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The Eastern Origins of Playing Cards June 23, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
The Eastern Origins of Playing Cards

There are few things in history more entertaining than the transference of ideas  from one culture to another and the various misunderstandings that arise as the borrower fails to understands the lender. In our own day it is enough to hear an American university lecturer speak about Derrida or a Saudia Arabian discuss the British […]

Decapitation Gone Wrong in China, c. 1900 June 15, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Decapitation Gone Wrong in China, c. 1900

***Gruesome post warning*** Bad day? Children sick? Feel a bit depressed? Dog ate your laptop? Then do yourself a favour and move on. The following includes some very unpleasant details from a Chinese execution c. 1900, when medieval lingchi (death by cutting) was still in operation. The following execution was not planned as lingchi but […]

Two Thousand Infants Sold to Russia for Human Sacrifice May 30, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
Two Thousand Infants Sold to Russia for Human Sacrifice

***Dedicated to Wade who sent the relevant passage in*** The custom of burying infant children in the foundations of new buildings was well established in prehistoric, ancient and even (gulp) medieval times. The bigger and more important a building the more likely it was to a have a tot dropped in the cement. It is […]

Dare-Nots May 29, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Dare-Nots

Beach fluttered around the edges of an Italian project a few years ago that affected him profoundly. A series of interviews were collected from families who had suffered violence at the hands of the partisans at the end of the Second World War. The vast majority of these partisans, particularly in Emiglia-Romagna and Tuscany, had been […]

Marco Polo and Pasta May 21, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Marco Polo and Pasta

***Dedicated to Zach Nowak and Beach’s good friends over at FoodinItaly*** The lunatic idea that Marco Polo brought back spaghetti from China to grateful Italians is a modern food myth. There is no proof for this in MP’s writing: though there is an interpolated passage that might have started the confusion. In fact, the idea […]

Cat Clocks – No Really! February 28, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Cat Clocks - No Really!

Cats, it has been a while… Then Beach recently stumbled on this very strange passage in Abbe Huc’s Chinese Empire (1854). Can there be any truth to it? Beach is doubtful but he certainly likes the idea. One day when we went to pay a visit to some families of Chinese Christian peasants, we met, […]

Anne Frank, Ghost Weddings and Post-Mortem Baptisms February 27, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Anne Frank, Ghost Weddings and Post-Mortem Baptisms

A bit of a ragtag post this: the possibilities of post-mortem marriage and baptism (or ‘naming ceremonies’ to remain as broad as possible). Beach got thinking about this after a recent discussion with a priest who had married a teenager to her dead boyfriend. The boyfriend had just passed away in intensive care after a […]

The Soul Zoo January 27, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
The Soul Zoo

So many interesting replies to recent posts to put up but little Miss B has a nasty flu so she is home from school and Beachcombing will be spending the morning with her – she is a state of such anxiety that the poor kid needs to be held at all times. Saturday seems a […]

The Future of English December 29, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
The Future of English

There have been various ‘world’ languages, beginning with Greek, moving on to Latin, and from there changing rapidly from Portuguese, to Spanish, to French and more recently to English. Beachcombing spent a lazy moment yesterday browsing a nineteenth-century essay on the ‘inevitable’ triumph of English, the author arguing that not only would English become the […]

Bartering Chinese Women: Mao and Kissinger September 12, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Bartering Chinese Women: Mao and Kissinger

The honour! Strange History is, as we speak, being hacked by a bunch of Chinese ruffians. If the fairies and mermaids disappear under a swelter of fake Tiffany bags you’ll know why. To celebrate this epoch-making event Beachcombing thought that he would bring China centre stage and also throw Kissinger into the mix. It is […]

The Nanjing Belt July 9, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
The Nanjing Belt

Beachcombing always comes to China with a certain trepidation. After all, he doesn’t have much Mandarin (i.e. absolutely zilch), he has an embarrassingly modest knowledge of Chinese historiography and yet he must admit to having nothing but fascination for the exotic flowers that grow in the swamps of the Chinese past – recent oriental posts […]

Marco Polo Meets a Dragon? May 30, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval

Beachcombing still mouse hunting so a brief and curious passage in Marco Polo 2, 40. It is an extract that scholars – depending on their proclivities – try and ignore or enjoy overly. Leaving the city of Yachi, and traveling ten days into a westerly direction, you reach the Province of Carajan [modern Yunnan on […]

Manned Kite Flight in Medieval China May 13, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Manned Kite Flight in Medieval China

**This post is dedicated to Ricardo R. who put Beachcombing onto the Chinese kite** School’s out for ever! Well actually just for ten days before the summer students arrive and another course  is pushed off the cliff… Still for now it feels like for ever and Beachcombing is properly grateful. So much so that he […]

The Search for Fusang December 21, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
The Search for Fusang

The snow is melting rapidly outside and just in time. Mrs B is suffering in the room above from what look like real contractions – Beachcombing conspicuously absent. Beachcombing then is going to let his source do all the talking today. If he hasn’t written much of a conclusion then the chances are that the […]

Homer Hasenpflug Dubs and Roman Legionaries in Ancient China December 20, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Homer Hasenpflug Dubs and Roman Legionaries in Ancient China

Drum roll, trumpet blast enter Homer Hasenpflug Dubs (obit 1969) an American-born Oxford don with a name that sounds as it it was purloined from an 1890s feel-good novel. Homer, to friends, was a capable if eccentric sinologist based out of ‘the other place’ for most of his teaching life. He wrote – as was […]

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