Robert Macfarlane and Kathleen Jamie are the two most critically vaunted practitioners of the wildly fertile British publishing phenomenon known as “new nature writing”—though both reportedly resist that genre designation, and both are as much writers of history and human culture as of nature. Both explore these themes in similarly exquisite prose, but their tones and emphases are quite different, and their authorial performances have at times been contrastingly—and in Jamie’s case, one suspects, deliberately—gendered. While Macfarlane was bivouacking in the mountains, Jamie was watching falcons through the kitchen window; it was she who coined the phrase surely destined to dog Macfarlane for the rest of his days: the “lone enraptured male”.

The Only Man Dressing for Dinner: Beijing 1900, Giuseppe Salvago Raggi, Angelo Paratico (trans, intro) (Gingko, August 2019)
The Only Man Dressing for Dinner: Beijing 1900, Giuseppe Salvago Raggi, Angelo Paratico (trans, intro) (Gingko, August 2019)

A translation from Italian of the memoirs of Giuseppe Salvago Raggi, minister of Italy in Beijing from 1898 until 1902. In 1900, Raggi, his wife and child, lived through the 55 days of the Siege of the Legations. This book contains the section of memoirs related to his service in China, just before and after the famous Siege.

Despite the growing tensions between China and the West, one East-West relationship has endured with a continuing mutual fascination: that of Jews and Chinese, one increasingly reflected in literature and film. In particular, the story of the Shanghai Jewish refugees has enjoyed a resurgence over the past decade; Kirsty Manning’s novel, The Song of the Jade Lily, is one of the latest examples.

The Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang: Republican-Era Martial Arts Fiction, John Christopher Hamm (Columbia University Press, August 2019)
The Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang: Republican-Era Martial Arts Fiction, John Christopher Hamm (Columbia University Press, August 2019)

Xiang Kairan, who wrote under the pen name “the Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang,” is remembered as the father of modern Chinese martial arts fiction, one of the most distinctive forms of twentieth-century Chinese culture and the inspiration for China’s globally popular martial arts cinema. In this book, John Christopher Hamm shows how Xiang Kairan’s work and career offer a new lens on the transformations of fiction and popular culture in early-twentieth-century China.

The ban on Arabic script at halaal restaurants in Beijing last month is a somewhat small, yet unnerving reminder of China’s illiberal relationship with its various minority populations. More serious has been the reported detainment of a million-plus Uighur and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang over the past couple of years. Similarly, the on-going detention of many Tibetan Buddhists—as well as a near universal ban of foreign travel for individuals living in the Tibetan region—also indicate a tense relationship between the single-party People’s Republic of China (PRC) and many minority populations.