I can’t close the year of 2019 without giving a huge vote of thanks to Laszlo Montgomery and Chris Stewart for their incredible dedication in writing and producing my two favorite podcasts about China’s history. Both programs are absolute goldmines of information and insight about this rich and complex topic. I have no idea how they find the time to carry out all the research and writing required to produce such high-quality content on such a consistent basis. Their obvious passion is truly inspiring!
The China History podcast was started in June 9, 2010. It covers a dizzying array of topics – from art, literature, and philosophy to the rise and fall of each dynasty, great figures in Chinese history, and even the 1930s Shanghai jazz scene. Laszlo Montgomery’s deep knowledge of China and his enthusiasm for its language, history, and culture shines brightly through his inimitable narrative style. You can visit the China History podcast website here. Continue reading 2019 highlights: two great Chinese history podcasts→
The Summer Palace (颐和园) was the perfect place to finish my final trip to China this year. No matter how many times I visit this former Qing imperial resort, I never lose my sense of wonder at the sublime beauty of its palaces, pavilions, and lakes.
The Qing emperors and their retinues certainly knew how to enjoy themselves. However, their extravagance – best exemplified by the construction of the notorious marble boat for the Empress Dowager Cixi using funds intended for modernizing the navy – played a major role in the demise of the dynasty around the turn of the twentieth century. Continue reading Notes from the field: the Beijing Summer Palace→
No trip to Qufu should be complete without a visit to the Temple of the Duke of Zhou. The traditional Zhou dynasty rituals that were carried out at the temple in honor of Confucius’s great hero were the primary source of inspiration for the sage’s philosophy and teachings. They provided the living and breathing symbols that fueled his calls for a return to the golden age at the beginning of the Zhou dynasty when China reached its zenith under the duke’s wise and benign leadership.
The Duke of Zhou (周公) was the fourth son of King Wen of Zhou (周文王), the spiritual founder of the Zhou dynasty. He played an instrumental role in helping his second oldest brother, King Wu (周武王), to defeat the Shang dynasty (商朝) at the Battle of Muye (牧野之戰) in around 1046 BCE and formally establish the dynasty. Continue reading Notes from the field: the Temple of the Duke of Zhou→
One of the most delightful surprises I had on my first trip to Qufu a couple of years ago was an unplanned visit to the Temple of Mencius, second only to Confucius in the Confucian Pantheon. This time I decided to double down by taking a trip out to see his tomb at the Mencius Cemetery and the tomb of his redoubtable mother at the Cemetery of Mencius’ Mother.
As China’s economic might continues to rise, it’s important that we all gain a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural forces that are driving the rapid growth of the country. Continue reading China’s Cosmopolitan Empire→