Roads to Xanadu

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In the summer of 1976, following a two-year stint as an exchange student, Timothy Brook headed out of China through Friendship Pass, a rail junction on the border with Vietnam. Having already been warned not to take a folded wall map out of the country by a customs official in Shanghai, Brook was confronted by a gleeful border guard who plucked it from his rucksack and immediately confiscated the offending object. As far as the guard was concerned, Brook writes at the beginning of Mr Selden’s Map of China, the map ‘did not merely represent China’s sovereignty: it was that sovereignty. For him, the map existed at a level of reality higher than the real world.’

Song of Exile

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

I can’t decide which lines from Richard II best reflect the melancholy story of the Song Dynasty Emperor Huizong (1082–1135): ‘And tell sad stories of the death of kings’ or ‘my large kingdom for a little grave,/A little little grave, an obscure grave’. The University of Washington’s Patricia Ebrey, a master historian of this period with […]

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