2013 Events

2013 Events


MASTERPIECES OF CHINESE PAINTING – Exhibition and Talk at the V & A followed by CHRISTMAS LUNCH

The Meridian Society will be holding its Christmas lunch on Saturday 21st of December 2013. We realise that at this time of year people’s diaries will be quite full, but we very much hope that you will find the time to join us. It promises, as usual, a convivial occasion and will be a chance for you to meet up with other members of our society as well as new faces.

It takes place on the same day as our visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum but the two events are separate. We have scheduled the two so that you may attend either event or both. Please note that payment for each event is treated separately. Please see below for details.

Exhibition: Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700 – 1900 AD
Preceded by an introduction in English exclusive to The Meridian Society by Dr. Zhang Hongxing, senior curator at the V & A

Qiu Ying (1494-1552), Saying Farewell at Xunyang (detail), 1st half of 16th Century
Possibly Emperor Huizong, Auspicious Cranes, c.1112For the first time in the UK the V & A presents the chance to view the finest, and some of the rarest Chinese Paintings dating from the beginning of the 8th to the end of the 19th century. From this 1200 year period the exhibition includes small-scale intimate works as well as huge scroll paintings up to 14 metres long. This is a unique chance to view these rare surviving works of art drawn from collections all over the world, shown together for the first time. For more information, please click on this link.

Dr Zhang Hongxing, senior curator, will be giving an introduction in English exclusively to The Meridian Society. He will talk us through the major artists, themes and techniques and also share his personal insights and favourites with us.



Date: Saturday 21st December
Time: Exhibition and Talk: 10:30; Christmas Lunch: 02:00
Exhibition and Talk: Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL
The nearest tube station is South Kensington.
Christmas Lunch: Yang’s Palace, 33 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2SA
The nearest tube stations are Tottenham Court Road and Holborn.
Exhibition and Talk: Adults £10.80; Seniors £9.00; Students £7.20 (please bring proof of concessionary ID)
Christmas Lunch: Members £17.50; Non-members £22.50
Booking: To reserve your place please email themeridiansociety@gmail.com

Those intending to attend should make payment (for lunch only) by the 14th December at the latest. Please send your cheque made payable to ‘The Meridian Society’ to: c/o Annabel Goulding, 5 Mildmay Street, London N1 4AB. Alternatively you can hand in your payment by cash or cheque at the bookshop c/o Michael Sheringham at Arthur Probsthain, 41 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3PE. If you wish to pay by direct bank transfer please contact us at: themeridiansociety@gmail.com and we will forward our bank details to you.

We hope to welcome you there.



Talk by Nien Lun Yeh ‘Chun Chan Yeh: Chinese Gentleman-Scholar-Writer in Bloomsbury’

—-With selections from the CCTV film about Chun Chan Yeh’s life and writing

Date: Wednesday, 19th June

Talk: 6:30 pm-8 pm, School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), Univeristy of London, Russell Square

Speaker: Nien Lun Yeh
Yeh’s son, Nien Lun, grew up and was educated in Beijing. After studying for an MA in linguistics at York University, UK, he worked in international business and trade, promoting China-Western trade and cultural relations for nearly 30 years. He is Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Cross-Strait Lifelong Education Institute, the only university run jointly by Taiwan and mainland China. He has published stories in Chinese and English in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and the U.K. He has been instrumental in publicizing and televising the life and literary heritage of his father.

Chun Chan Yeh (1914 – 1999), wrote in Chinese, English and Esperanto and translated from over 10 languages. Close to the Bloomsbury Group of writers and artists, and J. B. Priestley, during his stay in the UK in the 1940s, the Times Literary Supplement commented “A chapter of the history of English literature was reflected in Chun Chan Yeh.”
Yeh wrote two trilogies of fiction based on his own experience of growing up in a village in south China, under the titles of Land and Quiet Are the Mountains (including the first volume, Mountain Village in English). He described the changes in the rural areas during the struggle against Japanese Occupation and then the civil war period between the Communists and Nationalists. He learnt several foreign languages, including English, Danish and Esperanto, so that he could write fiction in these languages and translate foreign literature into Chinese. The Open Fields, part of his literary trilogy Quiet Are the Mountains, was translated by Michael Sheringham and published by Faber and Faber in London. He was also the first chief editor of the magazine Chinese Literature, published in English and French in Beijing.

Yeh was knighted by the Danish Queen for translating Hans Anderson’s Fairy Tales from Danish into Chinese, so was given the nickname “China’s Hans Anderson”.


Talk by Dr Anne Witchard preceded by book launch


Date: Wednesday, 17th April

Book Launch: 5.30pm-6pm, Arthur Probsthain Bookshop

Talk: 6.30pm-8pm, Room B102, Brunei Gallery, SOAS, Univeristy of London, Russell Square

Lao She is revered as one of China’s great modern writers. His life and work have been the subject of volumes of critique, analysis and study. However, the four years the young aspiring writer spent in London between 1924 and 1929 have largely been overlooked. Anne Witchard, a specialist in the modernist milieu of London between the wars, reveals Lao She’s encounter with British high modernism and literature from Dickens to Conrad to Joyce.

Free entry for Meridian, SACU and SOAS CSSA members

£5 entry to talk for non-members

To book a place, please reply your name and membership status to us.

Our Email: themeridiansociety@gmail.com

Dr Anne Witchard
Anne Witchard is lecturer in English literature in the Department of English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies at Westminister University, and the author of Lao She in London (2012). Her previous publications include Thomas Burke’s Dark Chinoiserie (2009), and she co-edited with Lawrence Phillips London Gothic (2010)

Between 1918 and 1924 Lao She was an administrator and faculty member in several primary and secondary schools in Beijing and Tianjin. In 1924 he went to London to teach Chinese at SOAS (then the School of Oriental Studies), London University, where he closely observed and enjoyed London life, and absorbed the literary heritage, especially of Charles Dickens, and contemporary writers, in the heart of the Bloomsbury literati. There he wrote his first published novel, The Life of Old Zhang, in 1926.


Lao She (1899-1966) was born of Manchu origins, his father a poor manual worker in the Imperial service in Beijing. Yet he became a pioneering novelist and dramatist in the new literary movement that followed the May Fourth Movement in 1919. In fact, he emerged with Lu Xun and Mao Dun as one of the outstanding figures of 20th century Chinese literature in the 1920s. His novels and plays include Rickshaw Boy; Teahouse; Ma and Son, Two Chinese in London.

Back in Beijing, Lao She observed the occupation of the Japanese, which he reflected in his novel Four Generations Under One Roof  (Si Shi Tong Tang), written between 1944 and 1950. As Beijing was transformed in the early 1950s, he described the rebuilding of a poor and squalid district in Beijing in a play, Dragon Beard Ditch, 1956. In the Cultural Revolution he was victimised by the Red Guards and committed suicide by drowning himself in a lake in Beijing. His work has been revived and filmed and televised in China in recent decades.

All About My Friends, Documentary film by Guo Jing and Ke Dingding

(2007, 46 mins)
In Mandarin and Shanghainese with English subtitles

Shanghai’s booming economy and liberal attitudes have given rise to a generation of yuppies intent on making money at all costs.

All About My Friends is the story of Liu Wei, an ambitious young man, totally dedicated to his job for an up and coming tour operator. He desperately wants to please everyone: his boss, his trophy girlfriend and his retired parents, but all his efforts seem only to create new problems.

Date: Wednesday 30th October
Time: 19:00 to 20:00
Place: Room DLT (formerly G2), School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), College Buildings, Russell Square, London WC1
Entry: Free for Meridian Society and SACU members
SOAS students (donations welcome)
£5 donation from others
Booking: To reserve your place please email themeridiansociety@gmail.com

With thanks to BBC Storyville and Amber Entertainment for allowing us to screen this film

Talk and Book Launch by Dr Joy Zhang and Dr Michael Barr

iClean Air with Chinese Characteristics: Grassroots Environmentalism and Political Reform

How are Chinese people responding to China’s environmental crisis? What do the actions of environmental groups tell us about the prospect for political reform in China?

Based on interviews with members of grassroots organisations, media, and the government, this talk will explore how environmental problems are transforming Chinese society. The presentation draws from their new book, Green Politics in China, Environmental Governance and State-Society Relations (Pluto Press, 2013), which covers examples rarely captured in Western media, including low carbon conspiracy theories, the campaign to save Kekexili in Tibet from commercial branding, and the ‘patriotic’ struggle to monitor air quality. Zhang and Barr detail the surprising influence of Chinese NGOs and their novel strategies to push the boundaries of political participation within a one party system.

Date: Thursday, 26th September

Book Launch: 5.30 to 6.30 pm
Arthur Probsthain Bookshop, 41 Great Russell Street

Talk: 7 to 8.30 pm
Room 116 Main Building, SOAS (School of Oriental & African Studies), Univeristy of London, Russell Square

Entry to Talk: Free for Meridian Society and SACU members and SOAS students
£5 donation from others

Booking: To reserve your place at the talk please email themeridiansociety@gmail.com stating whether you are a member or student

iDr Joy Zhang
Joy Zhang is Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Kent. She writes a popular weekly column for the People’s Daily overseas edition. She is the author of The Cosmopolitanization of Science: Stem Cell Governance in China(Palgrave, 2012).


iDr Michael Barr
Michael Barr is Lecturer in International Politics at Newcastle University. His most recent work on China has been funded by the UK Foreign Office. His book Who’s Afraid of China? The Challenge of Chinese Soft Power (Zed, 2011) has been translated into Chinese and Turkish.




Date: Saturday, 6th July 2013
Time: 12pm
Venue: Room 4418, Main Building, School of Oriental and African Studies, Thornhaugh Street, London WC1.

All members wishing to attend should confirm by emailing themeridiansociety@gmail.com
Light refreshments will be served.

Following the AGM, our affiliated society SACU (Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding) has arranged the following programme to which our members and any other interested party are welcome.

Time: 2 – 4.45 p.m
Venue: King’s College London, Main Campus, The Strand, London WC1.


Needham’s Journey to China in 1943

A talk by John Moffett on the famous sinologist and Cambridge don, whose years of research as Director of the Royal Society’s Sino-British Science Cooperation Office in Chongqing from 1942 to 1946 led to his launching the renowned and, as yet, incomplete series “Science & Civilisation in China”.

John is librarian at the Needham Research Institute in Cambridge and will focus on Needham’s journey to Dunhuang in 1943.

After a Tea Break there will be a Demonstration of paper-cutting. (Please bring your own scissors to participate.)


Frances Wood, the Curator of Chinese Collections at the British Library, on Joseph Needham and the Silk Road.

Wednesday 15 MAY 6.00 – 8.00pm

Strand Campus, King’s College London, London WC2R 2LS
The nearest tube station is Temple and the location can be found at

This is the second in a series of talks linked to the forthcoming tour:

The British Library collections include a mass of manuscripts from Dunhuang, and Frances has written various books on China including The Silk Road and The Diamond Sutra: the story of the World’s Earliest Printed Book (from the Dunhuang caves).
Frances is a SACU Vice President.

Frances will talk to us about Needham’s 1943 visit to the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas at Dunhuang, which took him and his party to one of the most significant sites of the Silk Road. Carved between the 3rd and 10th centuries out of a long cliff, near the point where the great Silk Roads diverge north and south around the Central Asian deserts, the caves were filled with Buddhist paintings and sculpture. Re-discovered in 1900, ‘visited’ by British, French, Japanese and Russian expeditions, in the 1930s and 1940s, Chinese artists and scholars were just beginning to study the ancient site. Joseph Needham’s trip to the edge of the Silk Road was memorable for the effect it had on him but the group he travelled with included a fascinating array of characters who were to have a dramatic effect on Sino-British relations, on the creation of SACU, on the development of painting in 20th century China and more.

Entrance is free for SACU and Meridian members and KCL students. Members of the public are also welcome to attend and we encourage you to join one of our organisations!

On this occasion we will be making a collection for the people of Lushan County where the recent Sichuan earthquake has caused such devastation.


SACU, in collaboration with The Meridian Society, has organised a tour to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Joseph Needham’s tour through China in 1943 from Chongqing to Dunhuang.

Joseph Needham was a renowned biochemist, historian and sinologist, who is probably best known for his outstanding encyclopaedic work, Science and Civilisation in China, published by Cambridge University Press from 1954 over several decades.


Born in 1900, Needham graduated in biochemistry from Cambridge University, and while doing research there, in 1937 he met some Chinese scientists who aroused his interest in China’s ancient technological and scientific past. Having embarked on private study of classical Chinese, he was sent by the Royal Society as Director of the Sino-British Science Cooperation Office to Chongqing from 1942 to 1946. During this period he made several journeys through China, visiting scientific and educational establishments and collecting historical material and books.

The longest trip, in 1943, ended in Dunhuang, famous for its early Buddhist sculptures and manuscripts in the many caves there.

Back in Cambridge in 1948, he resumed his fellowship at Gonville and Caius College, and embarked on his life-time research for the publication of Science and Civilisation in China, of which he wrote 15 volumes with his collaborators and other volumes followed his death in 1995. Meanwhile he became Master of the college, aged 76.

In 1965, with Derek Bryan, a British ex-diplomat in China, Needham founded SACU. He was close to China during all those years, and honoured by the Chinese government and academic institutions. He was also honoured in the UK, becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1946 and The British Academy in 1971 and was awarded the Order of Companions of Honour in 1992.

The series of talks relating to the SACU tour in the footsteps of Joseph Needham will cover various aspects of Needham’s work and interests. These have been organised in collaboration with The Meridian Society, and the tour itself will replace the annual Meridian tour this year, as we will be joining forces.

The PROGRAMME OF TALKS will run from March – October 2013, all based in LONDON, at the Strand Campus, King’s College London, London WC2R 2LS.

The nearest tube station is Temple and the location can be found at

We’re grateful to the Lau China Institute for enabling us to hold these talks in King’s College London. We have gathered a fascinating range of speakers and are grateful for their participation:

Wednesday 13 MARCH 6.00 – 8.00pm: Jenny Clegg [see below] on ‘Gung Ho’: the movement for Chinese Industrial Cooperatives and its international supporters

Wednesday 15 MAY 6.00 – 8.00pm: Frances Wood (British Library; SACU Vice President) on the people who accompanied Needham to Dunhuang

Saturday 6th JULY 2.00pm (Joint Annual Meeting with Meridian): John Moffett (Needham Research Institute Librarian) on Needham’s Diaries and his journey to Dunhuang

Wednesday 16 OCTOBER 6.00 – 8.00pm: Michael Sheringham on the role of water and water control (hydraulic engineering) which Michael discussed with Needham and used relevant material from his then manuscript for Science and Civilisation in China.

We will issue more details but meantime do put the dates in your diary! It is not necessary to register for the evening talks so please just turn up.

Entrance is free for SACU and Meridian members and KCL students

Members of the public are also welcome to attend and we encourage you to make a small donation or better yet, join one of our organisations.

Each talk will be fascinating whether or not you are intending to join the SACU Tour!


Wednesday 13 MARCH 6.00 – 8.00pm in Room KO.20: Jenny Clegg on ‘Gung Ho’: the movement for Chinese Industrial Cooperatives and its international supporters

Jenny Clegg will talk about how, on his first expedition in China in 1943, Needham was accompanied for part of the way by New Zealander, Rewi Alley. Alley had been instrumental in persuading the Nationalist Government to launch a movement of industrial cooperatives in 1938 – the Chinese Industrial Cooperatives (CIC), also known as Gung Ho (work together) –to support China’s anti-Japanese resistance. CIC and its international committee provided an important context for Needham’s wartime expeditions and he himself was a strong supporter of the organisation and the ‘Bailie’ schools with their ‘hand and brain’ teaching methods.

This talk will outline the work of CIC and consider its significance. It will also discuss the establishment of the Bailie school in Shandan by British volunteer, George Hogg, and then will finally look at Gung Ho’s revival in the late 1980s as well as at the recent development of cooperatives in China.

Jenny Clegg is a writer and former university lecturer in Asia Pacific Studies. She has researched and published work on ‘Gung Ho’ and on cooperatives in China over a number of years. She has been a lifelong member of SACU and is currently a vice-president.


The Lau China Institute conducts research and teaches academic courses on contemporary Chinese politics, governance, business, history and society, and has also built new links with Chinese organizations in business, government, education and the cultural and creative sectors. Through these activities, and as part of the College’s broader internationalisation strategy, the Institute aims to contribute to a growing interdisciplinary interest in China among both students and academics at King’s.

The Meridian Society and SACU are promoting this series of talks as part of their ongoing collaboration in furtherance of the shared objective to increase understanding about China amongst the peoples of the UK.

SACU is now receiving bookings for the Tour but it is not too late to come along – If you want more information, please contact Richard Poxton at richard.poxton@btinternet.com

1Hugo de Burgh: Through a Glass Darkly: China’s Media: developments and dilemmas

Professor Hugo de Burgh is the Director of the China Media Centre and Professor of Journalism at Westminster University. After graduating in Chinese Studies and gaining his PhD at SOAS, he taught Chinese history at Edinburgh University.

Hugo de Burgh founded the CMC at Westminster University, and he organises conferences and academic exchanges with students, journalists and acadmics on the media from China. In 2007, Hugo spent 3 months as Visiting Professor at Qinghua University, Beijing.

His publications include ‘China, Friend or Foe?’ and ‘China’s Environment and China’s Environmental Journalists’.

2Iain Robertson. Contemporary Chinese Art: its innovations and extravagances

Iain Roberston is a lecturer in arts policy and management at City University. He is a member of The National Art Collections Fund and Association Internationale des Critique d’Art. He is an adviser to the Asia Art Archive and responsible for information on Asian art developments in London. His recent publication is: A New Art from Emerging Markets and his next publication is Understanding International Art Markets.


3Nick Holdstock. The Tree That Bleeds: A Uighur town on the Edge.

Nick Holdstock lived and taught English in a small town, Yining, in Xinjiang Province in far west China during the early 2000s. He stayed there for three and a half years living amongst the local Uighur Moslem and Han Chinese, which he observed with a keen eye and through his camera lens. In July 2009, after his return to Britain, there were demonstrations and clashes between the Uighur and Han populations in the provincial capital of Urumqi, which were harshly suppressed by the authorities. Nick decided to investigate the background and details of these clashes, and went back to Xinjiang in March 2010 to collect information for his book, The Tree That Bleeds.


4Julia Lovell. Chinese writers and their impact in the world

Julia Lovell will join others literary experts in discussing the role of Chinese writers from the period of literary renaissance in China (c. 1915-1925), in comparison and connection with the English modernist writers, particularly of the Bloomsbury Group, including Virgina Woolf.

Julia Lovell graduated in Chinese studies from Cambridge University and has written, amongst other books, a Penguin translation of the short stories of the pioneer of the Chinese literary movement, Lu Xun (The Real Story of Ah-Q, and Other Tales of China). Julia is presently teaching at Birkbeck College, and her other books include: The Politics of Cultural Capital: China’s Quest for a Nobel Prize in Literature and The Great Wall: China Against the World 1000 BC-AD 2000. Her most recent publication is:The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China.