gonghe, not gung-ho!

Misunderstanding between China and English-speaking countries is well illustrated by the term “gung-ho”. It is one of the few phrases we borrowed from Chinese and we promptly got it wrong! To Americans it means being extremely zealous. A 1943 film shows US marines in battle. In Chinese gōnghé simply means ‘work together’. Their acronym slogan 工業合作社, written in pinyin as gōngyè hézuòshè is pronounced gōnghé 工合 ‘to work together’ for short. It was picked up the New Zealander Rewi Alley, one of the founders of the Chinese Industrial Cooperatives. The linguist Albert Moe considers that gung-ho came via US Marine […]

Panda Diplomacy

“The gift that only the patron can give”, is the way a Chinese Han lacquer cup was described in BBC radio’s “history of the world in 100 objects”.  Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum had in his hand a lacquered cup found near Pyongyang and made around 220 CE. The character for ‘give’ (above centre) is composed of the silk radical on the left, sī and a verb meaning ‘unite’ at right, hé. It may be thought of as “the gift of silk unites the empire” Silk garments were symbols of imperial status and were highly valued as gifts […]

The Three Body Problem

Review of “The Dark Forest”, a Science Fiction novel by Liú Cíxīn   The ‘Three-Body Problem’ is a difficult to solve mathematical puzzle left for us by Isaac Newton. The actual problem for all people of Earth is even more challenging. Very intelligent aliens originate on a planet in an unstable three-star system, so they are called the Trisolarians. Their evolution has forced them to be extremely resilient because of the planet’s erratic orbit, but now they realise the planet will be drawn into one of the suns. They are looking for a new planet and have chosen Earth.  Their […]

Chinese Science Fiction

Fiction allows worries and aspirations about the future to be explored, without much constraint by current political configurations. The three-body problem trilogy by Liú Cíxīn has had a huge impact in China. There is now the possibility that a TV series will put it centre-stage in Britain. Meanwhile there has been a dramatic move of women into SF. The unprecedented award of the prestigious U.S. Hugo award in 2015 to Liú was followed by a succession of female Hugo awards. Biological themes, rather than combat with extra-terrestrials have thus become important. Gu Shi wrote her short story “Chimera” around a […]

The UK Chinese Community

Walter Fung gives a survey of the Chinese communities in the UK. The article first appeared in SACU’s China Eye magazine in 2008. Walter Fung was born in Liverpool of Chinese parents and grew up in his father’s laundry. He is now retired after working for 35 years in the textile industry and is a member of SACU council as magazine editor. This subject is more complex than its simple title would suggest. The Chinese community comprises a variety of people from different places who came to the UK at different times, for different reasons, from different backgrounds and with […]

The Chinese in Britain

This is a historical article from an early issue of China Now magazine. Jenny Clegg tells the story of Britain’s Chinese community and their hosts’ ambivalent reaction. The history of the Chinese in Britain has yet to be written. What exists is only a handful of surveys, dissertations, census figures, and newspaper reports. But put these together and the story begins to unfold – a story that is part of both Britain’s and China’s history, and one that only makes sense viewed in the context of the relations between the two countries. It is a story in which there is […]

Charles Henry Brewitt-Taylor: Translator of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Cyril Cannon worked in the printing industry before moving to academia, undertaking undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the London School of Economics. His final posts were in Hongkong, initially helping to set up what is now City University, and then as Academic Consultant to Lingnan. He is retired and lives in London. He has been a SACU member for well over 20 years, and was on the editorial board of China in Focus. This article is based on the author’s Public Success, Private Sorrow: the Life and Times of Charles Henry Brewitt-Taylor (1857-1938), China Customs Commissioner and Pioneer Translator. Foreword […]

First Impressions of Chinese about the West

China’s introduction to Europe was a bewildering experience. R.G. Tiedemann, a lecturer at “S.O.A.S. University of London” ➚ describes how it was not just the gunboats which shook Chinese civilisation. First published in China Now magazine 1992. First impressions The intellectual discovery of Europe was a traumatic event for imperial China. It shattered entrenched notions of a centrality and superiority which had intensified after China’s retreat into isolation in the fifteenth century, since the self-contained Chinese world order denied the existence of a civilisation other than their own there had been little inclination to find out about the outside world. […]

Robert Hart: a man of two worlds

Martin Lynn recounts the experiences of Robert Hart employed by the Chinese in the dying phases of the Qing Dynasty. This article first appeared in SACU’s China Now magazine in 1988 Robert Hart was witness to many of the major events of late nineteenth century Chinese history, a period when the country was wrestling with the twin problems of foreign intervention and the need to modernise. He was to live through four foreign invasions of China, the Taiping Rebellion of 1852-64, the Boxer rising of 1900, the attempted partition of the country by the West and the eventual crumbling of […]

Agnes Smedley 1892-1950

Alice Roberts describes the fascinating life of a committed American friend of China : Agnes Smedley, the article first appeared in SACU’s China Now magazine 1972. It is difficult to convey in a few brief words how a working-class woman, born in northern Missouri ➚ of an itinerant miner and a boarding house cook and raised in the Rockefeller ‘mining camps’ where the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company owned ‘everything but the air,’ and who never even finished grade school came to write: ‘I have but one loyalty, one faith, and that was to the liberation of the poor and […]