Great firewall

China has a new great wall, which blocks parts of the Internet from its citizens. This is partly done by absolute blocks, for example banning the BBC because it has a Chinese language news site. But it is also done by more subtle means – letting the companies who run forums know that they might […]

Four more photos of old Shanghai

(For background, read my posts Chinese family history and Child of the atom bomb first) In Shanghai, Rosemary and I went to a few more places related to our family history. Shanghai has undergone massive development, knocking down of whole areas, building of new skyscrapers. Amazingly, everywhere we went was still there. A hundred year […]

Holy mountain

(Just to explain, I’ve been back from China for a couple of weeks now, but still have blog posts to make about it, which I’m gradually catching up on) When we were in Chengdu we went on a trip a couple of hours south to Emei Shan. This is where the religious thread of the […]

Holy island

Even though I’m an atheist, it’s fun and moving to seek out pious people and watching them going about their business. A few years ago I used to do this in the UK via Cambridge Interfaith, who organised such things as a visit to the synagogue on a Friday evening, and a day trip to […]

Buried in the sky

Tibetan sky burials sound very odd, exotic, macabre. After being shown a sky burial ground by a native who takes part in them, my mind began to twist round and see them as normal. Just as many Tibetans do – I don’t know figures, but it is widespread. A sky burial goes like this. The […]

Tibetan language

On the bus from Zoige to Langmusi, I met a girl who for all the world looked Han Chinese, but turned out to be Tibetan. She had reasonable English, and was well turned out in the fashionable way that city Chinese are. She was an accountant in a government-run Tibetan medicine hospital in Zoige, on […]

Building a new highway

Everywhere in the People’s Republic of China there is building. In Shanghai, deep foundations of new skyscrapers. In Songpan, new apartments paid for by the government to relocate people from slumy areas. And north of Songpan, a newly upgraded highway across into Gansu province. The only problem is, it isn’t finished yet. The bus left […]

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 […]