Chinese history

Chinese history

China Trends: remnants of a sacked palace, and athletics become part of entrance exams
Every Tuesday and Thursday, China Trends takes the pulse of the Chinese social media to keep you in the loop of what the world’s biggest internet population is talking about. A reminder of past humiliation Every Chinese schoolchild knows the story of the Old Summer Palace. The palace was built throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries and featured a beautiful staircase leading into the main entrance overlooking a lavish garden. Located on Beijing’s outskirts, it was the perfect retreat for Chinese emperors looking for a respite from the bustling capital. In 1860 it was burned to the ground and looted by French and British troops during the Second Opium War. It has become a source of nati
English construction worker found Chinese relic while clearing out his garage
An English construction worker has found a valuable Chinese artifact initially thought to be a “teapot” while clearing out family belongings from a garage during lockdowns to fight the spread of Covid-19. The 51-year-old from Derbyshire in the UK said he was about to send the item to a charity shop before discovering it was an 18th-century imperial wine ewer. It fetched a life-changing sum at an auction this week. 
Why Beijing constantly talks about China’s ‘century of humiliation’
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China. In Europe, the years from 1839 to 1949 are often seen as a period of mass destruction and triumphant progress, world wars and technological revolutions. In China today, the 110-year period is often summarized in one word: humiliation. Once an unrivaled regional hegemon, China was beleaguered by endemic corruption, internal rebellion and ailing economy while being subjected to bullying by foreign powers and forced to cede territories to countries including the British Empire. But this painful chapter of history is not relegated to the history book.  Calli
How an American officer helped modernize China’s Navy
The modernization of China’s military is widely perceived as a threat in the United States today. Yet some 135 years ago, one US naval officer traveled to the Middle Kingdom to help the country develop its prowess at sea – and it did not end well. Philo Norton McGiffin left the US in 1885 as a naive but determined 24-year-old to serve the Imperial Chinese Navy and was wounded in action. After eight years of intensive officer training, McGiffin failed to obtain a commission in the US Navy because of the lack of available ships in its tiny fleet. So instead, he traveled to China to seek employment fighting for the country in the Sino-French War (1884-85). “McGiffin is an important figure in t
Historical hat trick teaches kids about social distancing
An ancient Chinese hat has become the latest weapon in the fight against coronavirus after an elementary school in eastern China used them to teach its children about social distancing.  State news agency Xinhua reported that the school in Hangzhou got the children to make their own versions of the headgear worn by officials in the era of the Song dynasty, which ruled China between 960 and 1279.  The hats are distinctive because of the long wings that stick out from each side, forcing the wearers to have a 3ft bubble around themselves.  One legend says that the first Song emperor ordered his ministers to wear hats with two long wings on the sides so that they could not talk among themselves
Was Japan behind a mysterious bid to buy Macau outright?
In the 1930s, Western newspapers were in the habit of portraying Macau as a haven of pirates, scoundrels and ne’er-do-wells, gambling the days away and smoking opium by night. Maurice Dekobra, a bestselling French writer of the inter­war years, had a hit with his 1938 novel, Macao, enfer du jeu (Macao, Gambling Hell), which became an equally sensationalist film. Lacking Peking’s bohemianism, Shanghai’s modernity or Hong Kong’s dynamism, Macau sat in the South China Sea, fanning itself in the heat, a decaying relic of the diminished Portuguese empire. The economy was hurting thanks to the British Royal Navy’s suppression of piracy and smuggling. Officially, it was good news, but not for Maca
How lions became an important symbol in Chinese culture
On New Year’s Day, two bronze lions in front of HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong were sprayed with red paint and set ablaze by anti-government protesters furious at the bank for closing the Spark Alliance account, which reportedly raised funds for the protests.  The lions, which have guarded HSBC for almost 85 years, are currently covered as restoration takes place. Perhaps the European managers of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation took a leaf from Chinese architectural tradition when they commissioned the guardian lions in the early 20th century.  Many Chinese-owned buildings, modern and classical, feature stylized lions, one male and one female, at their main entrances. But how d
To win over Hong Kong and Taiwan, Xi Jinping must break a 2,000-year tradition
China’s “one country, two systems” formula in Hong Kong is failing miserably. After more than six months of large-scale pro-democracy protests – including violent clashes with police – the city’s voters dealt a powerful blow in November to pro-mainland parties, which lost 87% of seats to pro-democracy rivals in district council elections.  The significance of that election should not be underestimated. While district councils have little power, they select some of the 1,200 electors who choose Hong Kong’s chief executive. In the next election, pro-democracy parties will fill nearly 10% of those seats. The election also had important symbolic implications. District councils are elected in a
Tracking down my secret grandmother in a Chinese city with a Russian past
Harbin, in China’s far northeast, owes its modern beginnings entirely to a railway. For the first three decades of the 20th century, it was effectively a Russian city. It is a place that has sparked my curiosity ever since I came across a 1927 ship’s passenger list that revealed the name of my grandfather Frank Newman’s “second wife”: Nina Kovaleva, 25, born in Sevastopol, Russia. He would leave his Shanghai-based family with her in the early 1930s. The list also named a daughter, Kyra, aged five, born in Harbin. It was a stunning revela­tion. It implied that my grandfather, an inspector for the Harbin postal sub­district from about 1912, had led a double life for at least a decade. I conta