2015 Events

2015 Events

Jemimah Steinfeld in conversation with Peng Wenlan

Ms Steinfeld talks about her recent book “Little Emperors and Material Girls”

Co-hosted by Westminster University, Contemporary China Centre

London-born Jemimah Steinfeld has a degree in history from Bristol University and went on to study an MA in Chinese at SOAS. She has lived and worked in both Shanghai and Beijing where she has written on a wide range of topics, with gender and sexuality being a particular focus.

She currently works at Asia House running their literature festival and wider programme and is Contributing Editor (China) for Index on Censorship. Her book Little Emperors and Material Girls was published earlier this year by IB Tauris.

Note: Membership for the Meridian Society is an annual fee of £35 a year (£20 for concessions).

If you are interested in attending please email us at: themeridiansociety@gmail.com.

Date: Wednesday, 4th of November
Time: 6.30pm-8.00pm
Venue: LTS 2.05A, Westminster University, 4-12 Little Titchfield Street, London, W1W 7BY
Entry: Westminister staff and students and Members of TMS and SACU free; Non-members £5 donation

Betty Yao on John Thomson’s unique collection of photographs of Qing China – an illustrated talk

Our speaker, Betty Yao, has curated an exhibition of unique and extremely rare photographs of Qing Dynasty, China, taken by John Thomson. From 1868 to 1872 Scottish photographer John Thomson spent 5 years documenting the people and landscapes of China.

Photography had only been invented three decades before. Carrying heavy camera equipment, dangerous chemicals and a mobile dark room, Thomson travelled from Beijing and Tianjin to Fujian and Guangdong. This unique archive of photographs is a valuable record of China during the late Qing dynasty. Betty will recount how, thanks to sheer chance and serendipity, these images, almost thrown away, managed to survive 150 years and are now on a worldwide exhibition tour.

About Betty Yao MBE – Born in Hong Kong, Betty has lived and worked in the UK for over 30 years. She worked in publishing and television before joining Asia House as Programme Director. She accidentally stumbled upon the John Thomson glass negatives in London and offered to show them in China. This has led to a worldwide tour of 16 cities and the exhibition has now been seen by close to 900,000 visitors

Date: Wednesday, 24th of June
Time: 6.30pm-8.00pm
Venue: SOAS – Vernon Square Campus – Room V211
Entry: SOAS students and Members of TMS and SACU free; Non-members £5 donation


TMS AGM 2015

Please let us know if you intend to attend so we provide suitable refreshments.


Talk by Mark Kitto: That’s China

Joint meeting of the Meridian Society and SOAS Department of China and Inner Asia
Mark Kitto graduated in Chinese studies at SOAS. He was a captain in the British Army before his series of that’s listings magazines became the most successful English language publications in China. On the verge of signing a groundbreaking deal that would make him the first authorized foreign publisher in the People’s Republic of China, the Communist Party took over his business. Variously accused of being a spy, pornographer and terrorist, he retreated to a dilapidated, beautiful Chinese mountain village.

His efforts to gain a foothold, livelihood and respect on the mountaintop are recounted in his first book, ‘China Cuckoo, How I lost a fortune and found a life in China’. Mark returned to the UK in 2013. He lives with his wife and two children in North Norfolk and runs a very small publishing business. That’s China, the true story of Mark’s daring attempt to break open the China media sector, was finally published in November 2014.

For seven roller coaster years, Mark Kitto outwitted powerful competitors and jealous partners to build that’s magazine s, the most profitable and popular English language publishing business in China since 1949. That’s magazines helped to define the new zeitgeist for China in the post-WTO era. The Telegraph described Mark as a ‘mini media mogul’ and the New York Times called him ‘one of the best-known foreign entrepreneurs of his generation in China.’ But then the government came calling. To the Chinese Communist Party, media is state owned propaganda. No individuals, let alone foreigners, will ever have a stake in it. Confronted by powerful enemies without, and treachery within, Mark faced losing everything.

Mark’s story is now being told in full for the first time: the book was going to be published by an American publisher, but they dropped it at the last minute from concern about the impact on their commercial interests in China.

Date: Wednesday, 13th of May
Time: 6.30pm-8.00pm
Venue: SOAS – Vernon Square Campus – Room V111
Entry: SOAS students and Members of TMS and SACU free; Non-members £5 donation


Chinese New Year 2015!

We will be celebrating the Year of the Ram on 1st March with a sumptuous lunch at the Bamboo Flute at 12:30pm, followed by a film show – Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles by director Zhang Yimou – 3pm at BFI Southbank. The film will be preceded by a performance by the Yin Yang Collective of specially composed music played on Western and Chinese instruments.


Upon learning his estranged son (Kiichi Nakai) has cancer, a Japanese fisherman (Ken Takakura) travels to Tokyo to see him. Though his son rejects him, the fisherman decides to finish the dying man’s project: capturing a famous Chinese opera star’s performance on film. However, the singer cannot perform, for he is suffering from his own grief – separation from his illegitimate son. The fisherman decides to reunite the singer and the child and sets out on a long journey to find him.

While the choice of geographical territory is a major departure for Zhang, as with all his films, this story contains deep layers of human conflict and the cinematography does not fail to impress.


Talk by Sir Christopher Frayling: ‘Chinaphobia on Screen’ Wednesday, 14th January at 5:00pm

In this richly-illustrated talk, Christopher Frayling draws on his recently published book The Yellow Peril: Dr Fu Manchu and the Rise of Chinaphobia to explore problematic representations of Chinese people in British and American film. He discusses negative stereotyping influenced by misconceptions of the Chinese men who had settled in Limehouse in London’s East End and how these led to the creation of Sax Rohmer’s villain, compounding public fear of this little understood ethnic minority.

Sir Christopher Frayling is a cultural historian and acclaimed writer on film, particularly on director Sergio Leone and Spaghetti Westerns. He was Professor of Cultural History at the Royal College of Art and later became its rector, while also serving as Chairman of Arts Council England. In 2001, he was awarded a knighthood for services to Art and Design Education.

Venue: Room S-1.06, Strand, King’s College London (this room is in the first basement of the Strand Building).

Fee: Members of TMS, SACU and students of King’s College London free; Non-members £5 donation.

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


A Time Traveller’s Guide to China

A Time Traveller’s Guide to China Film Showing – Free to all who book through the Meridian Society

DEADLINE FOR BOOKING IS THE 31st OF JANUARY. Introduction by BFI Archive Curator Edward Anderson and Q&A with Edward Anderson and Peng Wenlan, Chair of the Meridian Society. With live piano accompaniment.


Take a trip as far back as the days of the late Qing dynasty in Imperial China with this programme of rarely-seen films from Western pioneers, missionaries and holidaymakers, plus travelogues and newsreels compiled before WWII. See bustling Shanghai in 1901, Imperial Beijing in 1910, and cruise Zheijang Province’s picturesque canals in 1925.

Venue: NFT1, BFI Southbank

Time: Monday the 9th of February, 14:00


Talk by Professor Harriet Evans – Neglect of a Neighbourhood: Towards an Oral History of ‘Old Beijing’ Wednesday, 11th February at 6:30pm

For our next talk we will be co-hosting a talk by Professor Harriet Evans with the Westminster University Contemporary China Centre.
Oral accounts of everyday life in Dashalanr, a popular neighbourhood now facing its last stages of demolition, just south of the capital’s Tian’anmen Square, reveal a social world that has been shaped by state policies of political classification, housing and employment, but has been resistant to complete appropriation by them.

Based on ethnographic and archival research, this presentation examines local residents’ accounts of long decades of hardship and neglect, and suggests ways in which their personal and singular experiences can be read as historical narrative.

Harriet Evans is Professor of Chinese Cultural Studies, and Director of the Contemporary China Centre, University of Westminster. Her research interests include gender, sexuality and women’s lives in modern and contemporary China, the transformation of urban life since the mid-twentieth century and visual culture of the Mao era. She is currently completing an oral history of Dashalanr, a poor neighbourhood in central Beijing, and leads the Leverhulme Trust funded ‘Conflicts in Cultural Value’ project, which investigates local, private heritage initiatives in southwestern China.

Harriet’s book publications include Women and Sexuality in China: Dominant Discourses of Female Sexuality and Gender since 1949 (Polity Press, 1997) and The Subject of Gender: Daughters and Mothers in Urban China (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008).

Venue: Westminster University: 309 Regent Street, room 451. This building is just north of Oxford Circus tube station.
You can view a map by clicking on this link.

Fee: Members of TMS, SACU and students of Westminster University free; Non-members £5 donation.

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