Detail of the bridge of the kora, a harp made from calabash and cow hide, with strings aligned in a perpendicular plane

The polyphonous Babel of global music

17 October 2015 8:00 am

‘Following custom, when the Siamese conquered the Khmer they carried off much of the population, including most of their musicians,…

White glazed bowl, Shunzhi-Kangxi period, Qing dynasty, 1650–70

The perils of porcelain – and the pleasures of Edmund de Waal

19 September 2015 8:00 am

A.S. Byatt on the dark, deadly secrets lurking beneath a calm, white surface

A paramilitary guard stands on Tiananmen Square before a portrait of chairman Mao Zedong (Photo: Getty)

Chairman Mao: monster of misrule

22 August 2015 9:00 am

Mao Zedong, once the Helmsman, Great Teacher and Red Red Sun in Our Hearts, and still the Chairman, died in…

Rabdentse, near Pelling, the ruined former capital of Sikkim, with Mount Kanchenjunga in the distance

The story of Sikkim’s last king and queen reads like a fairy tale gone wrong

1 August 2015 9:00 am

Sikkim was a Himalayan kingdom a third of the size of Wales squeezed between China, India, Nepal and Bhutan. I…

Portrait generally thought to be of Ghenghis Khan

Was Genghis Khan the cruellest man who ever lived?

27 June 2015 9:00 am

From the unpromising and desperately unforgiving background that forged his iron will and boundless ambition, Temujin (as Genghis Khan was…

(Photo: Getty)

Lonely little emperors: secrets of China’s only children

13 June 2015 9:00 am

This book starts with a Chinese boy so privileged and pampered that, at 21, he can’t open his own suitcase,…


New ways to destroy the world

6 June 2015 9:00 am

Despite the offer of joy proposed in the subtitle, this is a deeply troubling book by one of Britain’s foremost…

Psychoanalyst Carl Jung (Photo: Getty)

Carl Jung meets David Icke (and writes a book of bonkers business-speak)

25 April 2015 9:00 am

What do you get if you cross renegade psychoanalyst Carl Jung with lizard-men conspiracist David Icke? It is a question…

Gyalo Thondup (right) pictured with the Dalai Lama on their arrival in India in 1959

From diplomacy to disillusion with the Dalai Lama’s big brother

18 April 2015 9:00 am

Can there ever have been another book in which one of the authors (Anne Thurston in this case) so effectively…

Peking, c. 1290 (private collection), from ‘The Book of Ser Marco Polo’, edited by Henry Yule, 1903

The real mystery is how it got published

24 January 2015 9:00 am

As a boy I spent quite a lot of my free time trying to fake up ancient-looking documents. This hopeless…

Volvo China Open - Day Three

Banned – and booming: the strange world of Chinese golf

2 August 2014 9:00 am

I was in Shanghai interviewing a Chinese film director and an actor. We were discussing government censorship. How did anyone…

Close-up of Genghis towering 40 metres over his home pastures near the Mongol capital, Ulaanbaatar – the world’s biggest equestrian statue

Genghis Khan was tolerant, kind to women – and a record-breaking mass-murderer

12 July 2014 9:00 am

Genghis Khan, unlike most Mongols in history, is a household name, regularly misappropriated as a right-wing totem. If we recall…

A youthful portrait of the Dowager Empress

The Empress Dowager was a moderniser, not a minx. But does China care?

12 October 2013 9:00 am

For susceptible Englishmen of a certain inclination — like Sir Edmund Backhouse or George Macdonald Fraser — the Empress Dowager…

The Tragedy of Liberation, by Frank Dikötter - review

14 September 2013 9:00 am

The historian of China Frank Dikötter has taken a sledgehammer to demolish perhaps the last remaining shibboleth of modern Chinese…

Chinese refugees stream through the wrecked streets of Chungking after heavy bombing by the Japanese in 1937

China’s War with Japan, by Rana Mitter - review

22 June 2013 9:00 am

While the second world war raged in Europe, a separate conflict was devastating China, whose effects still linger to this day, says Jonathan Mirsky

The Dark Road, by Ma Jian - review

1 June 2013 9:00 am

If you are considering adopting — that is, buying — a Chinese baby girl, recycling a television or computer, or…

The curse of the mummy

2 March 2013 9:00 am

The former Soviet Union is so down on its economic luck that it can no longer maintain Lenin’s embalmed body.…


A date with death

2 June 2012 7:00 pm

On 8 January 1937, an old man was taking his prize songbird for an early morning walk in the eastern…

Chaps v. Japs

14 January 2012 12:00 pm

Does anyone do derring-do anymore? Here’s the real thing. On Christmas Day 1941, despite Churchill’s call to fight to the…

Chinese whispers

2 July 2011 12:00 am

River of Smoke begins with the storm that struck the convict ship the Ibis at the end of Amitav Ghosh’s 2008 Man Booker-shortlisted Sea of Poppies.

Hothouse hell

19 February 2011 12:00 am

Amy Chua, Tiger Mother and John M. Duff Professor of Law at Yale, was born in the Chinese year of the tiger, and a tiger, she says, ‘the living symbol of strength and power, generally inspires fear and respect’. She describes her own personality: ‘Hot- tempered, viper-tongued, fast-forgiving’.


Tibet should not despair

12 February 2011 12:00 am

Surely no political process in the modern world is more shrouded in mystery than the way the Chinese select a new supreme leader — except perhaps the occult divination practised by the Tibetans.

Systematic genocide

25 September 2010 12:00 am

You don’t have to accept the definition of how to do things, and you don’t have to follow other people’s choices and paths, OK? It is about your choices and your path.


The body in the snow

17 July 2010 12:00 am

A word is missing from the subtitle of Jonathan Green’s shocking exposé: cowardice.


Pearl of the Orient

31 March 2010 12:00 am

When she was a little girl, playing in the countryside around her missionary parents’ home in China, Pearl Buck used to come across the scattered body parts of babies abandoned for animals to devour. She would bury them, and tell no one.