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.
To read Türkiye Diary (The Bridge) is to lounge on wicker deck furniture, with comfortable pillows, ensconced on a terrace overlooking the Sea of Marmara in the warm summer night, drinking raki, eating mezze—those fatal Levantine hors d’oeuvres—and listening as a raconteur cagily lets slip indiscretions, eased by raki, night sea air, and a life spent doing things the raconteur is now not sure he should have done.
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.
Some years back, graphic novelist Keum Suk Gendry-Kim interviewed an elderly Korean woman named Lee Ok-sun. Gendry-Kim hoped to learn about social class and gender disparity during World War II and write a book about this subject. But after several interviews, Gendry-Kim realized Lee’s personal story warranted a book of its own. The result is Grass, a graphic novel now out in an English translation by Janet Hong.
Imagine if a cloth merchant from Hangzhou or Florence could visit the Uniqlo store in Tokyo’s Ginza. There, over 12 floors our visitors from the past would wonder at fabrics in colors they had never experienced: Blue Iris, Mimosa, Honeysuckle, Fuchsia Rose. They would marvel at the 88 colors just for the knitted shirts, 50 for the socks. Here are fabrics that mimic silk but are cool. Others offer the warmth of wool but are light to wear. Others are waterproof or shrink proof. All this display would also strike the visitors as miraculous. Yet we are still stupefied by the beauty and ingenuity displayed by 15th-century Italian or Chinese silks. This is the story of continuous innovation, and it is the story told by Virginia Postrel’s new book The Fabric of Civilization.
In 2007, Londoners found a new magazine on the stands called Monocle. Thirteen years later, as we are informed on the back cover, it grew from a fairly modest debut as “a briefing on the world, from diplomacy to design, business to travel, culture to hospitality” into “a fully-fledged media company with a 24-hour radio station, a website, films, shops and cafés—and books.” This book is just what one would expect from such a source—its emphasis is on modern and contemporary Japan rather than on historical aspects (although these are not entirely neglected), and is perhaps an ideal book for younger people who want to know what Japan in the 21st century has to offer.
China has started to heavily invest in an icebreaking fleet; Chinese naval strategists have written that “whoever controls the Arctic Ocean will control the new corridor for the world economy.” The Eurasian “heartland” is no longer landlocked. The age of Eurasian sea powers has arrived.