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A guest feature by The Sarsen Slumberer

An aboriginal youth of the indigenous Tsou people of Taiwan (pre 1945)

China’s recent little rattle-throwing-out-of-the-pram fitty over Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen’s telephone call to President-elect Donald Trump is yet another example of China’s big bully agenda towards its neighbours. China claims that Taiwan is part of China. What nonsense. China has no more of a claim to Taiwan than it has to Tibet. And, lest it be forgotten, the Chinese only started settling in Taiwan in the late 17th century. To claim Taiwan as ‘theirs’ is just another smoke and mirrors land-grab by a big bully nation. If Taiwan belongs to anyone it belongs to the Austronesian peoples who first settled there at least 15,000 years ago. The native Austronesian peoples of Taiwan still number around 530,000. Are their voices, cultures and heritage heard? Hardly ever. Big game politics take centre stage but, like the native peoples of America, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere around the world those voices, small though they are, should and must be listened to.

Heritage is not just about monuments and artefacts from the ground (important though they are as you so rightly highlight on your pages here) it’s also about languages and crafts, food, ways of dressing, and a different way of looking at the world. Should we kowtow to China because it’s in our financial interests. I don’t think so. Taiwan is a functioning democracy where free speech is encouraged. President Tsai of Taiwan is the first woman leader in Asia who isn’t the daughter or wife of a previous leader. China on the other hand is a failing dictatorial system in the grip of a corrupt few.

As Fox News recently, and so accurately reported, “China and the Washington foreign policy establishment thought they could tell President-elect Donald Trump whom he can and cannot speak with on the phone. They thought wrong.” Let’s hope our own politicians and people of influence here in Britain have the same courage to stand up to bullying regimes wherever they may be.

See also The Sarsen Slumberer’s earlier feature Common sense and common courtesy.


An artist’s impression of Londinium, centre of the Roman Empire in Britain, circa 200ce
Across the river to the south of Londinium was a small suburb that would later become Southwark. It was here, in a Roman cemetery, that two skeletons dating from between the 2-4 centuries ce, and of East Asian origin (possibly Chinese), have been found.
It is not yet know if the two individuals were slaves, traders or something else. Trade between China and Rome was already well established through intermediaries by this time; in fact there is an example of Roman jewellery being found in a 5th century Japanese tomb.
More here. See also our earlier feature Caesaromagus: A place of unassuming mystery…
The Heritage Journal (ISSN: 0219-8584) has published, “…research articles on the history, culture and the art practices of Asia, with an emphasis on material culture, cultural resource management and museum practice…” since 2004 and is an arm of Singapore’s National Heritage Board.” The Journal’s inaugural article (Volume 1, 2004) by Cheryl-Ann Low, Curator, Singapore History Museum, deals with Sawankoloke-Sukhothai Wares from the Empress Place Site, Singapore. The abstract for the article reads –
Textual records suggest that Singapore and Thailand had a political relationship in the 14th century. Wang Dayuan, a Chinese traveller who visited Singapore in the 14th century recorded an attack by the Siamese sometime before 1349. A 16th-century account records that a local ruler in Singapore was a relative and vassal of the Siamese king. The former was murdered and his position usurped by a renegade prince from Palembang. the Siamese consequently drove the usurper out of Singapore. An archaeological excavation was conducted at the Empress Place Building site in 1998. The discovery of ceramics produced by the kilns of Sawankoloke and Sukhothai in the 14th and 15th centuries adds another dimension to the knowledge about the trading relationship between Singapore (Temasek) and Thailand (Ayutthaya).
More here.


What’s possibly the most calming yet nerve-racking job in the world? Come behind the scenes of the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art to find out!

The conservation and scientific research of ancient Asian art takes a large team of experts from many fields. In order to bring thousands of treasures from the East to the galleries of the Smithsonian in downtown Washington, D.C., several critical and careful steps toward ensuring the objects’ continued longevity must be taken.

Learn more about the hard work taking place to keep these works alive and on display here.



Logo for the 2012 Fifth World Conference of the Society for East Asian Archaeology held in Fukuoka, Japan

The Society for East Asian Archaeology (SEAA) is a non-government organization formed to further promote interest and research in the field of East Asian Archaeology through the sharing of information on ongoing projects, encouraging premier quality research, international and interdisciplinary communications, providing publishing opportunities through an online bulletin and the support of an academic journal, holding academic meetings and conferences, providing educational outreach to the general community, enhancing scholarly communications and good relations among archaeologists within East Asia, and encouraging interdisciplinary perspectives involving several regions.

SEAA’s last conference was held in Fukuoka, Japan in June of this year. The Society’s next conference will be held in Mongolia in 2014.


Crumbling statues discovered inside an ancient Buddhist monastery in Mes Aynak, Afghanistan
Image credit Shah Marai © AFP


Asia’s architectural treasures are ‘vanishing’ reports Sebastian Smith (AFP) on 3 May 2012.

NEW YORK – Asia’s architectural treasures, from a Buddhist monastery in Afghanistan to an ancient city in China, are in danger of vanishing under a tide of economic expansion, war and tourism, according to experts. The Global Heritage Fund named 10 sites facing “irreparable loss and destruction.”

“These 10 sites represent merely a fragment of the endangered treasures across Asia and the rest of the developing world,” Jeff Morgan, executive director of the fund, said, presenting the report, “Asia’s Heritage in Peril: Saving Our Vanishing Heritage.”

The architectural gems from Asia’s ancient and sophisticated cultures are struggling in the face of economic expansion, sudden floods of tourists, poor technical resources, and areas blighted by looting and conflict — in other words, the pressures of rapidly modernizing Asia.

Full article here.


The Journal of East Asian Archaeology


The Journal of East Asian Archaeology is the first English-language journal explicitly devoted to the archaeology of this major geographical region, here broadly defined as including mainland China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, Mongolia, Siberia, and the adjacent regions of Central Asia. Articles published within the journal are peer-reviewed, original scholarship on all aspects of East Asian archaeology. JEAA’s broad geographic focus uniquely encourages a wider view of archaeology in East Asia than is possible with the single-country or single-area orientation characteristic of many publications, and with publication in English, the journal provides access to an extensive international readership.

More here.


The World Monuments Fund and the Hadrian Award for 2008

Every year, The World Monuments Fund gives the Hadrian Award to international leaders who have advanced the preservation of world art and architecture. In 2008, The World Monuments Fund honoured Houghton, Doreen, and Graeme Freeman and The Freeman Foundation. The Freeman Foundation is the lead supporter of World Monuments Fund work in Asia, including the Qianlong Garden in the Forbidden City, Beijing and the Japanese Imperial Buddhist Convents.



February 2023
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