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

Monks in Motion: Buddhism and Modernity Across the South China Sea

Posted: September 2nd, 2020 | No Comments »

Jack Meng-Tat Chia’s Monks in Motion sounds fascinating…

Chinese Buddhists have never remained stationary. They have always been on the move. In Monks in Motion, Jack Meng-Tat Chia explores why Buddhist monks migrated from China to Southeast Asia, and how they participated in transregional Buddhist networks across the South China Sea. This book tells the story of three prominent monks Chuk Mor (1913-2002), Yen Pei (1917-1996), and Ashin Jinarakkhita (1923-2002) and examines the connected history of Buddhist communities in China and maritime Southeast Asia in the twentieth century.

Monks in Motion is the first book to offer a history of what Chia terms “South China Sea Buddhism,” referring to a Buddhism that emerged from a swirl of correspondence networks, forced exiles, voluntary visits, evangelizing missions, institution-building campaigns, and the organizational efforts of countless Chinese and Chinese diasporic Buddhist monks. Drawing on multilingual research conducted in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, Chia challenges the conventional categories of “Chinese Buddhism” and “Southeast Asian Buddhism” by focusing on the lesser-known–yet no less significant–Chinese Buddhist communities of maritime Southeast Asia. By crossing the artificial spatial frontier between China and Southeast Asia, Monks in Motion breaks new ground, bringing Southeast Asia into the study of Chinese Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism into the study of Southeast Asia.

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The Shumchun Casino

Posted: September 1st, 2020 | No Comments »

Been having some fun on Twitter arguing against the ‘Shenzhen as fishing village’ myth that is so current and constantly repeated. Fun to remember that in 1931 the Mayor of Shumchun (or Shen Chuen), today’s Shenzhen, and a governor of Guangdong Chen Jitang opened a massive casino in Shumchun to capitalise on the desire to gamble in Hong Kong and perfect for those who preferrred a train just over the border to a rocking Macao ferry. The Kowloon-Canton Railway had opened a large station at Shum Chun in 1911 (hardly the sort of thing you do if the place is only a tiny fishing village) and that train brought passengers to gamble. The casino lasted till 1936. The chart below shows how much money the KCR made, so you can imagine how much the casino made….

I don’t expect this will end the endless repetition of the ‘fishing village’ canard, but still….and, if anyone has a photo of Chen’s vast Shumchun Casino I’d love to see it?

Opening the station in 1911
Welcome to Shumchun
Some serious gambling-derived revenues for the train company between 1931 and 1936 – not bad for a fishing village!
Chen Jitang
Madam Chen pictured on Hainan Island
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RAS Beijing – China’s Good War: How Memory of the World War II past is shaping a Nationalist Future with Rana Mitter (via Zoom) – 2/9/20

Posted: August 27th, 2020 | No Comments »

WHAT: “China’s Good War: How Memory of the World War II past is shaping a Nationalist Future”an RASBJ Zoom talk by Professor Rana Mitter followed by Q&A
WHEN: September 2, 19:00-20:00 Beijing Standard Time.

MORE ABOUT THE EVENT:  Why does the history of World War II matter so much in China today? Memory of the Second World War has become intricately linked to reflection on the PRC’s present. China’s relations with the US and its Asian neighbours are shaped by a powerful factor: the changing meaning and memory of China’s wartime experience against Japan. Looking at a variety of frameworks ranging from diplomacy to literary nonfiction to social media to cinema, this talk, based on a new book CHINA’S GOOD WAR, argues that understanding China’s continuing reassessment of the war years is a key element of understanding the country’s contemporary actions at home and abroad.

MORE ABOUT THE SPEAKER:  Rana Mitter OBE FBA is Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford. He is the author of several books, including Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013: UK title, China’s War with Japan), which won the 2014 RUSI/Duke of Westminster’s Medal for Military Literature and was named a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title and a Book of the Year in the Financial Times and Economist.

HOW MUCH: This event is free and exclusively for members of the RASBJ and of other RAS branches. If you know someone who wants to join RASBJ, please ask them to contact MembershipRASBJ on Wechat or email membership.ras.bj@gmail.com
 
HOW TO JOIN THE EVENT: To become an RASBJ member in order to attend this talk, please join RASBJ at least two days before the talk to allow time for you to receive the event notice with the advance registration link. After registering in advance, you’ll receive a confirmation email with a login link and passcode; use them to log in 10 minutes before the talk.

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The Bespoke Beijing Speaker Series Sale is On!

Posted: August 24th, 2020 | No Comments »

I gave two talks in the Bespoke Beijing Spewaker Series during lockdown – on old Peking’s aesthetes (with Jeremiah Jenne) and on my Audible Original Murders of Old China – included in this sale….

But if you missed any of the 13 fantastic talks that made up our first two Bespoke Speaker Series’, now’s your chance to watch them at your own leisure – and for less!

We’re offering the recordings of all of the talks so far, so you can pick and choose from the ones you missed but wish you hadn’t.

So now you can enjoy an intellectual Sunday morning lecture on Cixi, or finally get to know the Great Wall in depth with the legendary William Lindesay over lunch. Perhaps you want to delve into Shanghai’s best hidden gems ahead of an upcoming trip, or hear author Paul French discuss his latest book. Whatever you’re into, there’ll be at least one that will brighten your day, teach you something, or surprise you.

Each talk recording now costs just 45RMB (select as many individual ones as you like at checkout) or you can buy either whole series for 280RMB.  

Which were Bespoke’s favorites, we hear you ask? Well, we had an especially good time hand-pulling noodles with Sue Zhou; we cried a little bit (along with everyone else) listening to Liu Ping’s Story in ‘From Red Guard to CEO’; and also loved learning a new, brilliantly effective health practice with Master Eric in the Eight Golden Treasures.

It was hard to pick a favorite among the academic, historian and author talks, so we won’t, and will instead let you peruse the list in your own time (scan the QR below). What’s for sure is that once you’re done, you’ll understand China in a way you didn’t before, and you can’t put a price on that now, can you?

Got questions before purchasing? Just send us an email at info@bespoketravelcompany.com or add us on WeChat at Bespoketravelcompany to talk! 

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Hong Kong International Literary Festival 2020 – Coming this November…

Posted: August 21st, 2020 | No Comments »

Despite everything – Covid-19, NSL, typhoons…it’s happening. This November is the Hong Kong International Literary Festival’s 20th anniversary. This year it will be a hybrid festival of live and online events. From 5th – 15th November we will present more than 70 events featuring writers and speakers from around the world. Join us to hear your favourite authors and discover new voices and ideas. 

The flexible hybrid format means people can attend no matter what the COVID-19 situation in November. We hope it will be possible for people to enjoy the festival atmosphere at our live events, and we are also offering a fantastic virtual line-up so that people can attend at home with their family, friends or book club.

Our 20th edition theme ‘Present Tense/Future Perfect’ explores in fiction and non-fiction how the world is responding to issues such as health, inequality and climate change, as well as possible future directions for humanity and the planet.

PS: I’ll be there talking old Shanghai too – virtually, both in time and space!

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Royal Asiatic Society Beijing…WWII Revisited: Director Bill Einreinhofer discusses his documentary Shanghai 1937 – 19/8/20

Posted: August 17th, 2020 | No Comments »

WWII Revisited: Director Bill Einreinhofer discusses his documentary Shanghai 1937

WHAT: “WWII Revisited: Director Bill Einreinhofer discusses his documentary Shanghai 1937”, an RASBJ Zoom talk with QA
WHEN: Aug. 19, Wednesday, RASBJ presents a members-only in-person film screening from 7-8:00 PM Beijing Standard Time, and a Zoom dialogue with the director from 8:15-9:00 PM.


MORE ABOUT THE EVENT: On Aug. 13, 1937, hostilities erupted in Shanghai between Chinese Nationalist and Japanese troops, lasting more than three months. Film director Bill Einreinhofer believes the Battle of Shanghai was the last battle of WWI and the first battle of WWII. In discussing his documentary Shanghai 1937, he’ll explain the changes in Chinese society and politics which call for an analysis of WWII with fresh eyes.  RAS MEMBERS CAN ACCESS THE FILM SHANGHAI 1937 ON VIMEO FROM AUG. 13 (THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF SHANGHAI) UNTIL MIDNIGHT AUG. 19 BEIJING STANDARD TIME (viewers in China may want to use a VPN, or view the film in person if in Beijing).



MORE ABOUT THE SPEAKER: Bill Einreinhofer is a faculty member at the New York Film Academy as well as an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker. He’s made films in and about China for a quarter century. His most recent, Shanghai 1937: Where World War II Began was shown in 2018 on more than 200 American Public Television stations.

HOW MUCH: FREE, exclusively for members of the RASBJ and other RAS branches, plus special invitees

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August 14 1937 – the 83rd anniversary of Bloody Saturday….

Posted: August 15th, 2020 | No Comments »

83 years ago today the bombs fell on Shanghai…here at the Palace Hotel on the Bund…

In case you didn’t know i have written about this event patching together the day through eye witness accounts…

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Talking Macao, WW2, Jewish Refugees & my book Strangers on the Praia with RTHK’s Hong Kong Heritage show

Posted: August 6th, 2020 | No Comments »

An unusually long and deep interview on my researched-novella Strangers on the Praia with Annemarie Evans, the host of the long-running RTHK radio show Hong Kong Heritage….click here to listen to the podcast.

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