2014 Events

2014 Events

‘Ming: 50 Years That Changed China’ Exhibition and Talk at the British Museum Friday 31st of October

For our next event, we are arranging a group visit to the exhibition ‘Ming: 50 years that changed China’ in the British Museum, together with a talk by one of the curators, Professor Craig Clunas (Oxford University, author of Empire of Great Brightness Visual and Material Cultures of Ming China, 1368-1644, and co-author of Ming exhibition catalogue).

Professor Tansen Sen

Taken from the British Museum website:

This major exhibition explores a golden age in China’s history.

Between AD 1400 and 1450, China was a global superpower run by one family – the Ming dynasty – who established Beijing as the capital and built the Forbidden City. During this period, Ming China was thoroughly connected with the outside world. Chinese artists absorbed many fascinating influences, and created some of the most beautiful objects and paintings ever made.

The exhibition features a range of these spectacular objects – including exquisite porcelain, gold, jewellery, furniture, paintings, sculptures and textiles – from museums across China and the rest of the world. Many of them have only very recently been discovered and have never been seen outside China.

Time: 1:30pm for the talk, 2:50pm for the group visit to the Exhibition
Venue: British Museum
Fee: Meridian & SACU members: £15; non-members: £16.50
These ticket prices are based on a minimum group size of 10. In the event we have insufficient numbers, we will have to increase the price to £16.50. This difference will be collected on the day.

Please note: We need to have bookings and payments received by Saturday the 18th of October.

All members wishing to attend should confirm by emailing themeridiansociety@gmail.com

Note: Membership for the Meridian Society is an annual fee of £30 a year (£15 for concessions)

“May 30th Changes Everything” A Talk by Chris Corin: “How an event in Shanghai in 1925 challenged British policy makers and how the Shanghailanders (entrenched British settlers) complicated things.” Tuesday, 15th April

MayChangesEverythingChris Corin is a member of The Meridian Society. He taught History at Worthing College for many years. With Terry Fiehn he has written Russia under Tsarism and Communism 1881 – 1953 (2nd edition 2011) and a number of articles for History Review and New Perspective. He has a long standing interest in British Foreign Policy and after a visit to Shanghai became fascinated with the development of that great city.

On May 30th 1925 workers and students demonstrated on the Nanking Road the main shopping thoroughfare in the International Concession, in Shanghai. They were shouting slogans, “Take back the concessions” and “down with the imperialists” and they were told to disperse. 10 seconds later the Shanghai Municipal Police, commanded by a British officer, opened fire on an unarmed crowd. 13 were killed and more than 20 wounded. The event mobilised Chinese nationalism “as a nation responded to a policeman’s bullet”, and was a direct challenge to British policy makers.

Shanghai was the most significant single element of British interest in China and Britain sought to defend that interest but the Foreign Office was aware of the limits of British power. The Shanghailanders were not. The Shanghailanders, as they called themselves, were the small treaty port people, whose fortunes were inextricably tied up with the existence of the British concessions and extraterritorial privileges in China.


Even a Shanghailander himself called them, “the spoilt children of the Empire”. They were to complicate British policy making. Indeed “the ramifications of the imperialist mind” has been called, “the barbed wire thread which bound together the whole fabric of foreign imperialism in China and made it so unbearable to Chinese nationalism.”

This talk will look at 3 things:

  • The clash between nationalism and imperialism and the challenge this brought to British policy makers – China was one of the first places to witness the retreat from Empire.
  • The views, actions, hopes and fears of the Shanghailanders.
  • The implications for today of the intertwined and interconnected histories of Britain and China.

Time: 6:30pm
Venue: SOAS (School of Oriental & African Studies), Russell Square, Main Building G3. The nearest station is Russell Square. For directions, see here.
Fee: £5 donation requested from non-members, TMS members free.

All members wishing to attend should confirm by emailing themeridiansociety@gmail.com

Note: Membership for the Meridian Society is an annual fee of £30 a year (£15 for concessions)


“Caught in the Crossfire: The Chinese-Indian Community and the Deterioration of India-China Relations, 1947-1961” Talk by Professor Tansen Sen Monday 10th March

Professor Tansen SenOn the 10th of March we will be having a talk by Professor Tansen Sen of City University, New York: “Caught in the Crossfire: The Chinese-Indian Community and the Deterioration of India-China Relations, 1947-1961”.

This talk focuses on the ordeals of a Chinese resident in India named Chang Xiufeng, who, drawn by the cultural interactions initiated by the Rabindranath Tagore, went to Santiniketan in 1947 to study painting under the famous Indian artist Nandalal Bose. He later married a Calcutta-based Chinese woman and taught at the Zhonghua Chinese School in Kalimpong, near the India-China border. From almost the time he reached Santiniketan, Chang was suspected of being a Communist agent trying to propagate Marxist and Maoist ideas in India. In 1960, when political relations between India and China deteriorated, Chang was arrested for instigating and supporting anti-Indian activities in Kalimpong. He was imprisoned in Darjeeling until he was deported in May 1961.

The examination of Chang Xiufeng’s life in India reveals the complex relationship between India and China during the post-colonial period, when nationalism, territorial claims and regional geopolitics became important factors in bilateral relations. It demonstrates key shifts in mutual perceptions and trust between the two countries during the 1950s, a decade that has been usually hailed as a period of cordial brotherhood. All this also indicates the significant impact geopolitics had on the Chinese diasporic community that had started forming in India since the late eighteenth century.

Professor Tansen SenTansen Sen received his MA from Peking University and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He headed the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre in Singapore and serves on the Governing Board of the Nalanda University, India. He is the author of Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600-1400 and co-author (with Victor H. Mair) of Traditional China in Asian and World History. He edited Buddhism Across Asia: Networks of Material, Cultural and Intellectual Exchange and co-edited with Wang Bangwei India and China: Interactions through Buddhism and Diplomacy. Current book projects include one on cross-cultural trade in Asia during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and another on India, China, and the World: Networks of Exchange and Interactions. Tansen is Associate Professor of Asian History at Baruch College, City University of New York.
Professor Tansen Sen


Chinese New Year Celebration! Sunday 16th February

Full Circle Film(2012, 105 mins) In Mandarin with English subtitles

We will be going to a restaurant for lunch, then heading to BFI Southbank to watch the Chinese film ‘Full Circle’ (Fei Yue Lao Ren Yuan). This film is an optimistic, life-affirming and redemptive road movie with mischief and plot twists, after a stark opening of conflict and despair. A retired widower is forced into an old people’s home where his friend, a fellow resident and provocateur, hatches a secret plan to ‘escape’. This moving and often hilarious film contrasts the values of old and new China, and provides a humanist poean to friendship and community.

As spaces are limited, please e-mail us to let us know that you plan on attending. The cut-off point for this is the end of January. Priority will be given to current Meridian Society members.

Date: Sunday, 16th of February
Location: BFI Southbank


Maoism: A Global History – A Talk by Julia Lovell Wednesday 22nd of January


Lovell will be discussing the international travels of Maoist ideas and culture between the late 1960s and mid-1970s. During these years, thousands of European and American intellectuals revolted against the capitalist West, its Cold War witch-hunt against communism and crusade in Vietnam, and became admirers of Maoist China: journalists, students, scientists, and celebrated intellectuals and cultural figures such as the philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, and the director Jean-Luc Godard. In the late sixties, Winchester College’s The Wyekamist featured Maoist editorials; the Chinese embassy was so deluged by demand for Little Red Books from pupils at one London prep-school that it was forced to write them a letter – read out in assembly by the headmaster – asking that no more copies be requested. Smart New York shoppers (including – rumour had it – Brigitte Bardot and Sammy Davis Jr.) snapped up Mao suits at $130 a throw. Black Panthers walked the streets of New York dressed as Chinese peasants, and announced that they wanted to be “black like Mao”. In India, students and peasants joined forces to wreak Cultural Revolution-style destruction on west Bengal, declaring that “China’s Chairman is Our Chairman, China’s Path is Our Path.” Julia Lovell will trace how Maoism became a global phenomenon: how Mao’s theories of continuous revolution and People’s War spread through Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas, winning converts from both the developing world and Western radicals.

Dr. Julia LovellDr. 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.