Once a relatively obscure topic, the Manila Galleon—in essence a commercial shipping line that connected Asia to the Americas from the 16th to early 19th centuries and arguably the key building block in the development of what we have since recognized as “globalization”—is now the subject of an increasing number of studies. In the latest, Portuguese Merchants in the Manila Galleon System, 1565-1600, former Mexican diplomat Cuauhtémoc Villemar looks at the involvement of Portuguese merchants—and by extension Macau—in the Galleon’s first few decades.
Timor-Leste has been just about the most geographically and politically remote corner of East Asia, a distant second to Macau in Portugal’s one-time East Asian possessions, diminutive compared to the Dutch East Indies and later Indonesia. And the Chinese community there, as far as the Chinese diaspora goes, one of the less substantial. Perhaps for those reasons, the development of Cina Timor—the Timorese Chinese—offers a case study in intra-Asian immigration and identity.
This curious little book by Japanese technologist Ishiguro Hiroshi, now available in a very readable English translation by Tony Gonzalez, nominally discusses what robotics research teaches us about what it means to be human. But one can’t help but be left with the impression that what it really shows is just how different Japan can at times be from other parts of the world.
This year’s 75th anniversary of the end of WW2 and, in particular, the end of the War in the Pacific, has coincided with a number of books, some broad, some focusing on individuals. But few perhaps look at what is—at first glance—as unlikely a corner as Kelly A Hammond’s China’s Muslims & Japan’s Empire.
Chorus members sported masks, so this Opera Hong Kong production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro wasn’t quite a return to complete normality, but the socially-distanced audience for the first Hong Kong opera performance in almost a year enthusiastically took what they could get.
When confronted with the now oft-cited statement that China has 5000 years of history or civilization, it is worth keeping in mind Heraclitus’s dictum that “You cannot step twice into the same river.” Or, as one of Bill Hayton’s interlocutors puts it in the introduction to The Invention of China, “It depends what you mean by China.”
The Asian Review of Books is not given to running op-eds, but a recent article in Electric Lit entitled “Where Is Hong Kong Literature When We Need It Most?” merits some reflection.