Jan 09 2019184 Is Taiwan a Country?

Taiwan’s status is a matter of debate. In this episode we get into its history and try to suss out whether it’s part of China or an independent country.

Feb 26 2018155 North Korea Part Six: War and No Peace

The Korean War was supposed to be over quickly. However, due to intervention from the United Nations, China, and the Soviet Union, what would have been a quick regional conflict turned into a years-long war that involved over twenty countries and left millions dead. At the end of it, the borders between the two Koreas looked much like they had before the war, and it gradually became apparent that the division would not go away anytime soon.

Jul 07 201688 The Unknown Origins of Pasta, A Wonder of the World

As far as your humble podcaster is concerned, pasta is a wonder of the world right up there with the Pyramids and the Internet. We don’t exactly know where it came from, though. In the United States Pasta is often erroneously identified with Marco Polo. Supposedly, Polo brought back a variation on Chinese noodles from his travels, and introduced it to Italy. This story originates, though, in the United States. In 1929 a publication called the Macaroni Journal invented the Polo story, and ever since then that myth has refused to die.

Some Italian sources claim that pasta originated with the Etruscans, a pre-Roman civilization on the Italian peninsula, but evidence for this is spotty. It is more likely that pasta originated in the Middle East and traveled to the Italian Peninsula via the Emirate of Sicily.

Theme music: Cowboy Surfer by the Vivisectors

TaccuinoSanitatis,Casanatense

Jun 02 201683 Bill Lascher on Eve of a Hundred Midnights

This week’s episode is an interview with author Bill Lascher about his upcoming book Eve of a Hundred Midnights, about two American war correspondents covering the East Asian theater of WWII.  In it, Lascher details how they got into journalism, what it was like to cover wartime China, and their various encounters with and escapes from the dangers of war.

Eve of a Hundred Midnights comes out on June 21st, 2016.

evofahundredmidnights

May 14 201530 The Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace, Part Two

Hong Xiuquan and his Taiping rebels successfully founded a new kingdom in southern China. The Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace sought to overthrow the Manchurian Qing Dynasty and form a new, radically different China. Hong, the supposed younger brother of Jesus Christ, retreated to a life of luxury in an opulent palace, and the actual governance of the kingdom was carried out by his cousin Hong Rengan, who acted as essentially the Heavenly Kingdom’s prime minister. Hong sought out aide from foreign powers to assist the Taiping in their struggle against the Qing, but none came.

Instead, the Manchurian Dynasty and the United Kingdom would join forces to crush the rebels, and the supposed brother of Christ would die ingloriously while besieged in his palace. The image below is a memorial Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in Guanxi.

Mengshan

Related Links:

Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom on Powells.com.

A brief biography of Zeng Guofan.

A brief biography of Charles Gordon.

May 07 201529 The Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace, Part One

In the 1850s a man who styled himself as the younger brother of Jesus Christ led China into a bloody rebellion. China in the early 1800s was ravaged by famine, natural disasters, and British meddling that introduced opium (and the Opium Wars) to the population. The country was ripe for rebellion against the Qing Dynasty who, being Manchurian, were often perceived as foreigners by many of China’s Han population. Into all of this chaos and discontent came a man called Hong Xiuquan who claimed to be the younger brother of Jesus Christ. Hong founded an organization called the God Worshipping Society, and he and his Christian rebels would attempt to destroy not only the Qing Dynasty, but also prevailing Chinese ideas of religion and civilization.

This week’s show tracks the reasons behind China’s Taiping Rebellion, and gives a bit of background about Hong himself. Next week’s show will focus on the war itself, and the eventual fall of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. The image below (made some time after the Taiping rebellion in 1886) shows Chinese Imperial soldiers retaking a provincial capital from Taiping rebels.

Regaining the Provincial Capital of Ruizhou

Related Links:

A website all about the Taiping Rebellion with a fairly obvious URL.

A timeline for the Taiping Rebellion.

BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time (one of my all-time favorite shows) on the Taiping Rebellion.

Nov 20 201405 The Puppet Kingdom

Before and during World War II Japan (just like Britain, France, and the United States) had a considerable empire. The Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere encompassed the Korean peninsula, several Pacific Islands, and holdings in China. Probably the strangest part of the Japan’s empire was Manchukuo, an artificial country in northern China that Japan made by (among other things) bombing a train and kidnapping the former Chinese emperor.

Manchukuo map 1939

Related Links:

This 1937 pro-Japanese propaganda film presents a laughably glowing vision of Manchuria under Japanese control.

Listen to Manchukuo’s national anthem! It sounds like lots of other national anthems.

The New Imperialism and Post Colonial Development State: Manchukuo in Comparative Perspective is one of the better scholarly essays I read about this topic in preparation for this episode.