, this is “basically calling by yelling”, except that the yell modulates the radio waves that are transmitted which are then refracted by the ionosphere to somewhere hundreds or thousands of miles away. If someone hundreds or thousands of miles away hears you, then they will also yell back.

But due to equipment limitations, using short waves for long-distance communication is rather challenging. In ham jargon a long distance contact is called a DX QSO. Falure to achieve a DX contact are common even for seasoned old hams.

For this evening’s attempt, Bai Yang had climbed up to the rooftop in the afternoon and confirmed that there was no problem with the antenna. Father had set up two antennas, a six-meter whip and a dipole antenna, on the rooftop when he was young and foolish. That is something the neighbors often complain about.

If there wasn’t a problem, he should be able to contact a Russian or European radio station on the 14.195 MHZ after 8:30 pm.

Then he could say hello to foreign friends and tell them that he is from CHINA.

Bai Yang twisted the knob and the numbers on the LCD screen jumped.

14.195 megahertz.

Bai Yang put on the headset and listened for half a minute. No one was using that frequency so he pressed the TRANSMIT button on his hand microphone and the green light on the radio panel came on.

The transciever was now transmitting.

Bai Yang took a deep breath, and as an illegal little HAM who had not yet qualified for his B license, he called out the first call of his ham career: “CQ!

“CQ! CQ! CQ! This is Bravo-Golf-Four-Mike-Xray-Hotel, BG4MXH, calling cq and waiting for a call!”

This is Bravo-Golf-Four-Mike-Xray Hotel, BG4MXH, calling CQ and waiting for a call!” His voice modulated the radio frequency sine wave generated inside the transceiver which was then launched into the air, in the brightly lit Qinhuai district of Nanjing. This was like someone throwing a small stone into a pond, causing slight ripples invisible to the naked eye to spread out in all directions at the speed of light. They were refracted by the ionosphere, at a height of fifty kilometers, down to beyond the horizon. The signal crossed rivers and lush primeval forests, to be heard by people listening on that frequency.

CQ” is a common phrase in all radio communications, meaning SEEK YOU.

It is similar to the phrase “Anyone? Anyone? Anyone?”

And BG4MXH is his call sign.

The call above translates to “Hello! Hello! Hello! This is BG4MXH! BG4MXH is looking for someone to talk to! I’m waiting for your reply!”

In China, amateur radio is a strictly controlled hobby. Anyone who wants to use a radio transmitter for communication must be fully documented. Anyone who wishes to become an amateur radio operator needs to take an examination to get a license. Every legal radio station will have a unique call sign, like people’s ID card number, the IC725 in Bai Yang’s hands, the call sign is BG4MXH, which begins with the letter B for China, the letter G represents the level of amateur radio – Bai Yang’s is a three-level station, so it is G, the number 4 represents the region, the call sign of Jiangsu region is 4.

Of course, there are also illegal radio stations without call signs. There are called black stations.

It’s like a black household that doesn’t have a household registration.

Bai Yang’s radio station was passed on to him by his father, who was a seasoned twenty-year ham who served in the PLA North Sea Fleet Communications Station. He was a career communications technology specialist soldier. He was active on ham radio in Nanjing after he returned to civilian life. There his old man reigned supreme in Nanjing ham circles as a leading technical expert until finally he gave it up.

In the words of his father, do people still play with this nowadays, when it is so much easier to talk with people on WeChat?

“This is Bravo-Golf-Four-Mike-Xray-Hotel, BG4MXH, calling cq and waiting for a call!”

Bai Yang called again, then waited a little nervously for a response.

He hoped that in a few seconds another person’s voice would come on frequency. It would probably be a call sign beginning with J or R, from Japan or Russia.

But there was no answer on the channel, just endless white noise.

Bai Yang was a little disappointed, was there a problem?

But this is also something to be expected. Short-wave communication problems are normal. One of a number of factors can lead to failure. Radio wave propagation itself is uncertain and the ionosphere itself is unstable. Combine these two uncertainties and you will have problems. Not to mention the increasingly complex electromagnetic environment, radio interference coming from everywhere in the city. Everything from electric cars to radios can cause radio frequency interference.

Either that or perhaps no one was listening on this frequency at all. So of course there would be no response.

Bai Yang turned his phone over. Other people were saying that 14195 is the number of a food market.

He rediscovered the post. He looked at the date.

Shit, that post about 14.195 MHz is from back in 2012!

My old man is right. Fewer and fewer people are entranced with the romance of wireless communication. Nobody wants to put up antennas that are 10-some meters high so that they can send their voices all around the world. This game is too complicated, too much trouble and too slow. That makes the ham radio hope not interesting enough and not stimlating enough.

More and more old hams are leaving it all behind. Father was one of them.

Bai Yang raised the power from 2W to 5W and tried calling again.

Sure enough, there was no one.

There was no one on frequency.

I heard my father say that when he was young, some channels were as lively as a vegetable market. Radio waves from all over the country criss-crossed in the night sky and flew around the world.

Now even the people who populated that vegetable market are scattered far and wide.

Bai Yang slowly twisted the frequency knob, the number on the LCD screen changed little by little, from 14.195MHz to 14.120MHz, and then to 14.125MHz. He still wanted to take try. Maybe there would be people talking on other frequencies?




Bai Yang braced his head against his hand and listened to each channel for ten seconds or so, then twisted the knob.




Bai Yang was a lonely traveler in the desert, looking all around, unable to contact another traveler.

He looked at the radio for a long time, twisted the frequency knob, over and over, and playing with the radio, the red TX indicator kept lighting up, and the numbers on the LCD screen jumped rapidly.

He suddenly froze, his fingers stopped.


Bai Yang carefully turned the knob back and forth, frowning in concentration, listening intently, hearing a voice deep in the noise but couldn’t make out what they were saying. He couldn’t tell if they were singing or changing a Buddhist scripture.

There is someone there!

Without thinking, he glanced at the frequency display.

14.855MHZ. [Translator’s note: whoops, that is outside the 14 – 14.350 MHz twenty meter amateur radio band.]

After a night of tossing and turning, Bai Yang finally had found someone else on the radio.

It was a girl.

“This is Bravo-Golf-Four-Mike-Xray-Hotel, BG4MXH, calling CQ and waiting for a call! “

The channel was silent for a few seconds.

Then the headset erupted with a surprised shriek of


This “alive?” got Bai Yang confused.

According to the rules of radio shortwave communication, the standard response is to indicate that you have received the signal and then to give your own call sign.

What did this kind of reaction, as if someone had just seen a ghost, mean?

A few seconds later, the other radio operator spoke again, shouting in surprise: “Anyone? Anyone there? Anyone there?”

Bai Yang listened with a frown.

The most worrying thing in operating on the radio is running into such people. They don’t have any ideas about the rules, they don’t keep the rules, they do not give their call sign, they do not give signal reports, they do not report their location, and they mess up a frequency with their aimless chatter. Bai Yang suddenly felt disgusted. Who is this newcomer? How did they pass their amateur radio examination?

Although he too was also a novice.

Also he too did not have an amateur radio license.

“This is BG4MXH, QTH Nanjing City Qinhuai District, I copied your signal, your signal is 59, OVER.”

Look, this is how a seasoned ham responds.

Bai Yang let go of the button on the hand microphone.

The other side spoke again.

“What what? Are you a survivor? Where are you now? How many people are with you? Are there any casualties? What are the casualties? What supplies do you need?”

The other operator was so excited that she almost shouted.

Bai Yang was shocked, what, what, what the xx is going on? Are you so confused that you don’t even worry about the radio regulatory commission coming to knock on your door?

In radio communications there is a set of rules and regulations that have been agreed upon: no yelling on frequency, no speaking gibberish, no swearing in the channel, no interrupting others at will. We are all supposed to be friends.

If you dare swear on the radio –

The radio regulatory commission says: I’ll come knocking on your door right away!

Bai Yang subconsciously tried to avoid this strange person. It was just like how, if you are walking on the road and suddenly bump into a person who rushes up to you babbling. You’ll want to avoid that.

“73! Bye!”

In a panic Bai Yang, a rookie himself, tried to end the contact.

“Wait! Don’t go! Don’t go!”

The other party heard him getting ready to leave and was immediately anxious.

Bai Yang said, “No …… I am sorry, my friend, but my mother is telling me to go to sleep now, 73 to you.”

“Your mother? You still have your mother?”

The person on the other side of the contact was astonished.

“Snap”, Bai Yang turned off the radio. He was getting nervous

-The other person operator said, “I talk with you again tomorrow!”

The next day.

Bai Yang emerged sleepily from his room, Mom was mopping the floor, the console TV was on with the morning news, Dad sat at the table checking on today’s headlines.

“Move your feet.” His mother pushed on Bai Yang’s slippers. She had to wait for Bai Yang to get up so that she could mop the floor in his room. “What time did you go to sleep last night?”

“Twelve o’clock.” Bai Yang went into the bathroom to wash up. He took the blue toothbrush from his spot on the sink and then squeezed out toothpaste from the tube unto the toothbrush. After finishing brushing his teech, he turned on the faucet “whoosh” he washed himself and spit out a mouthful of foam into the sink.

“Go to bed early at night.” Mom was very unhappy about Bai Yang’s sleep schedule, “You don’t sleep at night, the next morning you can’t get up. The morning is the best time of the day, but you sleep right through it….”

“Good, I know, I know!” Bai Yang said to himself with a mouthful of toothpaste foam, “I must sleep go to sleep early, I must go to sleep early.”

“Soon I will be taking my high school exams. I still have a year to go. Put radio on hold, focus on your studies, in your last ten months concentrate on filling in the gaps, consolidate what has been learned, you have half a year — that is time enought to improve the score ……”

His mother began to ramble again.

The time remaining before the college entrance examination in her sentence shrunk down from one year to ten months and then to half a year, and then, then the exam will be tomorrow.

“That’s not a radio!” Bai Yang said vaguely, “That’s a radio transceiver!”

“That’s a radio.” The old mother said, “Isn’t it just a bigger one? Just because it is bigger then it is not a radio anymore?”

“You are talking about a shortwave radio!” Bai Yang spit out all the toothpaste froth from his mouth, gurgled and rinsed his mouth, and argued loudly over the noise of running water, “Radio can save lives in extreme circumstances, if we had here an earthquake, flood, tsunami, or other natural disasters, or even the end of the world or something, cell phone and TV signals would all be cut off. All would be lost were it not for radio communications…..”

“Then only the radio could contact the outside world, isn’t that it?” Mother concluded.

Bai Yang froze, “Yes.”

“What does this have to do with your college entrance exams?” Mom said, “Is the end of the world something for you to worry about? As long as the earth does not explode, you will have to take the college entrance examination. Don’t talk to me about these things.”

Bai Yang finished washing up and came out of the bathroom helplessly, and his father was still sitting there skimming the headlines.

While he argued his case, his father stayed out of it, playing possum the whole time.

I think back in the day my old man was also a stalwart in Nanjing HAM circles. As my old man says, there are so many toad living beneath the sky, only a few can be cultivated to be the best. Only one could become an Ouyang Feng. [Translator’s note: Ouyang Feng ‘Western Venom’ and his son Ouyang Ke ‘Little Poison’ were characters in the novels about roving knights — The Legend of the Condor Heroes and its sequel, The Return of the Condor Heroes, by Jin Yong. End note]

Bai Yang asked what about Uncle Zhao?

Dad said that your Uncle Zhao grew into Ouyang Kek.

Unfortunately, now my old man who is currently one quarter retired, one quarter lying flat, and half already buried, had long since faded out of ham circles. He kept the transceiver just for listening, he doesn’t have the enthusiasm for ham radio that he had in the old days.

Bai Yang hated to see him that way. He was sorry that he had come along too late.

If he had known his father earlier, they could have participated in radio contests together.

“Did you make any contacts last night?”

Bai Yang sat down at the table and started to eat breakfast. there were four chicken dumplings on the plate as his father asked him how things had gone in a low voice.

“I heard a station on 14 MHz.” Bai Yang also answered in a low voice, “14855.”


“I don’t know.” Bai Yang said, “It was a black station.”

“Was it some enemy spy from the other side of the Taiwan Strait? Did they offer to pay you dollars to play ball with them?” Dad asked, “If they are in a hurry, say yes. Take the money then tell the police. That way you’ll not only get some dollars but a is a hurry to say yes, once you get the money then tell the police, that way not only have dollars and but RMB 500,000 reward as well.”

“It was a girl.” Bai Yang said, “It was some weird girl. I couldn’t understand what she was saying.”

“A girl? The enemy is so willing to give up their money? Maybe she’s the beautiful Panxi.”

“What about Panxi?” Bai Yang downed a steam dumpling all at once, “She didn’t even give her call sign and doesn’t know what a QTH is. There wasn’t anyone on the frequencies you recommended to me. Nobody at all.”

“What about 14.270 MHz?”

“No one.”

Old Dad sighed: “Year ago that was a very busy frequency just like a vegetable market. Today fewer and fewer people get on the air. Why don’t you buy a handheld? There are more people on VHF and UHF. Buy a Bao Feng UV5R. A nice radio, you can even work satellites with it.”

Baofeng UV-5R, now superceded by next generation model BF-F8HP

Bai Yang had now experienced for himself how cold amateur radio was. Empty frequencies are like empty streets. Even if Bai Yang shouts in the street, his voice echoes but no one responds.

“Teacher Liu send the math homework to the group, Xiao Yang you remember to look at it ah.” Mother had finished and came into the room so Bai Yang and his father immediately halted their conversation.

Talking about radio in front of mother — it was always radio in front of mother — was risky. Mother was already being very kind in not having already put salted fish on top of that antique and sold it. Big Bai and Little Bai both knew better than to press their luck.

“I know.” Bai Yang lowered his head and drank a large mouthful of soy milk, his heart calculating how to try again that night, he was not willing to just give up, what if he succeeded and made a contact with someone on the other side of the ocean? That can also let mom see a good reason for doing – the real reason I play with this is so that I will learn English! To practice my speaking! That will help me with the college entrance exams!

Just so long as I don’t make contacts with Japanese.

Because Mom would never believe that what they are speaking is really English.

网络科幻小说《我们生活在南京》 , 第一章 半夏, 第二章 白杨, 第三章 你还有妈




































“CQ!CQ!CQ!”白震一手握着手咪,一手捏着笔,操着他那口咸菜缸里泡过的英语,坐在频道里摆摊,“Bravo-Golf-Four-Mike-Xray-Hotel Contest!BG4MXH!QSL?”









白震心里默默地想,同时回复:“Roger!Roger!You are 59!QSL?”

“QSL!Thank you!”

“Thank you!73!”
































































































































































但由于设备条件有限,利用短波进行远距离通联是一件相当有难度的工作——用行话来说,这叫远征,缩写叫DX QSO,即使是经验丰富的老火腿,DX失败也是常事。









“CQ!CQ!CQ!This is Bravo-Golf-Four-Mike-Xray-Hotel,BG4MXH,calling cq and waiting for a call!”


“CQ”是所有无线电通信中的通用短语,意思是SEEK YOU。









“CQ!CQ!CQ!This is Bravo-Golf-Four-Mike-Xray-Hotel,BG4MXH,calling cq and waiting for a call!”






































白杨等对方的声音停下来,开始呼叫:““CQ!CQ!CQ!This is Bravo-Golf-Four-Mike-Xray-Hotel,BG4MXH,calling cq and waiting for a call!”











































































About 高大伟 David Cowhig

After retirement translated, with wife Jessie, Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and have been studying things 格物致知. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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