Tibet, horses, water prayers

At the moment I’m in Tibet. No, I don’t mean the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), I mean historic and ethnic Tibet. TAR is the province occupied by China which contains Lhasa, and which we lazily often refer to as “Tibet” in English. Tibet proper also includes all of Qinghai province, and parts of several other […]


If you fall off the eastern edge of the Himalayan mountains, the first major city (population 4.1 million) that you come to is Chengdu, in China’s Sichuan province. You’ve heard of it from the spicy Chinese food, called “Szechuan” in the west. Rosemary and I spent 5 or 6 days based around there. A few […]

Quick post

Just a quick post to say what’s happening. Rosemary is flying back to Shanghai tomorrow, and then home later in the week. I’m in China for another 10 days, heading tomorrow into Northern Sichuan. I’m writing some more about things we’ve seen in the last week, but won’t put them up until I get some […]

Hope in the air

We took the magical modern teleport from Xi’an to Chengdu. 18 hours in a train a bit too much for Rosemary, and saving a day was useful. I wandered round the airport looking for an English language newspaper. A shiny glossy building with high ceilings, much nicer than Heathrow. Clear layout and signs, clean toilets. […]

Warriors or pigs?

Two emperors, roughly 2000 years ago, supervised the creation of their own burial treasures before they died. One (called Qin Shi Huang) created an entire pottery army, in formation, with infantry, cavalry, chariots, archers and a command section. The other (called in various places Han Jing, Liu Qi, or Jindi, I can’t quite work out […]

Penguins in Shanghai

Most people wouldn’t have seen it, but it instantly caught my eye. I saw this (picture left) last week in Shanghai, on the corner of Shaanxi Lu and Huaihai Zhonglu. It’s an animated advertising hording, which as you can see was mostly black with a cartoon Penguin and the words “Welcome to”. The mirror writing […]

Shanghai, goodbye

It’s always a bad idea to have expectations. There’s been lots of hype about how fast Shanghai is developing – accelerating out of poverty, and into a world class city. And it’s true – Rosemary was here 20 years ago, and is amazed that you now can’t cross the road without being killed, that everyone […]

Child of the atom bomb

Imagine it’s May 1945, the war in Europe has ended, and the Americans have captured (parts of?) Okinawa, the tropical island in the very south of Japan. Allied air raids are starting over Shanghai. Your husband has been sent by truck with your belongings, and you are with your two daughters, aged 3 and 6. […]

Chinese family history

Almost as soon as we got off the plane on Wednesday, Rosemary (my mum) dragged me from the tourist trap of the Bund, into some overcrowded, grimy backstreets hunting for the derelict cathedral where her parents were married and she was christened. The magnetic levitation train from Pudong Airport was great fun – not because […]