Ten free copies of Yang Shen eBook from Flipreads

Old China Books is giving away ten promotional codes for a free copy of Yang Shen, Book I, 2nd Edition eBook from the Philippine electronic bookstore Flipreads.

The promo codes will be given to the first ten readers to leave meaningful comment on any of our posts about the Manilamen in Yang Shen. We would like to know what you think of these characters who appear so prominently in the novel, how well they are “drawn,” and how accurate the information about them seems to you.

Comments may be left on the Old China Books weblog, or on the Facebook Yang Shen page posts regarding the Manilamen.

To leave a comment on the Old China Books weblog, click on the Manilamen Category on the Old China Books home page.

On the Facebook Yang Shen page go to the page and scroll down to the posts (“earlier in 2013′” and in 2012). Look for “Manilamen and Mandarins – Filipinos in 1860s China” and leave your comment there below the post. Be sure you have Liked the page.

Upon review and acceptance of a comment, the reader will be sent a promo code for the free eBook from Flipreads. At the Flipreads site click on PROMO CODE on the Yang Shen page and proceed from there.

This promotion will end when the available promo codes are all given away. Notice of the end of the promotion will be posted on this page, and promotion offers posted elsewhere will be removed.

Giveaway Disclaimer: This giveaway is sponsored by Old China Books (OCB) and in no way is this giveaway sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with either Facebook or WordPress. Information collected is limited to that collected when Liking a Facebook page, or when providing name and email address when leaving a WordPress comment. In signing up for this OCB promotion, participants release and indemnify Facebook and WordPress from all liability. For specific questions regarding OCB giveaways email publisher@oldchinabooks.com.  OCB reserves the right to change the terms or conditions of any promotion or giveaway at any time and without notice.
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“…journey to undiscovered countries, and boldly go where few have gone before.” A Review of Tom Carter’s China, Portrait of a People

Tom Carter’s photography book CHINA: Portrait of a People (second printing 2013, Blacksmith Books) is a remarkable photo-essay of China today, broad in scope and comprehensive of subject. Even when contrasted with the work of his predecessors, discussed below, there is something more about this book: a remarkable depth of insight, understanding, and feeling that Carter (1973-), an indigent wanderer from San Francisco, acquired for a people whose language he knew only slightly at the time he took the photos. Anyone able to overcome barriers to communication without knowing the language is an extraordinary person.

Of the 100+ reviews on Amazon already posted, many readers regard Carter’s Portrait as a surprising view into a “rapidly disappearing” China as the country dynamically thrusts forward into the new millennia. However, as the photos of John Thompson, Felice Beato, and other photographers of the 19th century are my point of departure, their work compared to Portrait illustrates substantially greater changes in China than any since 1949. Memory of more recent changes seems concentrated in metropolitan areas and along the coastlands rather than in the hinterland traipsed by Carter; perhaps such changes appear weighty because of a foreshortened time scale and accelerated development.

It is unusual for a book to be a revelation for such a broad spectrum of readers as CHINA, Portrait of a People has been: besides travelers who have never been to China, and expat residents proud of their knowledge of the country yet unfamiliar with the greater landscape, the book has revealed to native Chinese much of their own country they knew little about. The book expands boundaries, reveals “undiscovered countries,” and is likely to rouse from their indifference to China almost anyone who looks through these photos. Continue reading

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Tulou 土樓 Communities, “Closed Outside, Open Inside” – a Variety of Chinese Courtyard Architecture

Tulou communityThese reviews in which we get entangled do not result in more reviews of Yang Shen, but often they engulf the reviewer in unexpected subjects which themselves are engrossing. My review of Tom Carter’s China, Portrait of a People, which is finally nearly completed, is such an entanglement – the Fujian tulou Tom photographed are fascinating and deserving of more than a squib in a book review. How are they built, and how do folks live in the hivelike strongholds? Tom’s photo in Portrait of the interior of a 700-year-old tulou in Yuchanglou, Fujian, looks much more intimate than any apartment building – with the rooms of the several stories all in a circle so that your neighbors, lots of them, are staring in through your doors and windows! And the acoustics must make the inside very noisy. The epitome in communal living.

Chinese Courtyard House 2 layoutThat sounds familiar, of course, having just written the about crowding in Chinese Courtyard Houses  and More on Chinese Courtyard Houses  – “The rooms all looked into the courtyard and so faced each other and offered little privacy. Large windows and connecting doorways between adjacent rooms made it easy to see everything going on. This design was convenient for the grandfather, who wanted to know everything happening in his courtyard. In addition, it implied a warning to the family members: Watch your behavior! The lack of personal privacy made some family members feel extremely constrained and frustrated. A traditional proverb said that ‘there was a tragic drama in every courtyard. The deeper the courtyard, the sadder the stories’.Continue reading

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Video Survey of Chinese Architecture

Qibao Town in Minhang 闵行七宝镇风光

Qibao Town in Minhang 闵行七宝镇风光

Here’s a new playlist that presents a quick overview of many aspects of Chinese architecture. The playlist begins with some of Tom Carter’s photos in a video that selects those showing buildings, houses, and other structures. Besides being a photo essay of modern China, Tom’s China: Profile of a People also serves as a small photo survey of Chinese architecture that includes new and old, modern and traditional, mainstream and minority. Together with a number of other YouTube presentations on Chinese architecture, this playlist makes a quite comprehensive archive on the subject. Included are a couple of instructive animations, several Chinese TV series on architecture, views of Shanghai architecture, and courtyard houses. Some of the entries are in Mandarin.

View video playlist on Chinese architecture

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Finnegans Wake Recently Translated into Chinese

More than one reader has asked “when will it be translated into English?” However, late last year the first Chinese translation of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake 芬尼根的守灵夜 was announced and garnered quite a bit of attention for translator Ms Dai Congrong 戴从容. Here’s an example of the reportage: 

Finnegans Wake: Huge in China
by Kevin Murphy, Melville House
January 30, 2013

Dai Congrong, one brave translator
Dai Congrong, one brave translator

“Imagine the consternation translator Dai Congrong felt when she came across the following passage in James Joyce’s notoriously baffling Finnegans Wake:”

What clashes here of wills gen wont, oystrygods gaggin fishygods! Brekkek Kekkek Kekkek Kekkek Kekkek! Koax Koax Koax! Ualu Ualu Ualu Quaoouauh! Where the Baddelaries partisans are still out to mathmaster Malachus Micgranes and the Verdons catapelting the camibalistics out of the Whoyteboyce of Hoodie Head. Assiegates and boomeringstroms. Sod’s brood, be me fear! Sanglorians, save! Arms appeal with larms, appalling. Continue reading

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Will New Generations Ever Learn About Tiananmen?

On this 24th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre Chinese censors are frantic to suppress all remembrance of what happened in Beijing in 1989. In the West, there is an abundance of coverage recalling that day and its aftermath. Besides the news reports, there is also this video of the Tiananmen “Tank Man,” showing him stopping the line of tanks, climbing up to the top of the turret of the leading tank and, apparently shouting inside, and later being hustled away by security police.


According to the following Voice of America article, many protestors “have already been detained, placed under house arrest, or monitored closely in the lead-up to the sensitive anniversary.” Continue reading

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50 Essential Chinese Films – Retrospective from Fandor

Here is an extraordinary retrospective of Chinese Film from 1922 to the present day. Kevin B. Lee has assembled a variety of Chinese film for this video preview, including many early films from the 30s through the 50s.

These films are of particular interest for what they show of China in those early years, many on a par with the Japanese films of, say, Ozu or Kurosawa from that same period, films that show what life was like for ordinary folk in pre- and post-war Japan. The remake of Spring in a Small Town (1948) I actually have a copy of and, while I’m just a fan and not a film critic, I found it fits the category of films that present life as it was in old(er) China. Continue reading

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John Thomson Photographs Discussed in Online Audio

 Manchu Bride, by John ThompsonJust happened upon an interesting and detailed talk on the 19th century photographs of John Thomson. The audio discussion at KERA ListenLive, features host Krys Boyd talking with organizer of the exhibit Betty Yao, MBE of Credential International Arts Management in London, and Amy Hofland, Executive Director at the Crow Collection of Asian Art. The photos were exhibited by the Crow Collection of Asian Art in a program “China Through the Lens of John Thomson 1868-1872,” which concluded its run May 05, 2013.                         Manchu Bride, John Thompson

We were pleased to come upon a discussion like this – a rare opportunity to hear folks knowledgeable in the arts weigh in on 19th century photography in China. First, because James Lande is formulating his review of Tom Carter‘s China: Portrait of a People partly in the context of earlier photographers of life in China, especially John Thomson, and secondly, because such photographs are a primary source for novels set in that era. Continue reading

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Manilamen and Mandarins – Filipinos in 1860s China, Part 4: Balla Crazy Gumarang and Palaso Arrow Salangsang

Balla Crazy Gumarang and Palaso Arrow Salangsang

Balla Crazy Gumarang was a common criminal, a tulisan – a brigand – or had been in the eyes of the Spanish gaolers at the Mantamang penal colony, called Cervantes by the Spaniards, in Ilocos Sur. Balla was born on the west coast of Luzon in 1828, at Santa Maria in Ilocos Sur, north of Vigan at the mouth of the Santa Maria river.

“My village woke to bell in tower of church, Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion.”

“When I small, they send me to run errands for parish priest, Augustinian Cordano, walk along beside friar, up and down broad stone steps, from plaza to church and around village, visit sick people.”

Mast & Sail in Europe and Asia, H. Warington Smyth (1906)
Mast & Sail in Europe and Asia, H. Warington Smyth (1906)

Balla’s father was away for six months or so each year sailing a large two-masted outrigger prahu on trading expeditions around the South China Sea. In Manila he loaded Chinese porcelain and textiles – silk, linen and finished cottons – to carry south to Panay and Zamboanga. He sold the imports in the provinces and loaded rice, sugar, and tobacco for the Sulus, picked up edible bird’s nests, shark fins, bêche de mer, and mother-of-pearl, then stood north for Hong Kong, Singapore, or south for the Moluccas, smuggling the cargo past the Dutch authorities to avoid import duties. Continue reading

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Manilamen and Mandarins – Filipinos in 1860s China, Part 3: Tata Grandfather Viray

Tata Grandfather Viray

Tata Grandfather Viray was born in 1821 or 1822, he was not sure which, the son of an Ilocano boat-builder.

“I grew up playing in Cavite and Vigan boatyards. Those yards build vessels native to our islands, small chatta, covered cargo boats, casco, flat-bottomed barges, and twenty-oared viray surf boats.”

“No one remember huge Spanish galleons once built in Cavite. That was centuries ago – for trade with Mexico and Spain.”

Wikimedia Commons

Drawings in the Spanish friars’ old books showed Tata the tall prow and stern, many decks crowded with great cannon, towering masts, and broad sails of the old 1500-ton galleons. Tata’s father told him of the thousands of natives that slaved for the Spanish, in the earliest Spanish polo, to cut trees and haul timber for the shipyards to build the galleons. Before the Spanish trade monopoly collapsed, and the last of these treasure ships sailed in 1815, the galleons carried millions of pesos in gold coin, the wealth of the Philippine Islands, between Manila, Acapulco and Madrid. As a boy, Tata imagined one day constructing magnificent vessels like the Spanish galleons, but until then was content to fashion small outrigger bangkâ, bilog, and barangay, and vessels for the coasting trade.ngkâ, bilog, and barangay, and vessels for the coasting trade.

Wikimedia Commons

When Tata was ten years old his father left Cavite and took his family back home to Caoayan, south of Vigan in Ilocos Sur, on the west coast of northern Luzon. Vigan looked west out over the South China Sea toward China, and north toward Japan, and had long been a center of Asian commerce, competing with Manila in the trade of tobacco, indigo and pearls for silk and pottery, when the Spanish arrived in the 16th Century and imposed their language and religion on the “heathen” Ilocanos. Continue reading

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