Paul Theroux

Slow Boat to China

China – Land of Discovery

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Patrick Stephens Ltd 224pp £12.95 order from our bookshop

The New Chinese Revolution

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Hamish Hamilton 248pp £12.95 order from our bookshop

Waves

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William Heinemann 240pp £12.95 order from our bookshop

The Chinese are the last people in the world still manufacturing spittoons, chamberpots, treadle sewing machines, quill pens, steel pen nibs, wooden yokes for oxen, iron ploughs, whalebone corsets, bamboo back-scratchers and steam locomotives. They made grandfather clocks – the chain-driven mechanical kind that go tick-tock and bong! Is this interesting? I think it is. Because as Robert K G Temple reminds us in his distillation of Professor Joseph Needham’s fifteenth volume Science and Civilisation in China, the Chinese actually invented the mechanical clock in the late Tang Dynasty. Then they forgot they invented it and like many other inventions it was re-introduced to China from Europe.

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