The classic Chinese novel The Water Margin (Shuihu zhuan) tells the story of a band of outlaws in 12th-century China and their insurrection against the corrupt imperial court. Imported into Japan in the early 17th century, it became a ubiquitous source of inspiration for translations, adaptations, parodies, and illustrated woodblock prints. There is no work of Chinese fiction more important to both the development of early modern Japanese literature and the Japanese imagination of China than The Water Margin.
The diva is a nearly universal phenomenon. Wherever poetry, music and mime have been practised with virtuosity, great women performers always take centre stage. Traditional Asian divas are however less well known and understood among English language readers than the great divas of Mozart and Puccini. Whether from Shiraz at the court of the Injuids, from Delhi during the twilight of the Moghuls, or from Yangzhou under the last Ming emperors, these Asian divas constitute the first identifiably modern women.
A remarkable and true tale of loyalty, vengeance, and ritual suicide… In the spring of 1701, the regional lord Asano Naganori wounded his supervising official, Kira Yoshinaka, during an important ceremony in the ruling shogunate’s Edo Castle and was at once condemned to death. Within two years, in the dead of winter, a band of forty-seven of Asano’s retainers avenged him by breaking into Yoshinaka’s mansion and killing him. Subsequently, all the men were sentenced to death but allowed to perform it honorably by seppuku.
When İpek Çalişlar discovered that Latife Hanım had demanded that her husband, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, change the law to enable her to stand for parliament, the respected journalist knew she had found the subject of her next project. The result is Madam Atatürk, a biography of Latife Hanım and the role she played in modernizing Turkey.
In his introduction to this new biography of Yuan Shikai, Patrick Fuliang Shan makes reference to the long-held view of Yuan as a stereotypical historical villain—or, in Chinese, fanmian lishi renwu. The Chinese phrase is perhaps the more apposite, as one literal translation would be “a person on the wrong side of history”. Whatever one’s view of Yuan Shikai, who rose to governmental and military power in the late 19th century before becoming China’s first permanent president in 1912, it is fairly uncontroversial to assert that he ended up, on a few occasions, on what would later come to be viewed as the “wrong side” of various historical moments.
In the introduction to her new book, Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China, Jung Chang writes that she originally set out to research a book on Sun Yat-sen to see if he really warranted the status of “Father of Modern China”. But the stories of Sun’s wife Soong Ching-ling and her two sisters ended up out-shining his, so Chang decided to write about them instead. What results is a book with two intertwined narratives: one on the sisters of the title and one about Sun.
A new book by William Dalrymple is always something of an event. The Anarchy doesn’t disappoint: readable, informative, full of color. Dalrymple lets the protagonists speak for themselves as much as possible, protagonists which thankfully, but not surprisingly given the author, include Indians as much as Europeans.