China has developed a reputation for confounding naysayers. Will Doig starts High-Speed Empire with an anecdote of the World Bank castigating Shanghai in 1991 for deciding to build a Metro; the suggestion was that maybe focusing on infrastructure for bicycles might be a better use of resources.
It’s pretty hard to compete with the invention of the chariot, the Silk Road, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, so Christoph Baumer’s fourth and presumably final volume in his magisterial history of Central Asia is something of a mopping up operation.
Before the Chinese Communist Party came to power, China lay broken and fragmented. Today it is a force on the global stage, and yet its leaders have continued to be haunted by the past. Drawing on an array of sources, Sulmaan Wasif Khan chronicles the grand strategies that have sought not only to protect China from aggression but also to ensure it would never again experience the powerlessness of the late Qing and Republican eras. The dramatic variations in China’s modern history have obscured the commonality of purpose that binds the country’s leaders. Analyzing the calculus behind their decision making, Khan explores how they wove diplomatic, military, and economic power together to keep a fragile country safe in a world they saw as hostile.
Jurrick Oson is a big man, forty-six years old, with muscles bulging inside his bright purple sleeveless T-shirt. He was raised to work around nets, fish, tides, and weather, and his skin is leathery from a lifetime at sea. His boat had always been moored at the end of a dirt track, with shacks and small stalls on one side and the gently lapping sea on the other. It was a colorful, chaotic old vessel, painted in yellows, greens and blues, and she plied her trade as such boats had done for thousands of years.
Excerpted from Asian Waters: The Struggle Over the South China Sea & the Strategy of Chinese Expansion by Humphrey Hawksley
The turn of the third century CE—known as the Jian’an era or Three Kingdoms period—holds double significance for the Chinese cultural tradition. Its writings laid the foundation of classical poetry and literary criticism. Its historical personages and events have also inspired works of poetry, fiction, drama, film, and art throughout Chinese history, including Internet fantasy literature today. There is a vast body of secondary literature on these two subjects individually, but very little on their interface.
Contemporary Chinese literature can sometimes be a bit of a struggle, whether due to heavy doses of politics or surrealism; the subject might be obscure or the author self-consciously literary. However worthy these works may be, it comes as something of a relief, then, that Su Tong—of Raise the Red Lantern fame—stuck to good, old-fashioned storytelling in Petulia’s Rouge Tin, a novella just out as a Penguin Special.
The period ca. 645-770 marked an extraordinary era in the development of East Asian Buddhism and Buddhist art. Increased contacts between China and regions to both its west and east facilitated exchanges and the circulation of ideas, practices and art forms, giving rise to a synthetic art style uniform in both iconography and formal characteristics. The formulation of this new Buddhist art style occurred in China in the latter part of the seventh century, and from there it became widely disseminated and copied throughout East Asia, and to some extent in Central Asia, in the eighth century.