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

New Book – The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere: When Total Empire Met Total War

Posted: March 20th, 2019 | No Comments »

Jeremy Yellen’s The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere: When Total Empire Met Total War (Columbia Uni Press) looks like a good addition to the writing on the period…

In The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, Jeremy Yellen exposes the history, politics, and intrigue that characterized the era when Japan’s “total empire” met the total war of World War II. He illuminates the ways in which the imperial center and its individual colonies understood the concept of the Sphere, offering two sometimes competing, sometimes complementary, and always intertwined visions—one from Japan, the other from Burma and the Philippines.

Yellen argues that, from 1940 to 1945, the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere epitomized two concurrent wars for Asia’s future: the first was for a new type of empire in Asia, and the second was a political war, waged by nationalist elites in the colonial capitals of Rangoon and Manila. Exploring Japanese visions for international order in the face of an ever-changing geopolitical situation, The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere explores wartime Japan’s desire to shape and control its imperial future while its colonies attempted to do the same. At Japan’s zenith as an imperial power, the Sphere represented a plan for regional domination; by the end of the war, it had been recast as the epitome of cooperative internationalism. In the end, the Sphere could not survive wartime defeat, and Yellen’s lucidly written account reveals much about the desires of Japan as an imperial and colonial power, as well as the ways in which the subdued colonies in Burma and the Philippines jockeyed for agency and a say in the future of the region.

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Denton Welch: Shanghailander & Settlement Demimondaine – Shanghai Royal Asiatic Society – 27/3/19

Posted: March 18th, 2019 | No Comments »

I’ll be giving a talk on Denton Welch’s youthful experiences in Shanghai to the Royal Asiatic Society in that fine city on 27/3/19…

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THE ART OF FACT: CREATING CREATIVE CHINA NON-FICTION Helen Zia, Paul French, Michael Schuman & Jingwen Kang – Beijing International Literary Festival – 17/3/19

Posted: March 14th, 2019 | No Comments »

THE ART OF FACT: CREATING CREATIVE CHINA NON-FICTION
Helen Zia, Paul French, Michael Schuman, Jingwen Kang

Sunday, March 17, 6:00 PM
60 RMB | The Bookworm – TICKETS

Contemporary artists of non-fiction – to borrow from literary critic Barbara Lounsberry’s The Art of Fact – identify a documentable subject matter chosen from the real world as opposed to something invented by the writer; they engage in exhaustive research which helps them establish credible narratives and to portray and revive the scene; and they utilise polished language and an engaging prose style, which when assembled together reveals the artistry and literary merit evident in the pages. This evening we gather three fine artists of China-related non-fiction – Helen Zia (Last Boat out of Shanghai), Paul French (City of Devils) and Michael Schuman (Confucius and the World He Created) – to discuss how they approach their non-fiction projects, what issues they can face along the creative journey, and how they bring their work to literary life. Moderated by Jingwen Kang.

tickets: http://bookwormfestival.com/events/blf-2019-the-art-of-fact-creating-creative-china-non-fiction/
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Talking to Xinran about her new book The Promise – Daunts, Marylebone, 14/3/19

Posted: March 13th, 2019 | No Comments »

Tomorrow Xinran who will be in conversation with Paul French, discussing all things love, loss, and China in the new book ‘The Promise’. This Thurs (14th March) at 1:30 pm at Daunt Books, Marylebone. Tickets here: https://bit.ly/2GvNAgW

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SOJOURNERS TO CHINA Paul French & Jeremiah Jenne in Conversation – Beijing International Literary Festival, 16/3/19

Posted: March 12th, 2019 | No Comments »

Delighted of course to be back at the Beijing International Literary Festival – promoting City of Devils and my new essay collection of old sojourner tales Destination Shanghai and talking with the ever-fascinating Jeremiah Jenne – Bookworm – Saturday 16th, 4pm.

Tickets here – http://bookwormfestival.com/events/blf-2019-sojourners-to-china/

SOJOURNERS TO CHINA
Paul French, Jeremiah Jenne
Saturday, March 16, 4:00 PM
60 RMB | The Bookworm – TICKETS
From the brief visits of Eugene O’Neil and Langston Hughes to the long and deep sojourns of Harold Acton and the Peking aesthetes. Writers, movie stars, journalists, minor royals, poets, artists and even the founder of Scientology. From around the world a fascinating range of people, at one time or another, called China home in the first half of the 20th century. Writers and China historians Jeremiah Jenne and Paul French discuss some of them and their time and travels in the Middle Kingdom.
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Beijing International Literary Festival 2019 – 17/3/19 – WRITING WORKSHOP: “BASED ON A TRUE STORY”

Posted: March 11th, 2019 | No Comments »

I don’t do them very often but if anyone in Beijing is interested I’m doing a workshop on 17/3/19 as part of the Beijing International Literary Festival 2019….
http://bookwormfestival.com/events/blf-2019-writing-workshop-based-on-a-true-story/

WRITING WORKSHOP: “BASED ON A TRUE STORY”

Paul French

Sunday, March 17, 2 pm – 4 pm

200 rmb | Opposite House – ticket

How do writers bring the past alive? Is it OK to guess at a historical character’s motivations or put words into her mouth? When does creative non-fiction turn into historical fiction? In this workshop, participants will learn how to investigate and tell true stories in entertaining ways under the guidance of Paul French, author of a number of acclaimed books about China, including Midnight in Peking and City of Devils. French will also talk about researching family histories in China and using unexpected sources to get at the essence of an era.

Please Note: This event will take place in MESH in the Opposite House

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Tsundoku #2 – March 2019

Posted: March 9th, 2019 | No Comments »

Issue 2 of Tsundoku – a column by me for Asian Books Blog.com, that aims to make that pile of ‘must read’ books by your bed a little more teetering – fiction, non-fiction, photography and kids…and so…This is what has come across my desk so far that should be in the shops in March…

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Dressing up Chinese in Edwardian Britain, 1908

Posted: March 7th, 2019 | No Comments »

The new Channel 5 series brings the black-and-white films of the era back to life through colourisation. And here we are in Accrington, Lancashire in 1908 and a bicycling festival parade celebrating the British Empire. And here we see, colourised a man and woman dressed in Chinese garb of a sort….

here were see a man on a bicycle dressed as a Chinese person (sort of)…he appears to have blacked his face too?


here we see a partial colourisation which highlights his blackened face…

here, in full colourisation, we see a woman riding slightly behind him coming into shot also dressed in Chinese style, but seemingly without a blackened face….

Of course it’s hard to work out the reasoning for what appears to be blackface on the man. I’m also not sure how decisions on colourisation are made by the TV producers – though the black and white picture clearly seems to indicate that the man blacked his face up?

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