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

Forthcoming China Books in H1 2020….

Posted: December 19th, 2019 | No Comments »

Weekend reading sorted….well kinda….one of the nice things that happens to me is that i get sent early copies of a few China-related books for review or recommendation. So here’s three i’ve read recently that you’ll all want in 2020. Jeff Wasserstrom’s Vigil (which i’ve reviewed for the next issue of the excellent Mekong Review ) will weigh in as the first rough draft of history on the Hong Kong protests – it’s a good, succinct look at the long historical run up to the tumult of 2019.

Jonathan Kaufman’s Last Kings of Shanghai is a retelling (which has been done before of course) of the Sassoon dynasty and also the (less written about) the Kadoorie family.

China TV watchers will know Zhou Meisen from his In the Name of the People tv show in 2017 – oft called ‘China’s House of Cards’ (well, sort of, a bit) – this is the book version in translation from Alain Charles Publishing (worthy of noting as they’re quickly becoming a force in Chinese translations all gratefully received by readers i think)….all out first half of 2020….

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Manchukuo Perspectives: Transnational Approaches to Literary Production

Posted: December 13th, 2019 | No Comments »

a fascinating study coming out in January 2020 from Hong Kong University Press…

This groundbreaking volume critically examines how writers in Japanese-occupied northeast China negotiated political and artistic freedom while engaging their craft amidst an increasing atmosphere of violent conflict and foreign control. The allegedly multiethnic utopian new state of Manchukuo (1932–1945) created by supporters of imperial

Japan was intended to corral the creative energies of Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Russians, and Mongols . Yet, the twin poles of utopian promise and resistance to a contested state pulled these intellectuals into competing loyalties, selective engagement, or even exile and death—surpassing neat paradigms of collaboration or resistance . In a semicolony wrapped in the utopian vision of racial inclusion, their literary works articulating national ideals and even the norms of everyday life subtly reflected the complexities and contradictions of the era .

Scholars from China, Korea, Japan, and North America investigate cultural production under imperial Japan’s occupation of Manchukuo . They reveal how literature and literary production more generally can serve as a penetrating lens into forgotten histories and the lives of ordinary people confronted with difficult political exigencies. Highlights of the text include transnational perspectives by leading researchers in the field and a memoir by one of Manchukuo’s last living writers .

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Remembering the Imperial Hotel, Tianjin

Posted: December 10th, 2019 | No Comments »

The old Imperial Hotel in Tientsin (Tianjin) is far less well remembered than the more famous (and still standing) Astor…but deserves to be remembered…

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Anthony E Clark’s China Gothic: The Bishop of Beijing and His Cathedral

Posted: December 5th, 2019 | No Comments »

Highly recommended read for any Beijing Heads out there…Anthony Clark’s China Gothic…

As China struggled to redefine itself at the turn of the twentieth century, nationalism, religion, and material culture intertwined in revealing ways. This phenomenon is evident in the twin biographies of North China’s leading Catholic bishop of the time, Alphonse Favier (1837-1905), and the Beitang cathedral, epicenter of the Roman Catholic mission in China through incarnations that began in 1701. After its relocation and reconstruction under Favier’s supervision, the cathedral-and Favier-miraculously survived a two-month siege in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion. Featuring a French Gothic Revival design augmented by Chinese dragon-shaped gargoyles, marble balustrades in the style of Daoist and Buddhist temples, and other Chinese aesthetic flourishes, Beitang remains an icon of Sino-Western interaction. Anthony Clark draws on archival materials from the Vatican and collections in France, Italy, China, Poland, and the United States to trace the prominent role of French architecture in introducing Western culture and Catholicism to China. A principal device was the aesthetic imagined by the Gothic Revival movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the premier example of this in China being the Beitang cathedral. Bishop Favier’s biography is a lens through which to examine Western missionaries’ role in colonial endeavors and their complex relationship with the Chinese communities in which they lived and worked.

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The City of Devils at Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue – 4/12/19

Posted: December 3rd, 2019 | No Comments »
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Christmas is Coming…..

Posted: December 3rd, 2019 | No Comments »
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Royal Asiatic Society Shanghai – S. C. Young – The Rise of an Irish Policeman in Shanghai, 1904–1938 – 5/12/19

Posted: December 1st, 2019 | No Comments »

Drawing from a treasure trove of original photos and documents as well as newspaper articles from the era, this talk tells the story of S. C. Young, a policeman from Ireland, who arrived in Shanghai in 1904 and remained there until 1938, making his way up the rungs of the police force to eventually serve as Commissioner.
Amidst the dramatic backdrop of war, revolution, crime and gangland politics, Mr Young married an Englishwoman and raised three boys. It will be argued that his stable family life, and he and his wife’s devotion to their church and other social and civic organizations in the city contributed to his rise in the hierarchy of the city’s British community. This talk will feature many photos; it is based on an article that Dr Field published in the RAS Journal in 2018.


Andrew David Field earned a Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. He has taught at universities in the USA, Australia, China and Korea. He currently serves as an administrator and professor of Chinese History at Duke Kunshan University. He has published three books: Shanghai’s Dancing World: Cabaret Culture and Urban Politics (2010), Mu Shiying: China’s Lost Modernist (2014), and Shanghai Nightscapes: A Nocturnal Biography of a Global City (co-authored with James Farrer, 2015).

Entrance feeMembers: 50 RMB  Non-Members: 100 RMB(one drink included)
VenuePunchline Café Paramount Metropolis, 22F1728 West Nanjing Road (Enter the building from West Nanjing Road and walk to the elevator at the back of the lobby)

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Printed in North Korea: The Art of Everyday Life in the DPRK

Posted: November 28th, 2019 | No Comments »

Just in time for Christmas another lovely book from the excellent Nick Bonner….

Never-before-seen North Korea – a rare glimpse into the country behind the politics and the creativity behind the propaganda

This incredible collection of prints dating from the 1950s to the twenty-first century is the only one of its kind in or outside North Korea. Depicting the everyday lives of the country’s train conductors, steelworkers, weavers, farmers, scientists, and fishermen, these unique lino-cut and woodblock prints are a fascinating way to explore the culture of this still virtually unknown country. Together, they are an unparalleled testament to the talent of North Korea’s artists and the unique social, cultural, and political conditions in which they work.

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