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

Just for a Change – Some Non-China Christmas Murder Mysteries

Posted: December 18th, 2018 | No Comments »

As Christmas is coming….

My round-up of “Golden Age” 1930s crime reads for Christmas – click here

and some first editions….

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Asia Literary Review #35 is Out….

Posted: December 17th, 2018 | No Comments »

The thirty-fifth edition of the Asia Literary Review is out now – it includes an excerpt from my book City of Devils as well as lots of other good stuff…including an interview with Anuradha Roy, who has just been announced winner of the 2018 TATA Book of the Year Award for Fiction.

There’s lots of fiction, and we feature stories set in India, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, the US and North Korea. Start with Zach Macdonald’s A Happy Ending – a harrowing counterpoint to cheerful media reports about the Korean Peninsula. Finally, sample some of the issue’s poetry with Kunwar Narain and Katherine Wu.

 

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Chinoiserie Ideas for the Modern Home, 1938

Posted: December 14th, 2018 | No Comments »

In April 1938 The Atlanta Constitution had some ideas for homemakers looking to freshen up their look with the latest trends…a Chinoiserie dining alcove?

 

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Inside the World of the Eunuch: A Social History of the Emperor’s Servants in Qing China

Posted: December 13th, 2018 | No Comments »

Melissa Dale’s study of the world of the eunuch looks like a fascinating read…

The history of Qing palace eunuchs is defined by a tension between the role eunuchs were meant to play and the life they intended to live. This study tells the story of how a complicated and much-maligned group of people struggled to insert a degree of agency into their lives. Rulers of the Qing dynasty were determined to ensure the eunuchs’ subservience and to limit their influence by imposing a management style based upon strict rules, corporal punishment, and collective responsibility. Few eunuchs wielded significant political power or lived in a lavish style during the Qing dynasty. Emasculation and employment in the palace placed eunuchs at the center of the empire, yet also subjected them to servile status and marginalization by society. Seeking more control over their lives, eunuchs serving the Qing repeatedly tested the boundaries of subservience to the emperor and the imperial court. This portrait of eunuch society reveals that Qing palace eunuchs operated within two parallel realms, one revolving around the emperor and the court by day and another among the eunuchs themselves by night where they recreated the social bonds–through drinking, gambling, and opium smoking–denied them by their palace service. Far from being the ideal servants, eunuchs proved to be a constant source of anxiety and labor challenges for the Qing court. For a long time eunuchs have simply been cast as villains in Chinese history. Inside the World of the Eunuch goes beyond this misleadingly one-dimensional depiction to show how eunuchs actually lived during the Qing dynasty.

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Sale Time at Hong Kong University Press Bookstore

Posted: December 12th, 2018 | No Comments »

There’s a sale on at the Hong Kong University Press bookstore up at Pokfulam and the HKU…30% off all titles – including mine (see below)

Excellent Christmas presents for that China Hand in your life include….

 

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Chungking Mansions: Photographs from Hong Kong’s last ghetto

Posted: December 11th, 2018 | No Comments »

A new photography book on Hong Kong’s Chunking Mansions by Nana Chen –

Squatting amid the luxury hotels and malls of modern Kowloon, Chungking Mansions resembles the dirty vent of a giant subterranean machine. This Hong Kong landmark is a hotbed of criminality and home to pimps, hookers, thieves and drug pushers. The five 17-storey towers also offer the city’s last low-rent refuge for asylum seekers and immigrants coming to start a new life.

Nepalese guesthouse owners rent out rooms to Bangladeshi workers, and Pakistanis sell mobile phones to Nigerian traders who hire Indian cargo companies to ship them home. Food stalls fill the air with the savoury aromas of international cuisine, and more than 200 guesthouses, as well as two floors of shops selling black-market, counterfeit and bargain goods, establish this unique place as a global hub of trade and multiculturalism.

In 2009, shortly after a Canadian tourist disappeared from Chungking Mansions without a trace, photographer Nana Chen began wandering the corridors. Using her camera as a guide, she discovered the Chungking Mansions not visible to the naked eye: the beating pulse that gives this notorious destination its hypnotic appeal. With compassion and courage, Chen sought to craft a portrait of Hong Kong’s last ghetto and its inhabitants before its vibrant character is erased forever by the inevitable march of progress.

I grew up in the vicinity of Chungking Mansions. Nana Chen’s intimate, visceral pictures of the Mansions are so unsentimentally authentic and beautiful that I am speechless and deeply moved.” – Chan Koonchung, author of The Fat Years

and, if you’re in Bangkok on 16/12, a launch…

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Selling Aussie Wines in China – 1932

Posted: December 10th, 2018 | No Comments »

Much is made by the Australians for the success of their wines in China. Certainly as long as I can remember the Australians have been energetic in selling their wines in China and I’ve purchased and consumed many a bottle myself. However, the quest to sell Aussie wine in the Middle Kingdom goes back a bit further. Here, from the Sydney Morning Herald in October 1932, a round-up of Australia’s trade in China…

Wine is a surprising (at least to the author) addition to Australia’s trade success stories in China…port wines no less. Though, interestingly, it seems that the canny manager of the Imperial Hotel in Tientsin (Tianjin) removed the label to prevent 1930s style wine snob prejudice. That manager was, at the time, Alexander Mackprang, from a long established in China Scottish family.

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Parasols of Deauville, 1926

Posted: December 7th, 2018 | No Comments »

Regular China Rhyming readers will know i like to post a picture of a parasol every now and then…(the search box to your right will bring up a load)…here’s two ladies, avec parasols, on the beach at Deauville in 1926…

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