Archive for November, 2009

Christians in China

November 26, 2009

John Wyver: We’ve been rather preoccupied over the past week or so with starting to film Macbeth for the BBC and the PBS strand Great Performances. But I have been enjoying the BBC Four series A History of Christianity written and presented by the historian Diarmaid MacCulloch. The first programme (still available on BBC iPlayer) looks at the early development of Christianity in the East and it includes a strikingly vivid sequence towards the end in China with the author and expert on Eastern religions Martin Palmer. Martin Palmer and Diarmaid MacCullogh

Palmer argues convincingly that Christianity established a significant presence in China in the seventh and eight centuries and he takes MacCulloch to a site of what he believes to be a long-lost Christian monastery. Engagingly, they are chased away before being able to film inside the sole surviving building.


Rule of the river crabs

November 17, 2009

John Wyver: Fascinating article by Isabel Hilton from the Guardian today about internet censorship in China and the ways in which users attempt to circumvent it. Prompted by President Obama’s enthusiastic endorsement of freedom of expression during his visit to China, Hilton details how sites such as Twitter are blocked but also how pro-Party bloggers endeavour to counter online criticism. Read the rest of this entry »

A very good introduction

November 16, 2009

Street sign near White Cloud TempleJohn Wyver: Before going to China, I read a clutch of books about the country and its culture — and I’ve been continuing with that, and with an ever greater interest, since coming home. One of the very best is Rana Mitter’s Modern China: A Very Short Introduction, published by OUP in its entirely essential Very Short Introductions series.

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Sunday links

November 15, 2009

Great Wall filming spotI’m still struggling to catch up with my sleep after the return from China — and also to catch up with this blog. I’m bringing across all of the China posts, plus the Japan ones, and aiming to enhance these as well as adding ones about filming plans in the new year. One idea I want to try is a note each Sunday of links I’ve found interesting both in the ongoing research for Art of Faith II and in general reading related to its subject. So here’s a first short selection — and we’ll refine the focus and range as the notion develops over the coming weeks.

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China 16: meeting the master

November 12, 2009

John Wyver writes from Beijing: Ten minutes or so after we arrive at today’s location I succumb to a quiet and personal moment of despair. I can’t see how we are going to get anything from the building site behind and beneath which the White Cloud Temple seems to be hiding. We were hoping that this (usually) beautiful and ancient temple in Beijing would be a key location, along with Taishan, for our approach to Daoism. But the courtyards are crammed with pipes and paving stones, there are workmen everywhere — and Ian can’t see a single shot clear of construction clutter. Added to which, Master Qiu doesn’t want us to show anything of the mess. Read the rest of this entry »

China 15: civilization once stride forward

November 11, 2009

The first impression of Beijing as the flight from Luoyang comes in to land is of snow across the surrounding landscape. According to the Guardian, the blizzard on Sunday was enhanced by the local weather modification service (I’m not making this up!) to ensure that the nearby farmland received the maximum possible water. As we taxi to the gate the plane is alive with the sound of mobiles being switched back on — despite the stern warning over the tannoy prohibiting precisely this. We’re back in China’s capital for the final four days of our trip — and for a good part of the time we’ll get to be tourists.

Beijing T Square with Mao Read the rest of this entry »

China 14: revolution in the air

November 11, 2009

John McCarthy takes a walk in Luoyang: Luoyang is very proud of its peonies. Ning says that one should come in May when the peonies bloom – then the city is beautiful. Yet, even though we are visiting in early November, we do not find the city peony-less. I see two Peony restaurants, a Peony hairdresser and at least one other hotel with peony in the name before we arrive at ours, the Peony Plaza. It’s just across the road from the Luoyang Peony Maternity Hospital. Read the rest of this entry »

China 13: a great Buddha, a great day

November 11, 2009

Longmen closer across river

John Wyver writes from the Longmen caves: There are days when it all comes together — and this was most definitely one. The weather was sparkling, our scholarly contributor a delight, access was unproblematic (thanks to excellent preparation by our Chinese colleagues) and the location was, simply, marvellous. I think we knew that the Longmen Buddhist cave temples would be a highlight of our Art of Faith II filming trip but I really wasn’t prepared for just how extraordinary, involving and moving they would turn out to be. I came away feeling that I had visited one of the wonders of the world — and one that beyond a circle of experts and some intrepid tourists is hardly known in the west. Read the rest of this entry »

China 12: Luoyang express

November 10, 2009

John McCarthy on the train from Tai’an to Luoyang:train lead official

10.56, Sunday, Tai’an: Ning won’t brook any malarkey. The train for Luoyang is pulling in and will be away again in four minutes, exactly. So we are ready poised with the load, suitcases, camera, rucksacks, tripod, monitor, pot noodles and cakes equally distributed among us. The train is still moving when Ian and I make a move. The Platform Guard (in splendid uniform) and the Policewoman (slightly less splendid attire) turn sharply, warning us back. The train stops and now there’s no holding us. Or there wouldn’t be but for the matching brace of officials who emerge from the train to exchange pleasantries and sheaves of papers with the first pair. Read the rest of this entry »

China 11: markets, Mao and mountain men

November 10, 2009

John McCarthy, writing from Tai’an: Everywhere we have been we have seen massive building projects. The other day, coming back here to Tai’an, we went under an elevated section of rail link which one day will unite Beijing and Shanghai to cut the journey time from twelve hours to five. Snaking its way 50 feet above the flat farmland, this project, like other road construction works we have passed obviously improves the country’s infrastructure. But they also throw into sharp contrast modern, booming China with one that seems a hangover from the days when five year plans were directed by political ideologues rather than bureaucrats with MBAs. Super-highways thunder past poor and depressed landscapes where famers push, pull or pedal carts laden with bushels of drying maize stalks. Sometimes just a couple of hundred yards lie between the tiniest of dwellings and a vast new housing estate.

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