Tag: China

Faber podcasts February 2012 – James Palmer and Philip Oltermann

In this month’s Faber podcasts, I talk first to James Palmer about the momentous year 1976, which saw the death of Chairman Mao and inevitable machinations to be his successor, as well as one of the worst natural disasters in human history, the Tangshan earthquake.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

And to listen to James reading extracts from the book, click on the links below:

Reading 1: click here. “Beyond the violence, it was the sheer all-pervasiveness of the Cultural Revolution that had left people so exhausted…”

Reading 2: click here. “In Chinese folklore, omens attended the passing of an emperor. The same went for earthquakes…”

In my second interview, I speak to Guardian journalist Philip Oltermann about his book Keeping up with the Germans:A History of Anglo-German Encounters. Philip came to this country from his native Germany in his mid-teens and in the book turns his wry gaze on both countries and their history of mutual misunderstandings. To listen to the interview, click here.


Burma – Failed state: Le Monde diplomatique podcast

Rangoon, BurmaBurma’s military regime, the State Peace and Development Council, has if anything become more repressive since the scenes of confrontation which the world witnessed on its television screens during the saffron revolution of 2007.

In this month’s podcast, George Miller talks to journalist Rajeshree Sisodia about her article on contemporary Burma in the July edition of Le Monde diplomatique.

They discuss the Orwellian climate of fear which prevails in the country and life in the refugee camps across the border in Thailand, home to thousands of Burmese who have fled their country.

Rajeshree also talks about China’s growing investment in – and consequent influence over – Burma, and assesses the medium-term prospects for change.

To listen to the podcast, click here [13:49].

Photo by Sam Hummel.

12. A Chinese character

T. H. Barrett
“I think the burning question is: we think of printing as having revolutionized intellectual life in Europe, how come it doesn’t appear to have revolutionized intellectual life in China? There’s no great fanfare when it arrives. It seems to creep in and people don’t talk about it much for quite a long time. That was the problem I was trying to address overall.”

This week I’ve been at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London to see Professor of East Asian History, Tim Barrett. It was the title of Tim’s recent book – The Woman Who Discovered Printing – which made me keen to meet him. After all, most of us have grown up with the idea that printing was invented in medieval Germany by Gutenberg. In fact, Tim’s book shows that printing was already well-established in China many centuries before Gutenberg, and that Europeans had probably seen eastern wood-block type at a period when they were too far behind China technologically speaking to make use of it.

Woman who discovered printing book jacket

Perhaps our difficulty in the West with acknowledging the great advance the Chinese had over us (cultural prejudice aside) is how very different the story of printing looks from China. The woman in Tim’s story, for example, is not a artisan or a scientist, but Empress Wu, the only woman to rule China single-handed in its long history.

And her interests in the fledgling craft of printing around 700CE was stimulated not by a desire to spread knowledge, but to reinforce her own position. You can hear how she did that and how Tim has pieced together the evidence in the podcast.

In the programme, we touch on the possible impact of climate change on the development of printing and the role of Buddhist texts which were never meant to be read. You can also hear about the impression (if you’ll pardon the pun) made in the history books by one Gong the Sage, who, with his magic inks and words which appeared on paper when he blew on it, may be the very first printer in recorded history…

Reading Tim’s book provided me with a list of further titles I wanted to track down. Here is my personal selection:

Elizabeth Eisenstein: The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe

Blake Morrison: The Justification of Johann Gutenberg

John Hobson: The Easten Origins of Western Civilisation