“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Linking Arthur Waley and George Chinnery on Brook Street, W1

Posted: August 17th, 2018 | No Comments »

George Chinnery died in Macao in 1852; Arthur Waley was born in Royal Tunbridge Wells in 1889. Of course these two men – the painter/roué and the Sinologist/translator (with his own troubled private life not unlike Chinnery) – never met. However, I suspect they inhabited the same space at different times. Here’s the link….

A couple of years ago, reading a biography of Chinnery, I noted that his last studio in London before he sailed for India and began his life in the East was at 20 Brook Street, W1 – the building, originally completed in 1737, still stands and still has a nice top floor with plenty of light for an artist (the reason Chinnery was attracted to the building). I blogged about that building here

I just happened this week to be reading A Half of Two Lives, the (sort of) autobiography of Alison Grant (then Alison Robinson and finally Alison Waley) who was for many years Arthur Waley’s companion/mistress (he remained attached to the dancer and translator Beryl de Zoete till her death in 1962) and eventually married Waley shortly before his death in 1966. Alison was herself something of an artist and poet and she lived with her husband at 20 Brook Street during the Blitz. She recalls the large windows and it seems Waley did visit her there, though neither I believe notice of it having previously been Chinnery’s studio. I assume she didn’t know as, I also assume, had she then this fact would have interested both Alison and Arthur given their Sinological leanings.

Anyway, here is the building today – you can still see the large windows on the top floor where, for a while, Chinnery painted, and where, for a later while, Alison and Arthur Waley took tea and (it’s a complicated memoir) did whatever!

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The Next Official Midnight in Peking Walking Tour: Saturday August 25th

Posted: August 17th, 2018 | No Comments »

Bespoke Beijing’s next Midnight in Peking Walking Tour takes place on Saturday, August 25th. Perfect for fans of the book, history buffs and those looking for a Saturday night out with a difference!

Paul French’s New York Times bestselling murder mystery captured imaginations across the world when it was released. Now, with the help of historian Lars Ulrick Thom, Bespoke brings 1930s Peking back to life through a walking tour like no other. As night falls, you’ll follow in the footsteps of the victim’s father, ETC Werner, as he frantically searched for his daughter, and learn about the shady characters implicated in her killing.

Saturday, August 26th, tickets 388RMB, email info@bespoke-beijing.com

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So you want to be a writer podcast….with me

Posted: August 15th, 2018 | No Comments »
I just did the Australian Writers’ Centre podcast So you want to be a writer.
A group of researchers trained robots to write poetry. Discover when in the writing process you should hire an editor and how some authors got their agents. Allison shares tips for recreating characters from The Ateban Cipher series for Book Week (hot glue gun not required). We have 3 copies of ‘The Biographer’s Lover’ to giveaway. And meet Paul French, author of ‘City of Devils: The Two Men Who Ruled the Underworld of Old Shanghai’.
You can listen via iTunes here:
Or access the show notes and audio file here:
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Today it is 81 years since Bloody Saturday in Shanghai

Posted: August 14th, 2018 | No Comments »

81 years ago today bombs rained down on Shanghai….My Penguin China Special on that day is here on amazon.com and here on amazon.co.uk

On 14 August 1937 Shanghai’s history took a dark turn. As a typhoon approached the city’s horizons, so did bomber planes, and as citizens went about their daily routines, Shanghai experienced the worst civilian aerial attack to date. On that day, many lives were lost, and it is the eyewitness accounts of those that survived the violent attack outside the infamous Cathay Hotel close by the Bund and the Great World amusement centre in the French Concession that are reconstructed in a new Penguin short, Bloody Saturday. Paul French, an author known and awarded for a meticulous approach to narrative non-fiction, relives the day of horror that saw friendly fire tear the city apart.

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Demolition Alert – The Rainha Dona Leonor Housing Block on the Praia Grande, Macao

Posted: August 10th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

One of Macao’s most iconic modernist buildings is under threat – the Rainha Dona Leonor Housing Block on the Praia Grande, Macao. The building was designed and built in 1958 by Jose Lei Ming-can and was the first modernist high rise in Macao with an elevator. The balconies are particularly noted as are the duplex apartments with external galleries on every second floor. Lei, the architect, was involved in many projects in Hong kong and Macau including HKUST and was a Director of the Hong Kong Architectural Services Department

There is a petition to save the building here

 

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A Selection of old China (and Hong Kong and Macao) themed American Pinball Machines

Posted: August 9th, 2018 | No Comments »

for your delectation…

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Royal Asiatic Shanghai – French Concession Art Gallery Walk – 18/8/18

Posted: August 8th, 2018 | No Comments »
Art has always been a crucial component of Shanghai’s cultural history. Some of Shanghai’s esteemed modernist artists, such as Liu Haisu, painted luminous scenes of Fuxing Park and the streets of the Former French Concession (FFC). Even as the arts industry in Shanghai has been expanding from its initial enclave in M50 to the West Bund, the FFC has always been a desirable locale for galleries to showcase works of art.
Please join the Art Focus Convener and Art Historian Julie Chun who will introduce us to three new galleries specializing in contemporary art as we stroll through the tree-lined thoroughfares of the FFC. We will find that each space possesses its unique architectural charm as well as a roster of diverse artists who are inscribing the condition of the times through visual expression. Come discover the arts in your own backyard and expand your understanding of how the local intersects with the global in the artistic sphere of Shanghai.
For more information about Studio Gallery, please visit: www.studiogallery.cn
For more information about BANK Gallery, please visit: http://www.mabsociety.com
For more information about Capsule Shanghai, please visit: https://capsuleshanghai.com
R.S.V.P. to
Entrance fee
Members: 0 RMB
Non-Members: 50 RMB
Venue
Meeting point provided on confirmation of RSVP
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On the Sinica Podcast with City of Devils & Two Unrepentant Beijingers

Posted: August 7th, 2018 | No Comments »

If you are remotely interested in China in all its aspects – old and new, political, social or economic – you really should listen to the Sinica Podcast with Kaiser Kuo and Jeremy Goldkorn. Why not start with their latest episode which has me talking about City of Devils, old Shanghai, researching Republican era China and heritage/preservation issues in China….Click here to listen/download

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Paul French, the best-selling author of Midnight in Peking. Paul has just written an outstanding new book called City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir, in which he tells a captivating story of two foreigners rising to prominence through conducting shady business in the underworld of Shanghai in the 1930s — a chaotic yet fascinating period, when the city was still known as the Paris of the Orient, leading up to the bleak realities of the war with Japan.

And…if that’s not enough…you can still listen to the Sinica episode from 2012 where we all (with the Guardian’s Tania Branigan too) all talked about Midnight in Pekinghere

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