India and China share a physical border. Indeed, that is the element of their proximity that stands out the most thanks to the 1962 war, briefly revisited in the form of border skirmishes in 2020. But the two great nations also share common ground in veneration of the Buddha and trade exchanges that span centuries. The Chinese learned about the message of the Buddha from India and, to their immense credit, they also preserved it through translations of the ancient Buddhist texts whose records did not survive in India. This history of healthy spiritual and commercial exchange has more recently been shadowed by increasing distrust and even contempt. Politics and commerce is not however the only way in which two countries have interacted.
The first diplomatic mission from Brazil to China took place from 1879-1882; it also included Brazil’s first circumnavigation of the globe (sailing east in this case). An account—Primeira circum-navegação brasileira e primeira missão do Brasil à China (1879) by Marli Cristina Scomazzon and Jeff Franco—has recently been published. This excerpt about the delegation’s stop-over in Hong Kong and Macau has been translated from the original Portuguese and is published with permission.
The trend of novelists to base stories on mythology and the ancient classics—Greek myths, the Iliad, and Beowolf—has more recently been extended to Asian sources. Young adult and middle grade literature, usually au courant with publishing trends, has also begun to embrace Asian mythology in recent years, with three new novels published just this spring.
I came to know TS Eliot’s name for the first time through a scathing review in Literature Review, a Party-controlled Chinese magazine. I read the article amidst the gongs and drums beating against the inflamed sky of the Cultural Revolution, shivering as “a black puppy” in the mass criticism of the proletarian dictatorship.
‘The world is yours, as well as ours, but in the last analysis, it is yours. You young people, full of vigor and vitality, are in the bloom of life, like the sun at eight or nine in the morning. Our hope is placed on you. The world belongs to you. China’s future belongs to you.’
As China and Russia have grown closer over the past few years, Sino-Russian relations have been the subject of new attention; Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has thrown these into even higher relief. Here is a re-cap of books which cover the past and present of the subject.
Following a long period of exile in the Western suburbs, Berlin’s Asian collections have returned to the spotlight. Since this autumn, they are on permanent display at the Humboldt Forum, a controversial new museum located in the heart of the German capital. The Forum, named after the Prussian polymaths Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt, is conceived as the German equivalent of the British Museum, and houses, apart from temporary exhibitions and the Asian collections, Berlin’s Ethnological Museum.