Thursday, August 19, 2010

Roundup: Asian History, Ancient and Modern

History News, Reviews, and the Like from around the World

"N. Korean-Japanese Team Finds Koguryo Tomb in Pyongyang," The Chosun Ilbo, Aug 15, 2010‎.

Academics from North Korea and Japan have unearthed a large tumulus from the Koguryo period in Pyongyang, providing valuable material for studying the history of ancient East Asia, Japan's Kyodo news agency said Saturday. About 4.5 km away from the downtown Pyongyang, the tomb was discovered during construction work in Tongsan-dong, the Lelang District of the Koguryo era and is presumed to have been created around the 5th century. >>>

Jim Eagles, "Silk Road: Tracing the path of ancient footsteps," New Zealand Herald, August 11, 2010.

Jim Eagles travels a well worn path through a historic landscape and finds plenty of remnants from its fascinating past still in place. The old caravanserai stands beside a section of the Silk Road as it has done for over a thousand years. On the other side of the road is an equally ancient cistern built to to provide water for camel caravans plying the hot, dry, dusty path between the timeless cities of Samarkand and Bukhara. >>>

Edward Wong, "China Seizes on a Dark Chapter for Tibet," New York Times, August 9, 2010.

GYANTSE, Tibet — The white fortress loomed above the fields, a crumbling but still imposing redoubt perched on a rock mound above a plain of golden rapeseed shimmering in the morning light. A battle here in 1904 changed the course of Tibetan history. A British expedition led by Sir Francis E. Younghusband, the imperial adventurer, seized the fort and marched to Lhasa, the capital, becoming the first Western force to pry open Tibet and wrest commercial concessions from its senior lamas. >>>

Razib Khan, "Empires of the Word & anti-Babel," Discovery Magazine blog, August 16, 2010.

European nationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries was in large part rooted in the idea that language defined the boundaries of a nation. During the Reformation era some German-speaking Roman Catholic priests declaimed the value of the bond of language against that of religion, praising those non-Germans who adhered to the Catholic cause against German speaking heretics (in the specific case the priest was defending Spanish tercios brought in by the Holy Roman Emperor to put down the rebellion of Protestant German princes). . . . Newer lingua francas, French and later English, lack the deep unifying power of Latin in part because they are also living vernaculars. They may resemble Latin in some particulars of function, but eliding the differences removes far too much from the equation to be of any use. Linguistic diversity is a fact of our universe, but how it plays out matters a great deal, and has mattered a great deal, over the arc of history. >>>

"Pearl Buck in China by Hilary Spurling," New Yorker, August 16, 2010.

Emphasizing the imagination’s power to “make bearable things too ugly to confront directly,” Spurling sensitively traces the biographical background of Buck’s writing. Buck, the daughter of missionaries, spent nearly all of the first forty-two years of her life in China, and her childhood was marked both by grand upheavals such as the Boxer Rebellion and by the stark asperities of everyday poverty. >>>

[I'll be interviewing Spurling about her biography for an upcoming issue of Historically Speaking]

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