Inmates outside a 1930s Shanghai opium detoxification clinic, from Once Upon a Time in Shanghai, a Foreign Policy slideshow
Angkor Wat’s pinecone-tower contours are already etched onto my mind when Iain and I cycle towards them in the crisp dawn air. You can’t avoid images of the temple in Siem Reap, where t-shirts, bags, hats, photographs, paintings, ink drawings and sculptures, all emblazoned with Angkor Wat, are sold virtually everywhere in the ruins’ nearest town. I stop my bicycle, chain it to Iain’s, and try to set the image in my head aside, to see this architectural representation of the Hindu universe through the cosmic lens that its Khmer designers intended. In the distance, the five pinecone towers become Mount Meru’s craggy peaks, silhouetted against the lilac morning sky. The sun is slowly rising over this universe, the primordial ocean is still calm, and a few visitors – mere specks – are moving toward the sacred mountain’s summit. I cross the ocean, represented by a moat, and stand at the bottom of a long causeway where stone naga serpents are stretched out on either side. Passing thenagas, I symbolically leave the realm of men and enter the world of the gods.
Jack Kerouac’s hand-drawn cover for On The Road, rejected by publishers, along with the book itself.
It’s world’s apart from the book’s Ukrainian, Chinese and Croatian covers.
A spirit house repurposed for Christian souls, outside the ruins of a Portuguese church in Ayutthaya, Thailand’s ruined capital.
The ugly, embittered spinster
And more anti-suffragette postcards from the early 20th century
Nirad: “I was buying chutney in the bazaar when a thug who had escaped from the chokey ran amok and killed a box-wallah for his loot, creating a hullabaloo and landing himself in the mulligatawny."
— Hobson-Jobson: The words English owes to India
In 1948, London hosted the first Olympics in 12 years, which have become known as the Austerity Games. Athletes were required to bring their own towels and slept in barracks and college dorms. Whale meat was one of a few unrationed foods. Some teams chose bring their own supplies, including the French who sent a trainload of meat and air lifted claret to their athletes. No new facilities were built, but the Games were considered a success overall and turned a small profit on a cost of just GBP730,000.
Table tennis has come a long way from its origins, when squiffy Victorian gents – possibly officers serving in India – used cigar box lids to bat champagne corks at each other. “Other nations looked at the dining table and saw an opportunity to have dinner. We looked at the dining table and saw an opportunity to play whiff-whaff,” Johnson told his audience in Beijing.
An alternative history credits Jaques of London, who marketed a game called “gossima” and then “ping pong”. Either way, it rapidly spread through the empire and beyond; by the 1930s it had reached China, where a small Shanghai workshop sprang up catering to “pingpangqiu” enthusiasts.
Two decades later, Mao declared table tennis China’s national sport. Then, in 1959, China won the world championship. Zhou, the then premier, declared the year one of “double happiness”: the 10th anniversary of the People’s Republic and its first major sporting victory. The small Shanghai business was formally launched as the Double Happiness brand, now known in English as DHS.
Lou Shihe, the company’s general manager, says: “When Rong Guotuan won the ping pong championships, it changed the Chinese image in the western world. Westerners used to have the impression of China as the ‘sick man of Asia’. China promoted the sport as a political campaign. The government called for the whole nation to learn from ping pong players.”
The Great Helmsman himself took it up – with a Double Happiness racket, says Lou – and even the youngest were encouraged to play. “Set up a battlefield on the rectangular table … With deep unity and friendship we promote the revolutionary work-style!” began one children’s song. “Regard a ping pong ball as the head of your capitalist enemy. Hit it with your socialist bat and you have won a point for the motherland,” the top athletes were exhorted.
The city that dreams us all
this just made me fall in love with beijing all over again.
by OCTAVIO PAZ
news today and...
The Ten Commandments of Beijing
1. Thou shalt not praise Shanghai, nor move down to it, for Beijing is a filthy jealous mistress.