Recent Posts


“The Barbarian and the Babe,” The World of Chinese

May 23, 2016

The story of An Lushan has been told so many times that it qualifies as Tang Dynasty slash fic. There is the aging emperor, his sensual concubine, and the exotic foreign warrior who comes between them. But this story is far more Byzantine than an 8th-century love triangle gone horribly sideways. [Read More...]

“A few days in North Korea,” Here! Dongguan Magazine

May 21, 2016

I have celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in numerous countries, cities, and towns around the world including outdoors on the Appalachian Trail, on the Tibetan Plateau, and one semi-memorable night in which I turned into Shiva Destroyer of Worlds while celebrating at a Holiday Inn in White Plains, New York. I thought I was safe celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the one capital city on Earth without an Irish Pub. [Read More...]

“The Secret Sexual Life of Zhou Enlai and the Limits of Historical Knowledge,” LA Review of Books China Blog

February 22, 2016

Retroactively outing a historical figure remains problematic, not because of the sex — Zhou Enlai may well have had erotic relations with other men — but because such studies are often methodologically flawed. Too often, contemporary understandings of romance and sexuality, gay or straight, are read into texts from another time period. But doing so can prejudice the data and lead to shaky conclusions. It is an error of perception when we use present-day standards to judge or categorize evidence of past behavior. [Read More...]

“Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money: Part IV”

January 13, 2016

In one of the great ironies of history, none of the treaties directly deals with the cause of the war: opium. It would take another conflict, the Arrow War of 1856-1860, which resulted in the occupation of Beijing and the looting and burning of the imperial summer palaces, to finally legalize the trade in the narcotic. [Read More...]

“Out of Autocracy, Off the Shelves”

January 7, 2016

It is an unfortunate axiom of publishing in China that the best way for your book to gain international attention is to have the Chinese government make it unavailable to domestic readers. Such is the fate of Out of Imperial Autocracy (Zouchu dizhi), the latest book by the eminent public intellectual and economic historian Qin Hui, published earlier this year. [Read More...]

“Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money: Part III”

January 6, 2016

The HMS Nemesis was 56 meters long and 29 meters wide. She sailed for the China coast in 1839 carrying two guns that fired 32-pound rounds and four that fired six-pound rounds, plus a launcher for rockets and torpedoes. She could operate by either sail or steam, and her shallow draft meant that she could move as effectively on inland rivers as she could in open ocean. Her hull was protected by iron and designed with watertight compartments to keep the ship afloat even if the outer hull was breached. She was a devastating weapon of war. [Read More...]
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