The coronavirus crisis is a human failure, says author of ‘Sapiens’
While most people alive today have never experienced an event like the coronavirus pandemic, it is not the first time humanity has come face to face with a global contagion. Historian Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens and Homo Deus, answers questions from the South China Morning Post on how the coronavirus pandemic poses unprecedented challenges in biometric surveillance, governance and global cooperation. He also proposes five steps the world should take moving forward. Q: You wrote “if we are indeed bringing famine, plague and war under control …” in Homo Deus. Given that the spread of the coronavirus pandemic continues unabated, do you still believe mankind has largely reined in plagu
The secret links between Chinese and Thai food
Chinese and Thai cultures are linked for more than just their love of food. They have also been trading cooking styles and ingredients for generations. Traders from both regions often traveled between the two countries, bringing spices and cooking techniques to the other. You can taste it in Thai cooking today. We meet a Thai food expert in Bangkok to find out where these links come from and the Chinese culinary traditions hidden in plain sight in Thailand.
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
Blast from the past: Hong Kong’s iconic bamboo scaffolding
Any visitor to Hong Kong will notice that the iconic skyscrapers are built using bamboo scaffolding. It's a technique that has been used across China for at least 1,000 years. At first, it may appear to be dangerous, but in reality, it is just as safe as any other scaffolding technique. This video from 1963 shows how the city used bamboo as it was expanding, and westernizing, its infrastructure.  Let’s take a look back at workers erecting intricate webs of sky-high bamboo scaffolding.
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
‘City of Darkness’: A tour of the world’s most famous walled neighborhood
“City of Darkness” is an exhibition exploring the long gone Walled City of Kowloon in Hong Kong as photographed by Greg Girard and Ian Lambot. Lambot and Girard set about photographing the Walled City shortly before its demolition in 1994 due to a deep fascination with the site. Nearly 30 years on from the Walled City’s demolition, this project offers a unique insight into the remarkable community, home to an estimated 50,000 people at its peak, and by far the most densely populated neighborhood the world had ever known.
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
How Nepalese Gurkhas helped put down the 1960s riots in Hong Kong
This article is an edited excerpt from the book Gurkha Oddysey: Campaigning for the Crown by Peter Duffell. We had our first taste of impending troubles in Hong Kong caused by the Cultural Revolution during the Easter holiday of 1966.  On April 6 in the late afternoon, we had returned to Queen’s Hill [a barracks located in the northern part of Hong Kong] from a battalion-command-post exercise testing our vehicle-mounted radio systems. We were looking forward to the Easter break. We picked up some news of rioting in Kowloon and decided that we would leave the radios mounted in the vehicles in case a call came. At 1am that call did indeed come.  Without warning, we were rudely awakened by the
Are these the faces of China's first royal purge?
Chinese researchers have reconstructed the faces of a young man and woman who might be the victims of China’s first – and most gruesome – royal purge. The faces are believed to be two of the many sons and wives of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. The remains were found in and around the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor in Xian, in China’s northwest Shaanxi province. The complex is the largest tomb on planet Earth, extending over an area of more than 21 square miles. The site is world-famous for its army of terracotta soldiers, but the core architecture of the 250-foot-tall, pyramid-shaped mound, which houses the emperor’s coffin and treasures, remains largely unexplored. The wom