Over 20 years covering China, travel, and culture for publications across the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Author of multiple books on China.
When translating Chinese into English could be dangerous – Britain’s failed 1793 embassy to China seen through interpreters’ eyes
Britain's Lord Macartney's interpreters for his embassy to China's Qianlong emperor were an exiled Chinese priest and a boy who'd had a crash course in Mandarin
The priest stayed on in China but was a wanted man; the boy grew up, went back there, translated for a second embassy but fled after threats from the emperor
The Perils of Interpreting - The Extraordinary Lives of Two Translators between Qing China and the British Empire by Henrietta Harrison, pub. Princeton University Press
There’s Marco Polo but no Bill Bryson, Colin Thubron but no Thomas Coryat – author’s critical examination of travel writing has gaps
The Travel Writing Tribe - Journeys in Search of a Genre by Tim Hannigan, pub. Hurst
Tim Hannigan admits to an obsession with travel writing and travel writers dating back to his teenage years, and as a young man he "took unconsciously to aping their pose and their prose in the diaries I scribbled as I rattled around the backpacker circuits of Asia".
When AI goes wrong who’s to blame, Singapore law professor asks; do we legally treat algorithms and machines as we once did mercenaries and miscreant animals?
We, the Robots? Regulating Artificial Intelligence and the Limits of the Law by Simon Chesterman, pub. Cambridge University Press
How the British bungled relations with China during the Qing dynasty and the Dutch took advantage. Or did they?
It is a clash of empires that reads like Game of Thrones. The year is 1793. The Qianlong emperor of the Great Qing Empire grants an audience to Lord Macartney, ambassador from Britain's King George III, at his summer resort of Rehe, now Chengde, a few days' travel northeast from Beijing. But Macartney refuses to bend the knee.
"Unless we actually go looking for insects in our parks and gardens," writes biology professor Dave Goulson, "we are most likely to encounter those that invade our homes, including cockroaches, houseflies and bluebottles, clothes moths and silverfish." He admits that it takes time to become properly acquainted with these before their merits become apparent.
Pandemic brings unexpected support for Hong Kong tour company dedicated to revitalising Japan’s countryside
Walk Japan’s mission to reinvigorate farmland areas and rural communities in Kyushu has received greater interest from Japanese since the pandemic began
Walks that pass through the area include a chance to sit down in a farmhouse for tea with local people, who are happy to talk about lives spent working the land
The least visited countries in the world revealed, from island states in the Pacific and Caribbean to dots on the map of Europe
A long time ago, when we used to travel far, far away, there were some countries most of us never seemed to visit even when we could. Some didn't want us, some had little room for us, and some were just too awkward to get to or failed to offer enough of interest to make the effort worthwhile.
‘I’m the worst daughter ever,” says Delia Hou over the music of a tango orchestra. The lissome 35-year-old Taiwanese-American quotes her parents: “You graduated once and you’re still not married. You graduated twice and you’re still not married.”
Ms. Hou has degrees in astrophysics and law, but here in a milonga, or tango-dancing club, they are forgotten. She and other Asian milongueras speak of the dance in almost metaphysical terms.
“Tango is about what you really genuinely want but you don’t even dare to admit,” says Ms. Hou. “Here you are, you don’t have a serious respectable job, you’re spending your evenings pressing your body against strange men. It’s not really typically Asian behavior.”
Why Unesco can do little to prevent World Heritage sites being destroyed – nowhere is that shown better than in China
In the nearly 50 years since the creation of the Unesco World Heritage List, in 1972, it has grown to include some 1,154 cultural and natural properties in 167 countries. But the big news at the World Heritage Committee's recent 44th meeting was not the accession of 34 new sites to the list, but rather the deletion of one - only the third time this has occurred in the programme's history.
WeWork’s rise and fall captured brilliantly in The Cult of We, a tale of how dumb ‘smart money’ can be
This is a story about unicorns. Not the pointy-foreheaded horses of myth, but present-day companies valued at a billion dollars despite producing little in the way of profit. Or even despite continuous vast losses, as in the case of office subleasing company WeWork – a unicorn that turned out to be a donkey with delusions of grandeur.
Chinese Buddhist statues, a German Indiana Jones and his big lie exposed in art history whodunnit by a retired Hong Kong civil servant
The ceramic glaze statues of Buddhist saints are life-size and stunningly lifelike, and represent a stylistic revolution. Where did they come from? For a century museums have accepted that a German art dealer found them hidden in a cave near Beijing. An amateur historian’s book shows he probably lied.
Can golf courses be good for ecology when they use so much water and pesticide to maintain an artificial environment?
Amid all the industry backslapping at the World Golf Awards in October, with its prizes for best golf shoe brand and best golf TV channel, there will be an award for world's best eco-friendly golf facility in 2021.
Peter Wohlleben’s new book suggests that trees have assorted senses that parallel our own, and that communication of a kind may be possible between them and us.
This is no fairy tale but there’s a sense throughout that Wohlleben is swinging over a chasm of New Ageism and wishful thinking.
Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio's recently announced donation of US$43 million to support rewilding in the Galapagos has brought those fabled Ecuadorean islands back into the headlines at a time when almost no one is able to visit them. But some may wonder whether DiCaprio's millions might have been better spent elsewhere; some place in which conservation is less advanced.
China adventures of world’s ‘wickedest man’: Aleister Crowley’s brushes with death, spirits and ‘appendix on toast’ in Yunnan
Occultist Aleister Crowley’s journey through Yunnan in 1905/6 bristled with a sense of the supernatural, and some of his tales of the trip were truly macabre.