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

Suzhou Lit Fest – A City Outside Time – J G Ballard’s Shanghai – 28/3/15

Posted: March 28th, 2015 | No Comments »

A Ballard/Shanghai themed event at the Suzhou Lit Fest today (28th) with Duncan Hewitt and James Bollen, two of the most knowledgable folk on J.G. Bollen’s books is recently published and I blogged about that here.

A City Outside Time – J G Ballard’s Shanghai 跟随摄影师追寻永恒的城市-上海 (English – 英文) 19:30 28th Mar / / Duncan Hewitt, James H Bollen

Photographer James H Bollen will discuss his book Jim’s Terrible City, in which he follows in the footsteps of J G Ballard around the boulevards and back streets of Shanghai. James will be joined by renowned Shanghai-based journalist Duncan Hewitt.

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Mark O’Neill on the Second Tang Dynasty at the Beijing Lit Fest – 28/3/15

Posted: March 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

Mark O’Neill is speaking tomorrow (28th) on his latest project The Second Tang Dynasty at the Beijing Lit Fest….

The Second Tang Dynasty 2 pm

Mark O’Neill; moderated by Jeremiah Jenne | The Bookworm, Sat March 28, 14:00 | BW28C 60 RMB

Mark O’Neill was born in London, educated at Oxford University, and has been living and working in Asia since 1978. He is the author of Frederick, The Life of My Missionary Grandfather in Manchuria, the biography of his missionary grandfather, which is also available in both traditional and simplified Chinese 《闖關東的愛爾蘭人.  O’Neill’s latest book, The Second Tang Dynasty, is about 12 men from Xiangshan (now Zhongshan) in the late Qing and early Republican periods who changed the country.

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A Pleasant Combination – Lin Yutang and Evelyn Waugh

Posted: March 26th, 2015 | No Comments »

A friend recently reread Evelyn Waugh’s Put Out More Flags (shamefully I never have) and told me that the title derives from a quote by a Chinese sage quoted and translated in Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living….

‘A man getting drunk at a farewell party should strike a musical tone, in order to strengthen the spirit…and a drunk military man should order gallons and put out ore flags in order to increase his military splendour.’

Indeed Waugh also includes a quote from an epigram by Chang Ch’ao (Zhang Zhao) quoted and translated by Lin in the same book…

‘A little injustice in the heart can be drowned by wine; but a great injustice in the world can be drowned by the sword.’

Waugh’s Put Out More Flags was published in 1942 and is a satire on the English in the first years of the war. Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living was published in 1937, quickly beca,e a bestseller (and indeed may still hold the record for the largest number of copies sold of a China book, though Lin’s charming and sophisticated books, notably My Country and My People, are little remembered today. Lin’s tips are still worth reading though – ‘If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live’ – indeed.

Sadly, though it is clear Waugh read Lin, I can find no reference to the two ever meeting…..

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Old Shanghai Bus

Posted: March 25th, 2015 | No Comments »

Quite simply today, an old Shanghai bus in all its glory…..

Shanghai buses and rickshaw - 1930s

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Alexis Leger in Peking to Joseph Conrad in Canterbury on Shanghai, 1921

Posted: March 24th, 2015 | No Comments »

I think I’m right in saying that Joseph Conrad never actually set foot in Shanghai, though the city/port does crop up in several of his books (Lord Jim, Typhoon and a couple of others I think). Not sure what he would of made of it? One of his occasional correspondents, Saint-John Perse (also known, and born, Alexis Leger, did write to Conrad in England in 1921 about Shanghai. Leger was a French poet-diplomat (a once quite common breed now largely extinct as diplomats come with career plans and MBAs rather than learning) and Press Attache at the French Legation in Peking during World War One. In February 1921 Leger wrote to Conrad (in Canterbury) from the French Legation in Peking regarding Shanghai…

“I really can’t imagine what I could offer you of interest here, unless it might be, from among the cosmopolitan fauna of Shanghai, a few specimens of the European adventurer; and beautiful adventuresses as well, transplanted from America or White Russia, arrogantly flaunting the respectability they have won. I might also throw in the astonishing corps of estuary pilots, comfortably supplied with bank accounts and extensive maritime connections, all of them from Europe, recruited among the Scots. And finally, in the Shanghai Club, where the bar is the longest specimen of the cabinet maker’s art in the world (“long as an ocean-front”), you might casually pick up many a salty tale, and the confirmation of many tales already heard. You might even run into a few of your old shipmates. For sooner or later they all end up in Shanghai; and Shanghai is the only place between Java Head and Vladivostok that is still the prodigious crossroads of adventurers, an inexhaustible haunt of tough men, untamed and carved in one piece out of that rare material we call energy.”

Sadly this letter is contained in Saint-John Perse/Alexis Leger’s collected Letters (Princeton University Press, 1979) – which only go one way, so I have no idea what Conrad wrote back to him?

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The China Collectors: America’s Century-Long Hunt for Asian Art Treasures

Posted: March 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »

An interesting new book from Shareen Blair Brysac and Karl Meyer on the origins and controversies around America’s great China collections….

 

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Thanks to Salem sea captains, Gilded Age millionaires, curators on horseback and missionaries gone native, North American museums now possess the greatest collections of Chinese art outside of East Asia itself. How did it happen? The China Collectors is the first full account of a century-long treasure hunt in China from the Opium Wars and the Boxer Rebellion to Mao Zedong’s 1949 ascent.

The principal gatherers are mostly little known and defy invention. They included “foreign devils” who braved desert sandstorms, bandits and local warlords in acquiring significant works. Adventurous curators like Langdon Warner, a forebear of Indiana Jones, argued that the caves of Dunhuang were already threatened by vandals, thereby justifying the removal of frescoes and sculptures. Other Americans include George Kates, an alumnus of Harvard, Oxford and Hollywood, who fell in love with Ming furniture. The Chinese were divided between dealers who profited from the artworks’ removal, and scholars who sought to protect their country’s patrimony. Duanfang, the greatest Chinese collector of his era, was beheaded in a coup and his splendid bronzes now adorn major museums. Others in this rich tapestry include Charles Lang Freer, an enlightened Detroit entrepreneur, two generations of Rockefellers, and Avery Brundage, the imperious Olympian, and Arthur Sackler, the grand acquisitor. No less important are two museum directors, Cleveland’s Sherman Lee and Kansas City’s Laurence Sickman, who challenged the East Coast’s hegemony.

Shareen Blair Brysac and Karl E. Meyer even-handedly consider whether ancient treasures were looted or salvaged, and whether it was morally acceptable to spirit hitherto inaccessible objects westward, where they could be studied and preserved by trained museum personnel. And how should the US and Canada and their museums respond now that China has the means and will to reclaim its missing patrimony?

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Penguin Little Black Classics with a China Bent

Posted: March 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »

The new series of Little Black Classics from Penguin are short and cheap, but lovely all the same…and a good few have a China aspect to them…

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Wade Shepard’s Ghost Cities of China – Speaking Events for March

Posted: March 21st, 2015 | No Comments »

Bookworm lit fest

Wade Shepard’s Ghost Cities of China  is the latest book in my Asian Arguments series for Zed Books… Featuring everything from sports stadiums to shopping malls, hundreds of new cities in China stand empty, with hundreds more set to be built by 2030. Between now and then, the country’s urban population will leap to over one billion, as the central government kicks its urbanization initiative into overdrive. In the process, traditional social structures are being torn apart, and a rootless, semi-displaced, consumption orientated culture rapidly taking their place. Ghost Cities of China is an enthralling dialogue driven, on-location search for an understanding of China’s new cities and the reasons why many currently stand empty.

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The following are the author’s speaking engagements across China this month:

Thurs March 26, 20:00- The Bookworm Literary Festival, Beijing

 

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Sat March 28, 17:00- The Bookworm Literary Festival, ChengduBookworm lit fest 3

Hometowns and Ghost Cities 家园和鬼城-城市变迁的病斑 Ran Yunfei, Wade Shepard

Sunday March 29th, 16:00- The Bookworms Literary Festival, Suzhou

Hometowns and Ghost Cities

Hometowns and Ghost Cities: Perspectives on urbanization and changing concepts of home in China, from non-fiction writer Wade Shepard and a panel of leading thinkers.

The Final Word: BLF Closing Party (Free Event / 免费入场) 19:00

Authors Wade Shepard, Zennon Kapron, Frane Lessac and Bridget Strevens-Marzo will be on hand to bring the BLF to a rousing conclusion!

 

Tuesday March 31st, 19:00- Royal Asiatic Society, Shanghai

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