Scotland/China news

Two new books by SCA members

by Website Editor, 9 May 2013

Two SCA authors have recently published new books – the novel A Single Petal, by Oliver Eade, and The Scots and China, 1750-2000 : Issues, Ideas and Identities, by Ian Wotherspoon. We provide brief details below, and hope to publish reviews of both books soon on this website and/or in Sine.

A Single Petal, by Oliver Eade

This novel is the tale of teacher Feng, a humble widower, who lives quietly with his beloved daughter, Feier, in rural Tang Dynasty China (AD618-907). But things change when his merchant friend is found murdered and local Miao girls begin to disappear. The authorities seem strangely uncaring, so Feng sets off on a dangerous journey of discovery, little suspecting he’s involving himself with forces that even threaten the emperor.

This book is described by the publishers as “murder, politics and passionate love in ancient China”, and won the Local Legend National Competition for Spiritual Writing. As the publisher says, it is “a true page-turner with a strong story that builds up to a terrifying and tragic climax”, adding this beautifully written novel also pays minute attention to historical detail - the reader will be left asking deep and important questions”.

Raymond Hume of The Writer has said, “There’s an abundance of beauty in this book… a fictitious account of lives in Tang Dynasty China, but also a moral tale of much wider applicability to other times and places… The clear, direct style of the narrative is a joy to read”.

Oliver Eade is a children’s writer and retired Scottish Borders doctor. His wife being Chinese, with family spread across China, he has traveled extensively in her motherland. His earlier children’s books, Moon Rabbit and Monkey King’s Revenge, link Scotland with mythological China and introduce western children to East Asian culture and legends. Oliver's own website has more information about his life and is books and can be found is here.

A Single Petal is published by Local Legend, at £8.00 paperback and £5.99 as an Kindle edition (ISBN 978-1-907203-42-8). The paperback is on Amazon here, and the Kindle edition is here. It may also soon be found in some local bookshops in Scotland.

The Scots and China, 1750-2000 : Issues, Ideas and Identities by Ian Wotherspoon

A long-standing SCA member, and with several articles previously published in Sine, Dr Ian Wotherspoon is well qualified to examine the history of the relationship between Scotland and China. As he explains :

“Why people from Scotland, one of the smallest countries in Europe, came to have such an influence on one of the world’s largest nations, China, is the focus of this pioneering study. As Scotland rapidly industrialised in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Scots sought fame and fortune throughout the British Empire – and beyond. China was no exception.

“Scots came to China to trade in tea, opium, silks and spices and tried to prise open the doors of the Celestial Empire to foreign influence. With them came strange new ideas about politics and religion which, often as not, ran contrary to traditional beliefs. They became involved in the public administration of China, not just in Hong Kong, but through a variety of now forgotten Chinese institutions like the Chinese Maritime Customs. Scottish interests also covered the scientific exploration of China’s environment, flora and fauna, plus seriously determined efforts to harvest souls for Christ in a largely Confucian culture.

“Scots tried to influence enquiring Chinese minds along western lines. The first Chinese to graduate in western medicine from any British, indeed European, university was educated in Edinburgh. Mao Zedong’s mentor, and future father-in-law, was educated at Aberdeen University. In time, the path followed by these extraordinary young men was taken by other Chinese who came to live and work in Scotland, forming what is today a vibrant component of Scotland’s non-ethnic community.

“Whether Chinese or Scots, they were a disparate, if eclectic, group. Here were businessmen, opium traders and travellers, saints, students, and scholars. Arrogant, greedy and racist, they could be humble, compassionate, and kind. In a period of unprecedented change, their lives came together as China emerged slowly, and painfully, to confront, not just the demons from its own past, but the real challenges from beyond its borders which threatened the very survival of a Chinese identity and, even, of China itself”.

Ian Wotherspoon spent nearly thirty years in Asia and the Pacific before returning to his native Scotland where he teaches at the University of Edinburgh. Dr. Wotherspoon has written extensively about the Scots abroad and the influence overseas of Scottish education. To mark China’s resumption of sovereignty in Hong Kong in 1997, he co-authored with Sally Blyth the best-selling Hong Kong Remembers which was published by Oxford University Press in 1996, and in translation as Shuo ba, Xianggang in 1999.

The Scots and China, 1750-2000 : Issues, Ideas and Identities is published by CreateSpace, and is available in paperback and as an ebook (ISBN 9781481025508). It is available on Amazon here.

This book has been reviewed in the October 2013 issue of our magazine, Sine, by Dr Shenxiao Tong, East Asian Studies Librarian, University of Edinburgh.

Back to Bonhams for Asian art

by Website Editor, 4 April 2013

On 25 March, around 30 SCA members and friends once again attended a Private View ahead of the recent Asian Art auction at Bonhams in Edinburgh, following our highly successful event last year.

The evening was another opportunity to learn about the Asian art market, handle the lots, and meet the auction house experts. A varied collection of porcelain, jades, ivories, paintings and furniture from China and Japan was on display. Ian Glennie, Head of the Asian Art Department, and his colleague Asha Edwards gave a series of "table-talks" on selected highlights, as guests enjoyed refreshments provided by caterers Ginger Snap.

The photos show Lot 131, a rare lacquer and paper topographical fan, mid 19th century with vignettes of Macau, Canton and Hong Kong to one side and detailed birds in foliate landscapes to the other, estimate £400-600, hammer £3,500 ; and Lot 352, a Straits famille rose basin 19th century, estimate £200-300, hammer £2,500 (photos courtesy of Bonhams Ltd)

Notable Chinese lots included a collection of some 80 Chinese fans amassed over several years by a single owner. Some have been used as illustrations in books, shows, exhibitions and lectures. The superb quality of the carving of the ivory fans was the first attraction - the collector's interest then graduated to the colourful mandarin fans with their ivory faces, applied silk kimonos and other exotic decorations. Other materials found in the collection included fans of mother-o-pearl, silver filagree, sandal wood, lacquer and tortoiseshell. The collection made some quite creditable prices, with some exceptional examples reaching £2,000-3,500.

After the auction, Ian Glennie commented, “an ever strengthening market for Chinese goods originally destined for export produced a sale of superb average lot prices and a 90% selling rate”. He noted the new popularity of export pieces is “perhaps due to the scarcity and ever increasing prices for Chinese Imperial treasures of porcelain, ivory, jade and bronze”. Export goods in all main collecting areas are all selling well, with only ivory slowing a little since China introduced its own trade restrictions.

He also highlighted the garish painted 'Straits' porcelain, intended initially for sale in Singapore and Malaya, which is receiving “unprecedented attention at auction in recent sales”. For example, lot 352 (seen in the photo above) was listed at an estimate of £200-300 but sold for a hammer price of £2,500, while another similar item, lot 353, listed similarly, fetched £1,900. This reflected similar results seen in the March 2012 sale.

The same effect was seen in export silver too, as noted by Adrien von Ferscht, who spoke to the SCA Edinburgh branch in December 2012, with lots 272 and 273 realising several times their estimates.

For more details of the auction and the lots, see this page on the Bonhams website, including the final prices realised.

We attended another such event in 2015, see here for more.

New Scottish Government China Strategy

by Website Editor, 4 December 2012 (updated 26 June 2013)

The Scottish Government has today (4 December 2012) published its updated 'China Plan', on the first anniversary of the arrival of the pandas in Edinburgh.

The new plan, entitled 'Working with China - a five year strategy for engagement between Scotland and the People's Republic of China', can be found on the Scottish Government website here, to view online or download as a pdf. There is also a news release here.

In March 2013, the Scottish Parliament's European and External Affairs Committee announced an inquiry into the 'China Plan' and international policy in general - for more details, see here and here. This follows on from their earlier inquiry in 2009-2010.

See this page for an article on the Committee's report, published on 23 June 2013.

CPAFFC delegation visits Scotland

By Janice Dickson, SCA Chairman, 11 November 2012

A delegation from the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) visited Scotland in late October, at the invitation of the SCA, as well as Denmark and the Isle of Man.

The main purpose of their visit was to promote a seminar in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in September 2013, focused on agricultural and cultural exchanges between China and Europe. This will be the third such seminar - the first was held in Chengdu and the second in Jilin. CPAFFC also work closely with Edinburgh Napier University and with The Scottish Government, who are hosted by CPAFFC when they visit China.

The four member delegation was led by Ms Lv Yanxia, Division Director of the European and Asian Affairs Department – she knows Scotland well, having studied marketing at Napier. She was joined by Mr Tan Xiaohua, Secretary General of the Ningxia People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and Mr Zhang Fuguo, Director Professor of the Research Assistance Department of the Ningxia Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences. Sun Chi, Kathy, was the interpreter from CPAFFC.

They started their journey in Denmark, then continued via Manchester to the Isle of Man for meetings and farm visits arranged by the Department of Economic Development, before arriving in Edinburgh on 21st October.

In Edinburgh meetings were arranged with Scotland’s Rural College (formed in October 2012), The Scottish Government, Edinburgh Napier University and the Chinese Consulate-General. The delegation then drove to Glamis Castle (twinned with the Great Wall !) where they were met by Libby Reynolds from Glamis and Steve Wilson from the Economic Development department of Angus Council, who gave a briefing on agriculture in Angus as they drove along Glen Clova. Our Mandarin-speaking guide, Tom Mitford, then played his pipes to complete the picture.

In the evening the SCA hosted a banquet before the delegation returned to China. SCA members were warmly invited to Ningxia in 2013 to attend the seminar.

The SCA has welcomed delegations from CPAFFC for over 30 years, and we would like to thank all our members who take part and arrange these visits. The SCA has also enjoyed the hospitality from CPAFFC when we visit China, and we hope that this relationship may continue to flourish in the future.

China National Day Reception

by Website Editor, 29 September 2012

The 63rd anniversary of the founding the People's Republic of China in 1949 was celebrated at a National Day reception at the Chinese Consulate General in Edinburgh on 27 September. Guests included Scottish Government ministers and officials, several local authority leaders, university principals, business leaders, members of the Chinese community, the local diplomatic corps, and many others with an involvement with China.

Clockwise from top left - at the opening ceremony, Consul General Li ; Scottish Government Minister
Hamza Yousef ; some of the guests ; Eddie McGuire and his ensemble (photos courtesy of Chinese Consulate General)

In his speech, Consul General Li Ruiyou emphasised the ever-expanding business, cultural and educational links between the two countries. He noted that China/Scotland trade had risen by 14% to £766m in the first half of 2012, and that Scottish exports to China were rising at a faster rate than imports from China to Scotland, reflecting the particular success of Scottish food and drink products such as farmed salmon and whisky. Another recent export success cited by Mr Li was the expansion of the Bridge of Weir car leather factory to meet demand from Chinese car manufacturers, while the new China visa centre is another indicator of how tourism is growing.

Newly-appointed Scottish Government Minister for External Affairs and International Development Hamza Yousef MSP noted that this was his second engagement involving China in just three weeks, the first having been a reception for the recent visit by the Peking University orchestra. He noted that the new 'China Plan' was nearing completion, and committed The Scottish Government to broadening and deepening Scotland's relationship with China.

The reception was attended for the SCA by Janice Dickson, Chairman, and Peter Lindow, Euan Petrie and Graham Thompson of the National Committee, while Eddie McGuire, Vice President, and his ensemble provided musical entertainment at the event.

See also here for a report on the Consulate's website.