If there’s a country that “punches above its weight”, it’s South Korea. It’s home to some of the world’s largest and most important companies, and the source of pop culture that dominates Asia—and even planted a foothold in the West.
Today, the idea that the Himalayas have the world’s tallest peaks—by a large margin—is entirely uncontroversial. Just about anyone can name Mount Everest and K2 as the world’s tallest and second-tallest mountains respectively.
The Kushnameh is unique, literally. Only one copy of the “Epic of Kush” exists, sitting in the British Library. Hardly anything is known about its author, Iranshah. It features a quite villainous protagonist, the tusked warrior Kush, who carves a swathe of destruction across the region. And it spans nearly half the world, with episodes in Spain, the Maghreb, India, China and even Korea.
In 1973, the Philadelphia Orchestra boarded a Pan Am 707 plane in Philadelphia for a once-in-a-lifetime journey: a multi-city tour of Maoist China, months after Nixon’s history-making visit. There was drama immediately after they landed in Shanghai. Chinese officials asked for a last-minute change to the program: Beethoven’s Sixth. After protests that the Orchestra didn’t bring scores with them, officials returned with copies haphazardly sourced from across the country, with different notations and different notes, forcing the orchestra to make do.
Fifty years ago, President Richard Nixon stepped off a plane in Beijing: a visit that changed the course of China, the US, the Cold war and the world. The stories in Gish Jen’s newest story collection, Thank You Mr Nixon, span the fifty-year relationship since then, from a Chinese woman press-ganged into translating for her Western tour group, to an English professor struggling to teach the wealthy Chinese students at his university.
King Rao—one of the protagonists from Vauhini Vara’s novel The Immortal King Rao—is like many of the tech founders we idolize today. King comes from humble beginnings—born into a Dalit family in a coconut grove in India—moves to the U.S., and launches a company that ends up dominating the world.
It can be hard to think of Everest as unknown anymore. While it’s certainly a challenge to climb the world’s tallest mountain, someone–with enough time and money—has a good chance of making it to the summit. A potential mountaineer can fly into Kathmandu, travel to a well-stocked base camp, be escorted up a well-trodden route by expert sherpas. There’s even Wifi at the peak.