Below is our selection from our Asian Books Survey 2012 for art, history, reference and fiction categories for East Asia, South Asia and the Himalayas, Islamic World, and Southeast Asia.


A History of Song Dynasty Ceramics
by Stuart Powell
Matador, ISBN 978-1780880532, £16.99

This book explores the range of ceramics produced in China and in its conquered territories from the middle of the 10th to the latter parts of the 13th centuries. It looks primarily at the pottery and porcelain dating from the Song dynasty, but also refers to the ceramics that originated in the territories held by the Liao and Jin dynastic rulers. It considers the range of pottery and porcelain produced by Song dynasty potters from that made in the provinces for the non-aristocratic to the finest of the tribute wares made for the Imperial palaces. Setting out to improve understanding of the work of the potters and the ceramic pieces that they produced, it also explores the context within which the potting, decorating and firing was done and within which the resulting products were appreciated, traded and used. It examines how the ceramics of the Song period were the outcome of much complexity: the technologies of the times, the raw materials available, the traditions of skilled work in the kiln complexes, the socialisation of the workforce that made them amenable to organisation for mass production, the burgeoning economic climate and the development of a distinctively Song sense of aesthetic taste in which harmony between form and function was achieved by understatement and refinement.

Unearthed: Recent Archaeological Discoveries from Northern China
by Annette Juliano and An Jiayao. Yale University Press,
ISBN 978-0300179675, £45

In 1908, the American adventurer Robert Sterling Clark organised a scientific expedition to northern China to create a detailed geographical survey, photograph the region and its people, and collect samples of the flora and fauna. Inspired by this important early record of the region, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute has organized a major exhibition of Chinese archaeological treasures from the Shanxi, Shaanxi, Ningxia, and Gansu provinces. Ranging from gilt bronze plaques with fabulous animal imagery produced by early nomadic cultures, to tomb guardians charged with protecting the deceased, to luxury goods reflecting the lucrative Silk Road trade, to objects designed for religious or ritual purposes, many of these artefacts have never before been exhibited outside China and are helping to redefine our understanding of ancient Chinese cultures. Unearthed showcases over 85 recently excavated objects from museums and archaeological institutes in cities along Clark’s original route. Detailed texts discuss tradition and innovation in Chinese art; China’s interactions with the outside world through trade and invasion; artistic techniques and styles; and cultural traditions. The acquisition of the artefacts is contextualized within the major developments in Chinese archaeology over the past hundred years, with particular attention to the intense periods after 1950 and its status today.

A Dealer’s Hand: The Chinese Art World Through the Eyes of Giuseppe Eskenazi
by Hajni Elias and Giuseppe Eskenazi
Scala, ISBN: 978 1 85759 801 8, £60

This autobiography by Giuseppe Eskenazi, the pre-eminent expert and dealer in Chinese art, is an informative look at his gallery’s dealings with the international art market over the past 50 years. It gives an overview of the market for Chinese art in the West and the part played in it by scholars, dealers, auction houses, museums and collectors.  Sharing this space, forming a pictorial history, are the hundreds of  fascinating, and utterly dazzling, objects that have passed through the London gallery’s doors. The book is divided into five decades, marking the 50 plus years the gallery has been in existence. Contains a chronology of Chinese period/dynasties and an index. It is an absorbing and informative read – a must for anyone interested in the Chinese or Asian art market.

A Dance with the Dragon: The Vanished World of Peking’s Foreign Colony

by Julia Boyd. IB Tauris, ISBN 978-1780760520, £18.99

With its wild, dissolute, extravagant group of fossil hunters and philosophers, diplomats, dropouts, writers and explorers, missionaries, artists and refugees, Peking s foreign community in the early 20th century was as exotic as the city itself. Always a magnet for larger than life individuals, Peking attracted characters as diverse as Reginald Johnston (tutor to the last emperor), Bertrand Russell, Pierre Loti, Rabrindranath Tagore, Sven Hedin, Peter Fleming, Wallis Simpson and Cecil Lewis. The last great capital to remain untouched by the modern world, Peking both entranced and horrified its foreign residents – the majority of whom lived cocooned inside the legation quarter, their own walled enclave, living an extraordinary high-octane party lifestyle, suffused with martinis, jazz piano and cigarettes, at the height of the Jazz Age. Ignoring the poverty outside their gates, they danced, played and squabbled among themselves, oblivious to the great political events unfolding around them and the storm clouds looming on the horizon that were to shape modern China. Others, more sensitive to Peking’s cultural riches, discovered their paradise too late when it already stood on the brink of destruction. Although few in number, Peking’s expatriates were uniquely placed to chart the political upheavals – from Boxer Rebellion in 1900 to the Communist victory of 1949 that shaped modern China. Through extensive use of unpublished diaries and letters, Julia Boyd reveals the foreigner’s perceptions and reactions – their take on everyday life and the unforgettable events that occurred around them.

Tombstone: The Untold Story of Mao’s Great Famine
by Yang Jisheng, translator Guo Jian

Allen Lane, ISBN 978-1846145186, £30

‘I call this book Tombstone. It is a tombstone for my foster father who died of hunger in 1959, for the 36 million Chinese who also died of hunger, for the system that caused their death, and perhaps for myself for writing this book.’ The most powerful and important Chinese work of recent years, Yang Jisheng’s Tombstone is a passionate, moving and angry account of one of the 20th century’s most nightmarish events: the killing of an estimated 36 million Chinese in 1958-1961 by starvation or physical abuse. More people died in Mao’s Great Famine than in the entire First World War and yet their story remains substantially untold. Now, at last, they can be heard.

Chinese Antiquities: An Introduction to the Art Market
by Audrey Wang. Lund Humphries,
ISBN 978-1848220652, £30

This book provides an essential guide to the growing market for Chinese antiquities, encompassing all sectors of the market, from Classical Chinese paintings and calligraphy to ceramics, jade, bronze and ritual sculpture. The different Western and Chinese perceptions of Chinese art are examined in detail throughout the book to provide an understanding of how the market for Chinese antiquities has developed over the last century. An historical analysis of the issues surrounding the infamous Yuanmingyuan incident of 1860, in which foreign troops plundered cartloads of Imperial Chinese treasures and shipped them to Europe, sets the scene for the current trend in China for patriotic art investments and the repatriation of national treasures. The rise of the Chinese auction houses, and the growing prominence of Chinese art as one of the top commodities in the international art market, are also examined, bringing into question whether this recent phenomenon is merely a short-lived trend or a long-term fixture of the 21st century art market. Aimed at current and aspiring collectors, investors and galleries interested in Chinese antiquities, the book sets out to demystify the process of buying and selling in the Asian context, highlighting Asia-specific issues that market-players might encounter and making this category of art more accessible to newcomers to the market.

Midnight in Peking: The Murder That Haunted the Last Days of Old China

by Paul French. Viking,
ISBN 978-0670921072, £12.99

On a frozen morning in January 1937, in the dying days of colonial Peking, a body was found under the haunted watchtower. It was Pamela Werner, the teenage daughter of the city’s former British consul ETC Werner. Her heart had been removed. A horrified world followed the hunt for Pamela’s killer, with a Chinese-British detective team pursuing suspects including a blood-soaked rickshaw puller, the Triads, and a lascivious grammar school headmaster. But the case was soon forgotten amid the carnage of the Japanese invasion… by all but ETC Werner. With a network of private investigators and informers, he followed the trail deep into Peking’s notorious Badlands and back to the gilded hotels of the colonial Quarter. Some 75 years later, deep in the Scotland Yard archives, British historian Paul French accidentally came across the lost case file prepared by ETC Werner. Unveiling an undercover sex cult, heroin addicts and disappearing brothels, the truth behind the crime can now be told – and is more disturbing than anyone could imagine.

Audra Ang – To the People, Food is Heaven: Stories of Food and Life in a Changing China

Lyons Press,
ISBN 978-0762773923, £15.59

Audra Ang was a Beijing-based correspondent for The Associated Press from 2002 through 2009. In between meals of  ‘saliva chicken’  and ‘fragrant and spicy potato shreds’, she covered disasters, disease and dissent while chronicling the breakneck social and economic changes that were convulsing China. Her assignments led her to sleep in a rat-infested hotel room, climb earthquake rubble seven stories high, interview monks in the shadows of Tibetan monasteries and scour chicken farms during outbreaks of bird flu.
Ang also reported from other parts of the region, including North Korea, Mongolia, and Afghanistan.

Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War

by Stephen R Platt. Atlantic Books,
ISBN 978-0857897664, £25.

In the early 1850s, during the waning years of the Qing dynasty, word spread of a major revolution brewing in the provinces. The leader of the this movement, who called themselves the Taiping, was Hong Xiuquan, a failed civil servant who claimed to be the son of God and the brother of Jesus Christ. As the revolt grew and battles raged across the empire, all signs pointed to a Taiping victory and to the inauguration of a modern, industrialised and pro-Western China. Soon, however, Britain and the United States threw their support behind the Qing, soon quashing the Taiping and rendering ineffective the years of bloodshed the revolution had endured. In the book, Stephen Platt recounts the events of the rebellion and its suppression in spellbinding detail. It is an essential and enthralling history of the rise and fall of a movement that, a century and a half ago, might have launched China into the modern world.

The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China
by David J Silbey. Hill & Wang,
ISBN 978-0809094776, £16.80

The year is 1900, and Western empires – both old and new – are locked in regional entanglements across the globe. The British are losing a bitter war against the Boers while the German Kaiser is busy building a vast new navy. The United States is struggling to put down an insurgency in the South Pacific while the upstart imperialist Japan begins to make clear to neighbouring Russia its territorial ambition. In China, a perennial pawn in the Great Game, a mysterious group of superstitious peasants is launching attacks on the Western powers they fear are corrupting their country. These ordinary Chinese – called Boxers by the West because of their martial arts showmanship – rise up, seemingly out of nowhere. Foreshadowing the insurgencies of the more recent past, they lack a centralised leadership and instead tap into latent nationalism and deep economic frustration to build their army. Their battle cry: ‘Support the Qing, exterminate the foreigners’.

Many scholars brush off the Boxers as an ill-conceived and easily defeated revolt, but the military historian David J. Silbey shows just how close they came to beating back the combined might of all the imperial powers. Drawing on the diaries and letters of allied soldiers and diplomats, Silbey paints a vivid portrait of the short-lived war. Even though their cause ended just as quickly as it began, the bravery and patriotism of the Boxers would inspire Chinese nationalists – including a young Mao Zedong – for decades to come.

Restless Empire:China and the World Since 1750

by Odd Arne Westad

Bodley Head, ISBN 978-1847921970, £25

Tracing China’s course from the 18th-century Qing dynasty to today’s People’s Republic, Restless Empire shows how the country’s worldview has evolved. It explains how Chinese attitudes have been determined by both receptiveness and resistance to outside influence and presents the preoccupations that have set its foreign-relations agenda.

Within two decades China is likely to depose the United States as the world’s largest economy. By then the country expects to have eradicated poverty among its population of more than one and a half billion, and established itself as the world’s technological powerhouse. Meanwhile, some – especially its neighbours – are afraid that China will strengthen its military might in order to bend others
to its will.

A new form of Chinese nationalism is rising. Many Chinese are angry about perceived past injustices and fear a loss of identity to commercial forces and foreign influences. So, will China’s attraction to world society dwindle, or will China continue to engage? Will it attempt to recreate a Sino-centric international order in Eastern Asia, or pursue a more harmonious diplomatic route? And can it overcome its lack of democracy and transparency, or are these characteristics hard-wired into the Chinese system? Whatever the case, we ignore China’s international history at our peril.
Original Intentions:Essays on Production, Reproduction, and Interpretation in the Arts of China
edited by Nicholas Pearce and
Jason Steuber

University Press of Florida,
ISBN 978-0813039725, US$60

Questions of authenticity often dominate the decision to acquire a new work – it is a particularly thorny subject in relation to Chinese works of art. Believing that everything has a precedent, Chinese artists were never bashful about reproducing art, typically seeing less of a difference than Westerners between the original and reproductions. The essays in the book explore the highly controversial questions of faking, copying, and replicating Chinese paintings, bronzes, ceramics, works on paper, architecture, and sculpture. Offering a broad range of perspectives on conservation, technical analysis, social history, and collecting the contributors to the book explore the question of authenticity in the arts of China. The primary emphasis is on three-dimensional works, a relatively unexplored area in both Chinese and Western languages. Essays feature both theoretical and object-based research in a broad chronological framework, addressing a wide range of issues in both Chinese and Western contexts.

The Search for Immortality: Tomb Treasures of Han China
by James C.S. Lin. Yale University,
ISBN 978-0300184341, £45

During the last two centuries BC, the Western Han dynasty of China forged the first stable empire covering all of China and presided over a golden age that shaped much of subsequent Chinese art and culture. From family values to the structure of the civil service, Han thinking and philosophy continue to pervade Chinese society up to the present day, indeed, the majority of Chinese people consider themselves ‘Han Chinese’. In their search for immortality, the Han imperial family left an artistic legacy of spectacular beauty and power. The finest of these treasures to have survived – including exquisite jades, silver and goldwork, bronzes and ceramics – have been found in the tombs of the Han imperial family and of a rival ‘emperor’ of Nanyue and are brought together for the first time in a landmark exhibition at The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. The accompanying catalogue, written by an international team of leading scholars in the field, presents a ground-breaking account and is illustrated by nearly 500 photographs, many of them specially commissioned.

5,000 Years of Chinese Jade: Featuring Selections from the National Museum of History, Taiwan, and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

by John Johnston, Lai-Pik Chan and
Shwu Shin Lin. San Antonio Museum of Art, ISBN 978-0615471808, £12.99

5,000 Years of Chinese Jade is a concise visual survey of art-historically important jade spanning the Neolithic period to the 19th century, offering a stunning visual journey through themes and time periods important in the history of jade in China. The book is arranged chronologically in five main periods: Neolithic, Shang to Zhou dynasty, Han to Song dynasty, Yuan and Ming dynasties, and the Qing dynasty. Primary subjects and themes include ritual objects, weapons, scholars’ objects, adornments and jewellery, and vessels, providing an important new resource for the study of Chinese jade. John Johnston is Coates-Cowden-Brown Curator of Asian Art at the San Antonio Museum of Art. Lai-Pik Chan is a research fellow at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.  Shwu Shin Lin is the author of Jade: Chi’ng Dynasty Treasures.

The Death of Mao: The Tangshan Earthquake and the Birth of the New China
by James Palmer. Faber and Faber,
ISBN 978-0571243990, £18.99

In the summer of 1976, Mao lay dying, and China was struck by a great natural disaster. The earthquake that struck Tangshan, a shoddily built mining city, was one of the worst in recorded history, killing half a million people. But the Chinese Communist rulers in Beijing were distracted, paralysed by in-fighting over who would take control after Mao finally died. Would Mao’s fanatical wife and her collaborators, the Gang of Four, be allowed to continue the Cultural Revolution, which had shut China off from the world and reduced it to poverty and chaos? Or would Deng Xiaoping and his reformist friends be able to take control and open China up to the market, and end the near permanent state of civil war? Palmer recreates the tensions of that fateful summer, when the fate of China and the world were in the balance – as injured and starving people crawled among the ruins of a stricken city.

Masterworks of Chinese Art: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
by Colin Mackenzie

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art,
ISBN 978-0615488820, £16.99

Including masterpieces from every period of Chinese art, the Chinese collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is celebrated as one of the finest outside Asia. This catalogue presents a selection of works ranging in date from the second millennium BC to the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). The selection is representative of the central traditions of Chinese art – ancient jade carving and ritual bronzes, ceramics, Buddhist sculpture, scroll painting, lacquer and textiles – and includes world-famous works such as A Solitary Temple in Clearing Mountains attributed to Li Cheng (circa 919-967) and the 12th-century Guanyin of the Southern Seas. Each work is accompanied by a short essay exploring its significance and aesthetic qualities, and an introductory essay provides an overview of Chinese art, focusing particularly on collecting and aesthetic taste. This book can be enjoyed not only as a stunning visual record of these masterworks but also as an informative introduction to Chinese art. Colin Mackenzie is senior curator of Chinese art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City.

Xu Beihong: Pioneer of Modern Chinese Painting
by Fangfang Xu. Denver Art Museum, ISBN 978-0914738848, £34

Xu Beihong: Pioneer of Modern Chinese Painting accompanies the first comprehensive exhibition of artwork by Xu Beihong shown outside Asia. It highlights a selection of 61 Chinese ink paintings, oil paintings, drawings, and pastels from the Xu Beihong Memorial Museum in Beijing. Xu Beihong (1895-1953) was among the first Chinese artists to study Western-style painting in Europe, and he is often called the ‘Father of Modern Chinese Painting’. His images, particularly of horses, are familiar throughout China, as are his monumental history paintings Tian Heng and His Five Hundred Warriors and The Foolish Man Who Removed the Mountains. Photographs of Xu Beihong illustrate his life as an artist, educator, and family man. Ronald Y. Otsuka is Dr. Joseph de Heer Curator of Asian Art, Denver Art Museum. Fangfang Xu is former director of the Music Department, Renmin University of China. Other contributors include Xu Qingping, Chen Hao, Kevin McLoughlin, and Xu Ji.

Cai Guo-Qiang: Ladder to the Sky
by Jeffrey Deitch
Prestel, ISBN 978-3791352428, £40

Produced in close collaboration with the artist, this volume documents new projects commissioned for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, alongside Cai Guo-Qiang’s own survey of his artistic journey and the personal cosmology that informs his work. It features a rich sampling of Cai’s wonderfully diverse oeuvre, including explosion events, gunpowder drawings, and installations. Informative essays and a conversation with the artist explore Cai’s influences, from traditional Chinese scrolls and his father’s miniature paintings to Asian philosophy and memories of his grandmother. Including never-before-published new works and unprecedented contributions by the artist himself, this book promises to be an important reference on Cai’s art for years to come.

What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism and the Modern Chinese Consumer
by Tom Doctoroff
Palgrave MacMillan,
ISBN 978-0230340305, £18.99

China is a critical player in the global marketplace, but there is still widespread confusion about what really makes the country tick, even the Chinese have difficulty explaining their own ‘Chineseness’ to outsiders. The chief executive of the advertising agency JWT in Shanghai tries to answer the critical  question asked by anyone wishing to sell into one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies. In the process, he demolishes some myths – China, he argues, is ‘rediscovering values that have always set it apart’.

The End of the Chinese Dream: Why Chinese People Fear the Future
by Gerard Lemos. Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0300169249, £20

Glossy television images of happy, industrious, and increasingly prosperous workers show a bright view of life in 21st-century China. But behind the officially approved story is a different reality, Gerard Lemos reveals in this extensively researched book. Lemos conducted hundreds of interviews with Chinese men and women in non-Westernised areas distant from such cities as Beijing and Shanghai. He reports that the lives his subjects describe belie the myth of a harmonious, cohesive Chinese society. Much as the government promotes such a positive image, everyday people in China are beleaguered by immense social and community problems as well as personal, family, and financial anxieties. Lemos investigates a China beyond the tourist trail. He offers a revealing account of the thoughts and feelings of Chinese people regarding all facets of their lives, from education to health care, unemployment to old age, politics to wealth. Taken together, the stories of these men and women bring to light a broken society, one whose people are frustrated, angry, sad, and often fearful about the circumstances of their lives. The author considers the implications of these findings and analyses how China’s community and social problems threaten the ambitious nation’s hopes for a cohesive future.

The China Wave: Rise of a Civilizational State

by Weiwei Zhang, World Century, ISBN 978-1938134012, £18

The rise of China can be considered the biggest story of our time and some of the best-known story-tellers of our time come from the West. This has led to a huge global paradox where these story-tellers have often failed to understand this developiing story. This is why the world needs good Chinese story-tellers to provide the Chinese perspective on the rise
of China.
Zhang Weiwei is a professor of international relations at Fudan University and a senior research fellow at the Chunqiu Institute, China. He is concurrently a senior fellow at the Centre for Asian Studies, Geneva, and a visiting professor at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations. He has written extensively in English and Chinese on China’s economic and political reform, China’s development model and comparative politics. He worked as a senior English interpreter for Deng Xiaoping and other Chinese leaders in the mid-1980s.

Tiger Head, Snakes Tails: China Today, How it Got There and Where it is Heading

by Jonathan Fenby.

Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1847373939, £20

There have been a plethora of books on China in recent years. Authors have forecast the coming collapse of the People’s Republic or looked to the day when it will rule the world. This book stands out as it pulls together the whole of the China story linking its very disparate elements to present a coherent portrait that explains to the general reader what China is and why it matters so much. With its expanding economy, its population of more than 1.3 billion, its place at the core of the G20, its US$2.4 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, its trade surplus, its nuclear weapons and modernising military forces, its permanent seat on the UN Security Council and its ability to dispense cash without conditions to poor countries in return for the raw materials it gobbles up, China will become steadily more important in the world. It will not collapse. But neither will it rule the world, according to Fenby, for reasons that lie in its inner complexity, and complexes. By seeing China as a whole and joining the dots Jonathan Fenby arrives at his personal picture of its nature and depict its future, both internally and in its impact on the rest of the world.

Tianjin Museum

by Bai Wenyuan
Scala, ISBN 978 1 85759 792 9, £4.50

Tianjin, literally ‘The Ford of Heaven’, has been a city of huge commercial importance since the 7th century when it was connected to the Grand Canal. It is one of the six national cities of China. The Tianjin Museum originated in 1918. It combines a comprehensive collection of historical Chinese artefacts and artworks, together with modern historical documents, photographs and regional historical materials reflecting the social development and evolution of the Tianjin region since the late Qing dynasty. Forming 10 categories: calligraphy, paintings, ceramics, jade ware, bronze ware, oracle bones, Dunhuang texts, gilded bronze Buddhist sculpture, tools of the literati, seals, craft ware and regional popular arts. Some 280 ancient artworks have been selected primarily on the basis of artistic merit.

Japan and Korea

Designing Nature: The Rinpa Aesthetic in Japanese Art
by John T Carpenter

Metropolitan Museum of Art,
ISBN 978-0-300-18499-0, £22

The distinctive style of Japanese art known as Rinpa embraces bold, graphic renderings of natural motifs and formalized depictions of fictional characters, poets, and sages. An aesthetic that arose in Japan in the 16th century and flourished until modern times, the Rinpa school is celebrated for its use of lavish pigments and its references to traditional court literature and poetry. Central to the Rinpa aesthetic is the evocation of the natural world – especially animals and plants with literary connotations – as well as eye-catching compositions that cleverly integrate calligraphy and image. Featuring colour reproductions of over 90 works, including painting, calligraphy, printed books, textiles, lacquerware, ceramics, and cloisonné – from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other notable public and private collections, this exhibition catalogue traces the development of Rinpa, highlighting the school’s most prominent proponents and, for the first time, the influence of this quintessential Japanese style on modern design aesthetics in both the East and the West.

Silver Wind 1761-1828: The Arts of Sakai Hoitsu
by Matthew P. Mckelway, Tadashi Kobayashi and Toshinobu Yasumura

Yale University Press,
ISBN 978-0300183139, £28

Sakai Hoitsu was one of the most prominent painters of late 18th- and early 19th-century Japan, known for technical bravura, arresting compositions, and striking use of colour. After becoming a Buddhist monk, Hoitsu was able to dedicate himself to painting, establishing a studio, and studying the work of Ogata Korin (1658-1716). Hoitsu successfully revived the earlier artist’s style, which later came to be known as Rimpa, ‘the school of Korin’. The first book in English to focus exclusively on the work of this important artist, Silver Wind, the catalogue accompanied the exhibition, examines 58 of Hoitsu’s works and those of his predecessors and artistic heirs, ranging from scrolls and screens to fans, lacquer, and woodblock-printed books. Accompanying essays explore Hoitsu’s discovery and reinterpretation of Korin’s artistic legacy; the aesthetics of the Rimpa style; and the career of Suzuki Kiitsu, his leading student.

The Concept of Danzo: Sandalwood Images’ in Japanese Buddhist Sculpture of the 8th to 14th Centuries
by Christian Boehm. Saffron Books,
ISBN 9781872843186, £45

This volume is the first study in a Western language to examine Buddhist sculptures known as danzo (sandalwood images) and dangan (portable sandalwood shrines) in Japan from the 8th to 14th centuries, including Chinese examples from the 6th to 13th centuries, which were imported into Japan and played a major role in the establishment of an indigenous danzo tradition. The author defines danzo as religious icons in terms of their material, form (iconography and style) and religious functions. This includes a careful examination of major issues in the study of danzo such as the transmission of danzo from India via China to Japan, the choice of substitute materials for sandalwood, carving technique, and danjiki (colour of sandalwood). Most importantly, this study proposes a new definition of the form of danzo based on the distinction between the type-style and period-style. Furthermore, it demonstrates how the aesthetic-religious concept of shogon (sublime adornment), which is important to Buddhist art in general, is expressed in danzo, making them into objects of shogon par excellence. A wealth of textual evidence is presented to suggest that the two most common religious functions of danzo were as icons in ceremonies and for personal devotion for high-ranking monks, aristocrats, and members of the imperial family, which reflects the special sanctity and efficacy ascribed to these images. This book aims at a more inclusive understanding of danzo as religious icons with distinctive material, formal and functional characteristics that define them as a unique group of sacred images within Japanese Buddhist sculpture.

The Artist’s Touch, The Craftsman’s Hand: Three Centuries of Japanese Prints from the Portland Art Museum
edited by Maribeth Graybill. Portland Art Museum,
ISBN 978-1883124328, £29.99

The Artist’s Touch, the Craftsman’s Hand presents a selection of the most historically important and visually compelling Japanese prints from a collection of more than 2,500 works spanning the late 17th century to the present day.  Many are extremely rare and almost all appear here in an English-language publication for the first time. Noteworthy areas of interest include early actor prints, dating back to the first decade of the 18th century; works by Suzuki Harunobu, the master associated with the origins of full-colour printing in 1765; the deluxe, privately printed surimono of the early 19th century; painterly landscapes of the early 20th century, including a series that documents the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923; and contemporary prints, ranging from Op Art and Abstract Expressionism to lyrical evocations of an imagined past. Essays include an overview of the illustrated works and articles on Harunobu, prints of kabuki actors and their fans, and the cultural meanings in still-life surimono. Maribeth Graybill is the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Asian Art at the Portland Art Museum, Oregon. Other contributors are John T. Carpenter, Donald Jenkins, Lynn Katsumoto, and Laurence R. Kominz.

Vessels of Influence

by Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere

Bristol Classical Press,
ISBN 978-0715634639, £12.99

While examining in depth the role of Chinese ceramics in Japan, this book also delves into the meaning, motivation for, and rapid development of Japanese porcelain from many angles, including archaeology, heirloom and documentary evidence.  The political and fiscal advantage that one lord found for his domain in creating its own local ‘china’ is placed in the context of the domestic and international market economy.

Through an examination of the role of Chinese products and that of a domesticated ceramics in Japan, a fuller picture of Japan’s rich material culture emerges, revealing complex interactions between government, taste-makers, traders, merchants, consumers, imports and new technology.  Vessels of Influence also discusses how these interactions have been viewed by historians, and the often heated debates that have occurred as a result.
Professor Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere is Professor of Japanese Art and Culture at the University of East Anglia and Research Director at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures.

Elegant Perfection: Masterpieces of Courtly and Religious Art from the Tokyo National Museum
by Tokyo National Museum Staff with contributions by Melissa Mccormick

Yale University Press,
ISBN 978-0300175936, £35

As the oldest and largest museum in Japan, the Tokyo National Museum houses a vast collection of culturally important artworks. Elegant Perfection highlights 26 masterpieces from this esteemed collection, and together these objects tell the story of the country’s artistic development from the prehistoric Jomon era through the 19th century. Essays by experts at the Tokyo National Museum offer insights into how Buddhist art evolved in Japan, and how the aesthetics valued by Japanese courtly society, initially influenced by Chinese Tang culture, gradually became more distinctly Japanese. Harvard scholar Melissa McCormick contributes an essay that demonstrates the connections between the realms of courtly and religious art in Japan. The featured works include exquisite examples of painting, sculpture, calligraphy, metalwork, ceramics and lacquerware. Among them are an 11th-century inscribed poetry compilation, deemed a National Treasure by the Japanese government, lacquered musical instruments, Edo-period ceramics produced for tea ceremonies, and Buddhist sculpture, painting, and ritual objects. This publication offers a rare opportunity to discover the history and significance of these treasured works of art.

Japanese Netsuke
by Julia Hutt and Edmund de Waal

V&A Publications,
ISBN 978-1851777020, £30

The Japanese netsuke is a thing of wonder: a utilitarian accessory to traditional Japanese dress that has become an art form in itself, prized by collectors from East to West. The V&A’s collection of netsuke is world-famous, and this stunning book draws on its many highlights to explore the origins of netsuke and to trace the sources of their designs in prints, paintings and woodblock-printed books. It records the evolution of materials and techniques and the patterns of craftsmanship, in a text that is both accessible and comprehensive, and is illustrated with some of the very finest examples of netsuke.

Dyeing Elegance: Asian Modernism and the Art of Kuboku and Hisako Takaku
by Sonya Rhie Quintanilla, Masato Nakano and Hisako Takaku

Textile artist Takaku Kuboku (1908-1993) is a paragon among modern artists of Japan, fusing rural and urban, traditional and innovative, and Asian and European influences in his life and work. This volume introduces his aesthetic ideas and artistic practice to an English-speaking audience for the first time. In a milieu where artists championed indigenous craft techniques as a vital component of authentic Asian artistic achievement, he specialised in wax-resist textile dyeing, or roketsuzome. His works on silk were among the most highly sought-after by the elite classes of Japanese society. With his daughter Hisako (b. 1944) he produced obi and kimono that combine the Japanese aesthetic of spontaneous inkbrush painting with modern Cubist and abstract designs, while maintaining ties with traditional Japanese painting. The subjects are predominantly drawn from nature, with a spiritual undertone indicating an awareness of and sensitivity to the idea of a life force that courses through and unifies all living things.

Art of Armor: Samurai Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection

Yale University Press,

ISBN978-0300176360, £45

This publication presents, for the first time, the samurai armour collection of the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum in Dallas, Texas. The Barbier-Mueller has selectively amassed these pieces of armour over the past 25 years, ultimately forming one of the largest and most important collections of its kind in the world. It is comprised of nearly 300 objects, several of which are considered masterpieces, including suits of armour, helmets, masks, horse armour, and weaponry. The objects date from the 12th to the 19th century, with a particularly strong focus on Edo-period armour. Offering an exciting look into the world of the samurai warrior, this book begins with an introduction by Morihiro Ogawa. Essays by prominent scholars in the field highlight topics such as the phenomenon of the warrior in Japan, the development of the samurai helmet, castle architecture, women in samurai culture, and Japanese horse armour. The book’s final section consists of an extensive catalogue of objects, concentrating on 120 significant works in the collection. Each object is accompanied by an entry written by a scholar of Japanese armour.

Samurai: The Japanese Warrior’s (Unofficial) Manual
by Stephen Turnbull. Thames & Hudson, ISBN 978-0500251881, £12.95

This witty, informative and informal guide to the samurai class of early modern Japan is presented in the guise of a training manual written by a fictional samurai lord. Written by Stephen Turnbull, one of the worlds leading authorities on samurai, it offers lively and engaging coverage of every aspect of early 17th-century Japanese warrior culture, from training and armour to how to perform on the battlefield, from Japanese religion to how to attain entrance to the White Jade Pavilion when your warrior days are over. Wise quotes from Japanese sources of the time enliven the text, while colour images and 100 historic wood-block-style prints provide a step-by-step guide to becoming and being a samurai.

Korean Eye 2: Contemporary Korean Art by Serenella Ciclitira and Lee Daehyung

Skira, ISBN 978-8857214603, £45

Founded in 2008 by Serenella and David Ciclitira, and in partnership with Standard Chartered and the Saatchi Gallery, Korean Eye is a philanthropic movement to promote Korean Contemporary Art and emerging Korean artists internationally. Now in its fourth year, Korean Eye has become a leading global initiative for Korean contemporary art, and has held 11 exhibitions at some of the in the worlds most prestigious destinations including the Saatchi Gallery, London and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. Thanks to the success of previous exhibitions, Korean Eye is seen as a global promoter of Korean art and culture, and attracts large numbers of artists wishing to enter their work – more than 2,000 artists put forward over 28,000 portfolios with just 100 works by 75 artists being chosen for Korean Eye 2012.

The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future

by Victor Cha. Bodley Head,

ISBN 978-1847922359, £25

Much discussed and often maligned, precious little is known or understood about North Korea, the world’s most controversial and isolated country. In The Impossible State Victor Cha pulls back the curtain, providing an unprecedented insight into North Korea’s history, the rise of the Kim family dynasty, and the obsessive personality cult that surrounds them. He illuminates the repressive regime’s complex economy and culture, its appalling record of human-rights abuses, its belligerent relationship with its neighbours and the United States, and analyses the regime’s major security issues – from the seemingly endless war with its southern counterpart to its terrifying nuclear ambitions – all in the light of the destabilising effects of Kim Jong-il’s recent death.

How has this enigmatic nation-state continued to survive when it regularly violates its own citizens’ inalienable rights and has suffered severe famine, global economic sanctions, a collapsed economy, and near-total isolation from the rest of the world? Cha reveals a land facing a pivotal and disquieting transition of power from tyrannical father to inexperienced son, and delves into the ideology that leads an oppressed, starving populace to cling so fiercely to its failed leadership.

With rare personal anecdotes from the author’s time in Pyongyang and his tenure as a White House adviser, this engagingly written, authoritative, and highly accessible account offers much-needed answers to the most pressing questions about North Korea and ultimately warns of a regime that might be closer to its end than many might think – a political collapse for which the Western world may be woefully unprepared.

Escape from Camp 14: One man’s remarkable odyssey from North Korea to freedom in the West

by Blaine Harden. Mantle,

ISBN 978-0230748736, £16.99

Twenty-six years ago, Shin Dong-hyuk was born inside Camp 14, one of five sprawling political prisons in the mountains of North Korea. Located about 55 miles north of Pyongyang, the labour camp is a ‘complete control district,’ a no-exit prison where the only sentence is life. No one born in Camp 14 or in any North Korean political prison camp has escaped. No one except Shin. This is his story. A gripping, terrifying memoir with a searing sense of place, this book unlocks, through Shin, a dark and secret nation, taking readers to a place they have rarely before been allowed to go.

Only Beautiful, Please: A British Diplomat in North Korea

by John Everard

Asia/Pacific Research Center,
Div of The Institute for International Studies, ISBN 978-1931368254, £19.99

Coverage of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) all too often focuses solely on nuclear proliferation, military parades, and the personality cult of its leaders. As the British ambassador to North Korea, John Everard had the rare experience of living there from 2006, when the DPRK conducted its first nuclear test, to 2008. While stationed in Pyongyang, Everard’s travels around the nation provided him with numerous opportunities to meet and converse with North Koreans. Only Beautiful, Please goes beyond official North Korea to unveil the human dimension of life in that hermetic nation. Everard recounts his impressions of the country and its people, his interactions with them, and his observations on their way of life. He also provides a picture of the life of foreigners in this closed society, considers how the DPRK evolved to its current state, and offers thoughts on how to tackle the challenges that it throws up, in light of the failure of current approaches. The book is illustrated with often striking photographs taken by Everard during his stay in North Korea.

Art and Palace Politics in Early Modern Japan, 1580s-1680s
by Elizabeth Lillehoj. Brill,
ISBN: 978-90-04-20612-0, Euro 93

During the first century of Japan’s early modern era (1580s to 1680s), art and architecture created for the imperial court served as markers of social prestige, testifying to the enduring centrality of the palace to the cultural life of Kyoto. Emperors Go-Yōzei and Go-Mizunoo relied on financial support from ruling warlords – Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the Tokugawa shoguns – just as the warlords sought imperial sanction granting them legitimacy to rule. Taking advantage of this complex but oftentimes strained synergy, Go-Yōzei and Go-Mizunoo (and to an unprecedented extent his empress, Tōfukumon’in) enhanced the hereditary prerogatives of the imperial family.

Among the works described in this volume are masterpieces commissioned for the residences and temples of the imperial family, which were painted by artists of the Kano, Tosa and Sumiyoshi ateliers, not to mention Tawaraya Sōtatsu. Anonymous but deluxe painting commissions depicting grand imperial processions are examined in detail. The court’s fascination with calligraphy and tea, arts that flourished in this age, is also discussed in this well-illustrated volume.

Genji’s World in Japanese Woodblock Prints

by Bruce A. Coats, Michael Emmerich, Susanne Formanek, Sepp Linhart, and Rhiannon Paget. Brill,

ISBN 9789004233539, Euro 89

This book provides the first comprehensive overview of Genji prints, an exceptional subject and publishing phenomenon among Japanese woodblock prints that gives insight into 19th-century Japan and its art practices.  In the late 1820s, when the writer Ryūtei Tanehiko (1783-1842), the print designer and book illustrator Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865) and the publisher Tsuruya Kiemon sat down together in Edo to plot the inaugural chapter of the serial novel A Rustic Genji by a Fraudulent Murasaki (Nise Murasaki inaka Genji), it is doubtful that any one of them envisioned that their actions would generate a new genre in Japanese woodblock prints that would flourish until the turn of the century, Genjie (Genji pictures). During these sixty years, over 1,300 original designs were created, of which many were very popular at their time of release. The story of A Rustic Genji, set in 15th-century Japan, is in many respects drawn from Murasaki Shikibu’s (circa 973-1014/25) classic novel The Tale of Genji from the early 11th century.  As the foremost collection of prints of this subject, the extensive holdings of Paulette and Jack Lantz provided the majority of images necessary for this publication.

South and West Asia, Himalayas

Visions of Mughal India: The Collection of Howard Hodgkin

by Andrew Topsfield and Howard Hodgkin
Ashmolean Museum,
ISBN 978-1854442635, £25
British painter and printmaker Howard Hodgkin has been a passionate collector of Indian paintings since his schooldays, and his collection has long been considered one of the finest of its kind in the world. At times he has devoted as much effort to developing his collection as to his own work as a painter. The celebrated artist’s full collection of great Mughal art was seen at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The catalogue includes over 110 Indian paintings and drawings. The collection comprises most of the main types of Indian court painting that flourished during the Mughal period (circa 1550-1850), including the refined naturalistic works of the imperial Mughal court, the poetic and subtly coloured paintings of the Deccani Sultanates, the boldly drawn and vibrantly coloured styles of the Rajput kingdoms of Rajasthan and the Punjab Hills.

Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire

by Malini Roy and JP Losty. British Library, ISBN 978-0712358712, £19.95

One of the most powerful and exotic of all the world’s great dynasties, the Mughals ruled India from 1526 to 1858. During this time they produced an astonishing number of rulers of outstanding ability, who operated in a hugely diverse and complex religious, linguistic and social environment. The Mughals were great patrons of the arts, using them to underpin their political position and leaving behind a particularly rich legacy of visual art. This book accompanies the British Library’s current exhibition, which draws from their extensive collection of illustrated manuscripts and paintings. These were often commissioned by Mughal emperors and other officials and depict the splendour and vibrant colour of Mughal life. The exquisitely decorated works span four centuries, from the foundation of the Mughal dynasty by Babur in the 16th century, through the heights of the empire and the ‘Great’ Mughal emperors of the 17th century, into the decline and eventual collapse in the 19th century. The lavish artworks cover a variety of subject matter, from scenes of courtly life including lively hunting parties and formal portraits of emperors to illustrations of works of literature which manage to convey complex storylines in a single image, and dramatic panoramas of Indian landscapes. The development of a Mughal style of art can be traced through the illustrations and paintings, as can the influence of European styles, originally as imported exotica. Many of these works have never been published before.

5000 Years of Indian Art

by Sushma Bahl. Roli Books,

ISBN 978-8174368539, £49.95

This book explores the story of Indian art spread over the millennia offering a panoramic view of Indian art from pre-historic times to the contemporary period. The narrative woven around the wide ambit of the creative continuum links different predominant artistic genres like prehistoric art, ancient Indian art of Vedic and Buddhist traditions, temple art, Mughal miniature painting, colonial art, modern Indian art, and contemporary art that were prevalent in different eras instead of formally demarcated historical periods. The illustrated tale encompasses the entire gamut ranging from the earliest primitive markings on stones, caves, and frescoes to exquisite paintings, sculptures, modern photography, and finally crafted artefacts to media-inspired work, popular installations, and other forms of contemporary art. About 200 works of art sourced from museums, galleries, and private collections around India and the world are illustrated.

Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court

by  Dr MC Beach. Granta, revised edition, ISBN 978-1935677161, US$70

Books have been treasured for centuries in the Islamic world, as precious objects worthy of royal admiration. This was especially true in Muslim India, where generations of Mughal emperors commissioned and collected volumes of richly illuminated manuscripts and lavishly illustrated folios. They assembled workshops of the leading artists and calligraphers to produce the books that filled their extensive libraries. Today, those works remain a vibrant part of India’s cultural and artistic history in the 16th and 17th centuries. In this revised and expanded edition of his popular 1981 book, Dr Milo Beach presents the superb collection of Mughal paintings in the Freer Gallery of Art. He adds many of the outstanding works that entered the collection with the opening of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in 1987. Together, the Freer and Sackler Galleries, the Smithsonian’s museums of Asian art, have the distinction of being one of the world’s leading repositories of Mughal art. An introductory essay examines the Mughal art of the book and traces the contributions of a succession of rulers in Muslim India. Brief artist biographies and an extensive bibliography complete this updated volume.

Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857

by William Dalrymple and Yuthika Sharma

Yale University,

ISBN 978-0300176667, £40

Between the years 1707 and 1857, the cultural centre of Delhi in North India was the locus of a dramatic shift of power with the decline of the Mughal Empire and the rise of the British Raj. This critical transitional period altered Indian culture, politics and art, and brought unprecedented artistic innovation and experimentation. The artistic flowering of this time is evident in jewel-like portraits, miniature paintings, striking panoramas, and exquisite decorative arts crafted for Mughal emperors and European residents alike. Sumptuous colour illustrations of such works illuminate the pages of this book, painting a vivid portrait of this important city and its art, artists, and patrons. Masterworks by major Mughal artists, such as Nidha Mal and Ghulam Ali Khan, and works by non-Mughal artists demonstrate the dynamic interplay of artistic production at this time. This largely overlooked period is explored in thought-provoking essays by a panel of distinguished scholars of Indian art, history, and literature to present an engaging look at this dynamic artistic culture in the midst of rapid change. Accompanied the recent exhibition at Asia Society.

Ashoka: The Search for India’s Lost Emperor

by Charles Allen

Little, Brown, ISBN £25,

According to Allen, the British public ‘showed no interest whatsoever’ when Ashoka was first identified in the 1840s by British civil servants in India turned Orientalists. The Victorians could get excited about the newly discovered antiquities of ancient Egypt and Babylonia, but not those of ancient India. ‘A century and half later, the situation remains pretty much the same,’ Allen says. Outside India, Ashoka Maurya, unlike his near-contemporary Alexander, or indeed his inspiration Gautama (Buddha), is not a name with any aura today. Even within India, Ashoka is not really a living presence. This is despite the emblem of the Republic of India being the celebrated Mauryan-age stone capital from Sarnath that shows four lions standing guard over four‘wheels of law, and the Indian flag having the same wheel of law at its centre (sometimes misinterpreted as a Gandhian spinning wheel). These symbols were chosen in 1947 by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, an admirer of Ashoka. Nehru named his daughter (and future PM) Indira Priyadarshini Nehru, her second name meaning ‘Beloved-of-the-Gods’: the favourite title adopted by Ashoka in his rock and pillar inscriptions scattered across India.

He presents the search for Ashoka by remarkable men such as Sir William Jones, George Turnour, James Prinsep and Sir Alexander Cunningham, in Calcutta, Benares, Bodhgaya, Sanchi, Sarnath and Taxila, not to mention Buddhist Sri Lanka. He describes events as they happened, rather than with the benefit of hindsight, while throwing in tantalising clues that are elucidated in later chapters. Nor does the book shirk the necessity to explain unfamiliar material, such as the conflicting accounts of Ashoka in ancient Hindu literature, and in the two major Buddhist traditions, Theravada and Mahayana.

From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia

by Pankaj Mishra

Allen Lane, ISBN 978-1846144783, £20

From Pankaj Mishra comes a provocative account of how China, India and the Muslim World are remaking the world in their own image. The Victorian period, viewed in the West as a time of self-confident progress, was experienced by Asians as a catastrophe. As the British gunned down the last heirs to the Mughal Empire, burned down the Summer Palace in Beijing, or humiliated the bankrupt rulers of the Ottoman Empire, it was clear that for Asia to recover a vast intellectual effort would be required.

Pankaj Mishra’s fascinating, highly entertaining new book tells the story of a remarkable group of men from across the continent who met the challenge of the West. Incessantly travelling, questioning and agonising, they both hated the West and recognised that an Asian renaissance needed to be fuelled in part by engagement with the enemy. Through many setbacks and wrong turns, a powerful, contradictory and ultimately unstoppable series of ideas were created that now lie behind everything from the Chinese Communist Party to Al Qaeda, from Indian nationalism to the Muslim Brotherhood. Mishra allows the reader to see the events of two centuries anew, through the eyes of the journalists, poets, radicals and charismatics who  criss-crossed Europe and Asia and created the ideas which lie behind the powerful Asian nations of the 21st century.

Midnight to the Boom: Painting in India after Independence

by Susan S. Bean (Author),Homi K. Bhabha.

Thames and Hudson, ISBN 978-0500238936, £29.95

Following independence in 1947, India’s artists faced a particular challenge: how to express the new nation’s distinctive character while entering a global discourse focused on modernisms, universal premises of experimentation and shared human values. In the absence of a dominant aesthetic, painters could turn where they wished and blend as they liked from Abstract Expressionism to Tantric spiritualism; from Rajasthani painting to changes in India’s complex politics, religions, castes and daily life. This illustrated, in-depth study, published to accompany the exhibition organised by the Peabody Essex Museum in the US, surveys the three generations of artists responsible for these critical shifts in the development of India’s modernist art. It shows how their achievements and the country’s unprecedented boom ushered India’s modern and contemporary art into a new era of globalism, a soaring international market, and an explosion in the media and technologies of art.

Delhi: Red Fort to Raisina

by Pramod Kapoor and J. P. Losty

Roli Books, ISBN 978-8174368614, £35
Delhi: Red Fort to Raisina traces the journey of Shahjahan’s new capital of the Mughal Empire, Shahjahanabad built on the banks of river Yamuna in 1638 to New Delhi the new capital of British-ruled India in 1911. From Red Fort to Jama Masjid and from Jahanara Bagh to Hayat Bakhsh Bagh, every palace, mosque, bazaar, and bagh (garden) in the Mughal city was planned to perfection. The new city too, designed in the early 20th century, was a blend of Mughal architecture and modern aesthetics. This book celebrates the centenary with four essays on different aspects of Delhi’s history by JP Losty, Salman Khurshid, Ratish Nanda, and Malvika Singh. A lively portrait of the city and its culture and people, the book documents the transition of the old-world charm of Shahjahanabad to a modern city with a new seat of power built on the Raisina Hill. Pramod Kapoor is a collector of historical records and photographs, and a publisher by profession. The photographs for this book were collected by him over a long period of time from all over the world. Often, the best photographs were found in old trunks lying forgotten in dusty attics or damp basements of the palaces. The biggest challenge, however, was to coax fading memories to remember names and places.

Akbar: The Great Emperor of India 1542-1605

by Gian Carlo Calza. Skira,

ISBN 978-8857215259, £38

Akbar The Great (1542-1605) is considered one of the greatest rulers of India. Though being himself an illiterate, he was a great patron of poetry and literature, the builder of his capital Fathepur Sikri, the City of Victory, and the promoter of a new style in arts and crafts. His deep religious tolerance even brought him to attempt the creation of a syncretistic religion bringing together Islam and Hinduism. This catalogue explores all these aspects, covering the court life with portraits and pictures of the political activities and cultural events; describing the development of arts and crafts through paintings and objects; The book stresses Akbar’s cultural as well as political achievements, and his profound religious spirit and open mind towards all religions with which he came into contact.

The Meadow: Kashmir 1995: Where the Terror Began

by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark

ISBN 978-0007368167, £16.99

The true story of a brutal kidnapping high in the mountains of Kashmir that marked the beginning of modern terrorism. In July 1995, 10 Western backpackers take a trip of a lifetime. They have come in search of many things – nirvana, exhilaration, a sense of self. But over the course of the next week, their holidays take a terrifying turn when they become entangled in a nail-biting hostage drama that will suck them into an alien world of jihad and Islamic fundamentalism. In the months that follow, their fates will become caught-up in a bloody struggle between India and Pakistan, fought out in the airless heights of Kashmir. With the world looking on, four of the captured travellers will vanish off the face of the earth, never to be seen again, creating one of the region’s great mysteries.

Written with access to diaries, letters, unprocessed film and personal recollections from those enmeshed in the drama, drawing on classified police reports and secret tape recordings of Indian government negotiations, as well as interviews with the jihadis themselves and excerpts from their journals, Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark’s book is a real-life thriller, a startling but compelling story told from the perspective of all involved.

   The Meadow charts how the fates of two groups of young men from different hemispheres became inextricably entwined on the mountain trails they followed. It tells of the terrifying escape of one hostage, the heart-rending secret letters another wrote on birch bark and hid in his clothing as he contemplated his situation, and how, with a brutal beheading, the kidnappers took an irreversible step into the abyss. The Meadow provides the first definitive answers as to what happened to the missing backpackers, revealing how the kidnapping of July 1995 changed the face of modern jihad.

The Fishing Fleet

by Anne de Courcy. W&N,

ISBN 978-0297863823, £20
From the late 19th century, when the Raj was at its height, many of Britain’s best and brightest young men went out to India to work as administrators, soldiers and businessmen. With the advent of steam travel and the opening of the Suez Canal, countless young women, suffering at the lack of eligible men in Britain, followed in their wake. This amorphous band was composed of daughters returning after their English education, girls invited to stay with married sisters or friends, and yet others whose declared or undeclared goal was simply to find a husband. They were known as the ‘Fishing Fleet’, and this book is their story, hitherto untold.

For these young women, often away from home for the first time, one thing they could be sure of was a rollicking good time. By the early 20th century, a hectic social scene was in place, with dances, parties, amateur theatricals, picnics, tennis tournaments, cinemas, gymkhanas with perhaps a tiger shoot and a glittering dinner at a raja’s palace thrown in. And, with men outnumbering women by roughly four to one, romances were conducted at alarming speed and marriages were frequent. But after the honeymoon life often changed dramatically: whisked off to a remote outpost with few other Europeans for company and where constant vigilance was required to guard against disease, they found it a far cry from the social whirlwind of their first arrival. Anne de Courcy’s sparkling narrative is enriched by a wealth of first-hand sources – unpublished memoirs, letters and diaries rescued from attics, which bring this forgotten era vividly to life.

Following Fish: Travels Around the Indian Coast

by Samanth Subramanian. Atlantic Books, ISBN 978-0857896001, £12.99

In a coastline as long and diverse as India’s, fish inhabit the heart of many worlds – food of course, but also culture, commerce, sport, history and society. Journeying along the edges of the peninsula, Samanth Subramanian delivers a kaleidoscope of extraordinary stories. Following Fish conducts rich journalistic investigations of, among others, the use of fish to treat asthmatics in Hyderabad; of the preparation and the process of eating West Bengal’s prized hilsa; of the ancient art of building fishing boats in Gujarat; of the fiery cuisine and the singular spirit of Kerala’s toddy shops; of the food and the lives of Mumbai’s first peoples; of the history of an old Catholic fishing community in Tamil Nadu; and of the hunt for the world’s fastest fish near Goa.

A Free Man: A True Story of Life and Death in Delhi

by Aman Sethi. Jonathan Cape,

ISBN 978-0224096904, £14.99

Every morning in Sadar Bazaar, one of the oldest markets in Delhi, a gang of men gather looking for work in the building trade. For five years, Aman Sethi shared their lives, and in particular that of Mohammed Ashraf. Ashraf is a mazdoor, an itinerant house-painter, but he is not a typical labourer – he studied biology in college, and after college learnt how to repair TV sets, cut suits, and slice chicken. He lived all over India, but now he finds himself in Delhi: the second most populous city in the country. The morning will bring hangovers, whisky breakfasts and possibly answers to the lingering questions that haunt Ashraf. How did he get here? Why is he the way he is? And is there a way back home? One of the very best young journalists in India, Aman Sethi brings Ashraf vividly alive and illuminates the lives of countless others like him.

David Bailey: Delhi Dilemma

by David Bailey. Steidl,

ISBN: 978-3865219916, £70

‘Pink is the navy blue of India’, once said Diana Vreeland. How does one photograph Delhi without the results looking like clichéd, tourist-friendly images from the pages of National Geographic? How does a photographer of David Baileys standing portray India without seeming con descending? Bailey has been to India 15 times, and in these photographs he avoids depicting the cultural and economic differences between East and West that can make photos of the country seem overly didactic. Instead, Bailey depicts the colours, textures and people that characterise Delhi a magenta sari, an infant walking down a rust-coloured road, a bright blue plastic tarpaulin and so creates a portrait of the city that is sensitive without being self-indulgent.

Mirror of the Buddha: Early Portraits from Tibet

by David P Jackson. University of Washington Press,
ISBN 978-0984519026, £50

In their art, Tibetans aimed at faithfully transmitting and preserving Buddhism as a spiritual discipline as they had learned it from earlier teachers. Each thangka painting was a small contribution to the larger cause of keeping Buddhism alive and radiant. In this third volume on Tibetan painting, David Jackson investigates painted portraits of early Tibetan teachers. Images of these eminent personages embodied Buddhist ideals in human form. In creating these depictions, Tibetan painters of the 12th through the 14th centuries imitated the artistic conventions developed in Pala- and Sensa-ruled eastern India (Bengal). This style, called Sharri, spread from India to many parts of Asia, but its classic Indian forms, delicate colours, and intricate decorative details were emulated most faithfully by the Tibetans. David P. Jackson is the author of Patron and Painter and The Nepalese Legacy in Tibetan Painting. Other contributors include Ronald Rubin, Jan van Alphen, and Christian Luczanits. Accompanied the show at the Rubin Museum of Art.

The Black Hat Eccentric: Artistic Visions of the Tenth Karmapa

by Karl Debreczeny. University of Washington Press,
ISBN 978-0977213108, US$75

The Tenth Karmapa Choying Dorje (1604-1674) was not only leader of the Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism but also famous as a great artistic innovator. One of the most original and eccentric figures in the history of Tibetan art, he combined different compositional and figural models as well as styles, even mixing genres to create a very personal visual idiom full of charm, wit, and humour.
A sensitive and playful depiction of animals is especially distinctive, making his works both intimate and directly accessible. The life of this artist is well documented in Tibetan sources, which provide an alternative historical narrative of the tumultuous 17th century as well as a new perspective on Tibetan art history. The Black Hat Eccentric is the first publication to focus on works by the hand of a single Tibetan historical artist. The centrepiece is an inscribed set of paintings dated 1660 from Lijiang in south-western China. Paintings from sets by the Karmapa’s workshop form the other anchor for the project and demonstrate that teams of artists were trained in the Tenth Karmapa’s fascinating and enigmatic style. Individual paintings and sculptures attributed to the Tenth Karmapa from collections worldwide are also considered and contextualised by these two aspects of his artistic production. Accompanied the exhibition at the Rubin Museum of Art.

A Golden Swan in Turbulent Waters: The Life and Times of the Tenth Karmapa Choying Dorje

by Shamar Rinpoche. Bird of Paradise Press, ISBN 978-0988176201, £23.50

The Tenth Karmapa (1604-1674) lived through dramatic changes in Tibet, including the rise to political supremacy of the Fifth Dalai Lama and the Gelug sect following a Mongol invasion. Regarded as a remarkable bodhisattva and artist, the Karmapa has largely escaped the close attention of modern scholars. In this book, Shamar Rinpoche, the Fourteenth Shamarpa, introduces the Tenth Karmapa through his translations of the Karmapa’s autobiographical writings and an eighteenth century biography of him. As a direct lineage-descendant from the Sixth Shamarpa – the Karmapa’s guru – the Shamar Rinpoche shares his unique knowledge and experience through extensive annotations and a historical overview of Tibet from the 13th through 17th century.

Southeast Asia

Gold, Silver & Brass: Jewellery of the Batak in Sumatra, Indonesia

by Achim Sibeth

Five Continents,
ISBN 978-8874396269, £35.50

Among the hundreds of ethnic groups living in Indonesia, the Batak are one of the most famous. Their traditional architecture, sculpture, textiles and other arts have been widely documented, but this is the first publication to examine their rich jewellery traditions. Batak jewellery is characterised by a wide variety of materials and forms and has many functions: it can be a status symbol, a badge of rank, an attribute of membership into a certain age group, an amulet and talisman, or simply an ornament. Jewellery was worn by men and women, and even babies and small children were adorned with gold, silver, brass, bronze, or the gold and copper alloy known as suasa. The jewellery varied depending on the sex and age of its wearer. Today, the Batak wear traditional jewellery only for celebrations like weddings, and these stunning works are rapidly disappearing, being either melted down or sold.

Ethnic Jewellery from Indonesia: Continuity and Evolution

by Bruce W. Carpenter and Dr Antonio
J. Guerreiro. Editions Didier Millet,
ISBN 978-9814260688, £55

This book is an introduction to the little-known visual power and beauty of the body adornments used by the myriad peoples of Indonesia’s outer islands, including Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi, Sumba and Maluku. Illustrated with more than 500 rare pieces that have been accumulated since the 1970s by the collector Manfred Giehmann, the book explores the depth and breadth of an ancient and magnificent tradition, revealing the fruits of careful documentation that has taken place over a period of decades. It will provide information on the origin, meaning and purpose of the jewellery items, as well as unique insights into the people who crafted and wore the jewellery for ritual or ceremonial functions. Ethnic Jewellery: Continuity, Creativity and Evolution is a definitive work on the subject and a testimony to the greatness of a fast-disappearing Indonesian tradition.

The Lady And The Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma

by Peter Popham. Rider,

ISBN 978-1846042508, £8.99

Celebrated today as one of the world’s greatest exponents of non-violent political defiance since Mahatma Gandhi, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize only four years after her first experience of politics. In April 1988, Suu Kyi returned from Britain to Burma to nurse her sick mother but, within six months, found herself the unchallenged leader of the largest popular revolt in her country’s history. When the party she co-founded won a landslide victory in Burma’s first free elections for 30 years, she was already under house arrest and barred from taking office by the military junta.

Since then, The Lady has set about transforming her country ethically as well as politically, displaying dazzling courage in the process. Under house arrest for 15 of the previous 20 years, she has come close to being killed by her political enemies and her commitment to peaceful revolution has come at extreme personal cost. In November 2010, after fraudulent elections in which she played no part, Suu Kyi was again freed. She was greeted by ecstatic crowds but only time will tell what role this remarkable woman has still to play in the future of her country.

30 Heritage Buildings of Yangon: Inside the City that Captured Time

by Association of Myanmar Architects
Serindia, ISBN 9781932476662, US$50

The modern history of Yangon can be traced through its colonial-era architecture. From the monumental former Reserve Bank of India, which records every step of the country’s fiscal history, to the now derelict Pegu Club, which was once the favoured watering hole for officers of the British colonial government, each building has a story to tell. 
The buildings have survived war, natural disaster, and numerous changes of ownership. Many have been repurposed over the years. Today, the biggest threat to these buildings is neglect and lack of protection. In recent years they have become increasingly vulnerable. In 2005, when the government moved to the new capital of Naypyidaw, it abandoned many of its ministerial offices or left them only partially in use. Many were also badly damaged during Cyclone Nargis in 2008. As the country opens up to new investment and tourism, the buildings are in danger of falling prey to property developers as most occupy prime plots of land in the city centre.

This book focuses on a selection of  30 key buildings and examines their past, present, and future. Piecing together the often forgotten social history of each building has involved delving into out-of-print books, company records, old city directories, newspaper archives, and people’s memories. Published in both Burmese and English language editions, this book aims to contribute to the collective conversation about the social and economic potential of Yangon’s colonial-era heritage in the hopes that the city’s architectural past can become a vibrant and sustainable part of its future.

Art of Southeast Asian Textiles: The TIlleke & GIbbins Collection

by Linda S. McIntosh
Serindia, ISBN 9781932476590, US$95

As markers of identity and status of their producers’ cultures, the textiles of Southeast Asia are often viewed as ethnographic objects. Hand-weavings function as clothing, household accessories, and religious objects and have important roles in major life events. Created with a myriad of materials and techniques and a selection of colours and motifs, this region’s weavings are also highly sophisticated works of art that would not exist without their producers’ imagination and skills. Tilleke & Gibbins International, a law firm in Bangkok, Thailand, began acquiring textiles from the region in 1987, formally establishing its collection a few years later. Art of Southeast Asian Textiles: The Tilleke & Gibbins Collection highlights museum-quality textiles from various cultures of this region.  Illustrated throughout, the publication focuses on hand-woven and hand-adorned cloth produced by ethnic groups in Thailand and neighbouring countries, including Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, and Malaysia. Social, political, and economic ties linked the cultures of Mainland Southeast Asia to ones in other areas, such as the island cultures of the region, resulting in the exchange of cloth. Some textile types from Indonesia and India are, thus, included in this volume. Art of Southeast Asian Textiles showcases over two hundred examples from this private collection, presented with the same intention as the law firm’s purpose to build a collection: textiles as art.

Banteay Chhmar: The Last Great Forest Temple

by Peter D. Sharrock, Claude Jacques,  Olivier Cunin. River Books,

ISBN 978-6167339207, £19.95

Banteay Chhmar is the second monument of ancient Cambodia’s greatest king, Jayavarman VII. This temple, built in the late 12th-century by one of Cambodia’s most original stone carving and architectural workshops, lay in ruins for almost a 1,000 years under a remote forest halfway between Angkor, the declining capital of the once mighty Khmers and Ayutthaya, the burgeoning new hub of the rising Thai kingdom. At first the remoteness of Banteay Chhmar made it the distant jewel in the magnificent monumental landscape of the Khmers, but after the Khmer Empire declined in the 14th century, the temple’s art was left exposed to generations of looters. To uncover the secrets of this large, beautiful and still jungle-covered complex, Peter Sharrock has brought together a team of international experts, including Claudes Jacques, Olivier Cunin and Thiery Zephir, to decipher the reliefs of the master carvers, identify the esoteric Buddhist deities and open a new vista on Jayavarman’s reign. There are 300 specially commissioned photographs in this first book devoted to this beautiful, remarkable and important temple. Published January 2013.

Royal Hue: Heritage of the Nguyen Dynasty of Vietnam

by Vu Hong Lien. River Books,

ISBN 978-9749863954, US$25

Hue, the ancient, royal capital of Vietnam, is a city remarkable in its strive for greatness and to achieve breathtaking beauty. Despite its many dramatic historic events, from conflicts between ancient Vietnam and the now extinct kingdoms of Champa to the 19th and 20th century French occupation and becoming the victim of the Tet offensive in 1968, much of Hue’s classical architecture survives. The sense of that royal lifestyle is still visible in the Imperial Citadel, still reflected in the Hue Museum of Fine Arts and reproduced in Nguyen mausoleums in the Valley of the Tombs. Royal Hue traces the development of this magnificent imperial capital from its humble beginnings in the 14th century until its position as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1993. The book also documents the 143 years of Nguyen rule when under 13 emperors Hue was built and rebuilt, each time grander and more opulent than the last, until in 1945 the last emperor Boa Dai handed over his Royal Seal and Sword of Mandate to representatives of the new President Ho Chi Minh.
Islamic World Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East

by Reza Aslan. W. W. Norton & Co,
reprint edition, ISBN 978-0393340778, £16.99

A landmark literary event, this groundbreaking work spans a century of literature by the region’s best writers,  from the famed Arab poet Khalil Gibran to the Turkish Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, all of them bound together, not by borders and nationalities, but by a common experience of colonial domination and western imperialism. As best-selling author Reza Aslan writes, the mesmerising prose of the Middle East – Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Urdu – has been virtually excluded from the canon available to English readers. Under the umbrella of Words Without Borders, Aslan has assembled this extraordinary collection of short stories, memoirs, essays and poems, featuring both contemporary and historical works, with many of the selections newly appearing in English.

Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition

Helen C. Evans and Brandie Ratliff

Yale University Press,
ISBN 978-0300179507, £45

This  volume explores the epochal transformations and unexpected continuities in the Byzantine Empire from the 7th to the 9th century. As the seventh century began, vast territories extending from Syria to Egypt and across North Africa were ruled by the Byzantine Empire from its capital, Constantinople (modern Istanbul). Critical to the wealth and power of the empire, these southern provinces, long influenced by Greco-Roman traditions, were home to Orthodox, Coptic, and Syriac Christians, Jewish communities, and others.

At the beginning of the 7th century, the Empire’s southern provinces, the vibrant, diverse areas of North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean, were at the crossroads of exchanges reaching from Spain to China. These regions experienced historic upheavals when their Christian and Jewish communities encountered the emerging Islamic world, and by the 9th century, an unprecedented cross-fertilisation of cultures had taken place. This extraordinary age is brought vividly to life in insightful contributions by leading international scholars, accompanied by illustrations of the period’s most notable arts and artefacts. Resplendent images of authority, religion, and trade – embodied in precious metals, brilliant textiles, fine ivories, elaborate mosaics, manuscripts, and icons, many of them never before published – highlight the dynamic dialogue between the rich array of Byzantine styles and the newly forming Islamic aesthetic. With its exploration of two centuries that would shape the emerging mediaeval world, this publication provides a unique interpretation of a period that still resonates with us today.  Accompanied the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Cairo: My City, Our Revolution

by Ahdaf Soueif. Bloomsbury,

ISBN 978-0747549628, £14.99

Ahdaf Soueif, novelist, commentator, activist, navigates her history of Cairo and her journey through the Revolution that’s redrawing its future. Through a map of stories drawn from private history and public record Soueif charts a story of the Revolution that is both intimately hers and publicly Egyptian.

In The Shadow Of The Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World

by Tom Holland. Little, Brown,

ISBN 978-1408700075, £25

In the 6th century, the Near East was divided between two venerable empires: the Persian and the Roman. A hundred years on, and one had vanished forever, while the other seemed almost finished. Ruling in their place were the Arabs: an upheaval so profound that it spelt, in effect, the end of the ancient world. In this book, Tom Holland explores how this came about and proffers his personal opinion, which is seen as contentious by some. Spanning Constantinople to the Arabian desert, and starring some of the most remarkable rulers who ever lived, he tells a story vivid with drama, horror and startling achievement.

Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Very British Coup

by Christopher de Bellaigue. Vintage,

ISBN 978-0099540489, £9.99
In 19 August 1953 the British and American intelligence agencies launched a desperate coup against a cussed, bedridden 72-year-old. His name was Muhammad Mossadegh, the Iranian prime minister. To Winston Churchill he was a lunatic, determined to humiliate Britain. To President Eisenhower he was delivering Iran to the Soviets. Mossadegh must go. And so he did, in one of the most dramatic episodes in modern Middle Eastern history. But the countries that overthrew him would, in time, deeply regret it. Mossadegh was one of the first liberals of the Middle East, a man whose conception of liberty was as sophisticated as any in Europe or America. He wanted friendship with the West – not slavish dependence. Here, for the first time, is the political and personal life of a remarkable patriot, written by our foremost observer of Iran. Above all, the life of Muhammad Mossadegh is a warning to today’s occupants of Downing Street and the White House, as they commit us all to intervention in a volatile and unpredictable region.


The Garden of Evening Mists

by Tan Twan Eng. Myrmidon Books,
ISBN 978-1905802623, £12.99

It is Malaya, 1949. After studying law at Cambridge and time spent helping to prosecute Japanese war criminals, Yun Ling Teoh, herself the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp, seeks solace among the jungle fringed plantations of Northern Malaya where she grew up as a child. There she discovers Yugiri, the only Japanese garden in Malaya, and its owner and creator, the enigmatic Aritomo, exiled former gardener of the Emperor of Japan. Despite her hatred of the Japanese, Yun Ling seeks to engage Aritomo to create a garden in Kuala Lumpur, in memory of her sister who died in the camp. Aritomo refuses, but agrees to accept Yun Ling as his apprentice ‘until the monsoon comes’. Then she can design a garden for herself. As the months pass, Yun Ling finds herself intimately drawn to her sensei and his art while, outside the garden, the threat of murder and kidnapping from the guerrillas of the jungle hinterland increases with each passing day. But the Garden of Evening Mists is also a place of mystery. Who is Aritomo and how did he come to leave Japan? Why is it that Yun Ling’s friend and host Magnus Praetorius, seems to almost immune from the depredations of the Communists? What is the legend of ‘Yamashita’s Gold’ and does it have any basis in fact? And is the real story of how Yun Ling managed to survive the war perhaps the darkest secret of all? Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum

by Katherine Boo. Portobello Books,

ISBN 978-1846274497, £14.99

Annawadi is a slum at the edge of Mumbai Airport, in the shadow of shining new luxury hotels. Its residents are garbage recyclers, construction workers and economic migrants, all of them living in the hope that a small part of India’s booming future will eventually be theirs. But when a crime rocks the slum community and global recession and terrorism shocks the city, tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy begin to turn brutal. As Boo gets to know those who dwell at Mumbai’s margins, she evokes an extraordinarily vivid and vigorous group of individuals flourishing against the odds amid the complications, corruptions and gross inequalities of the new India.


by Jeet Thayil. Faber and Faber,

ISBN 978-0571275762 £12.99

Shuklaji Street, in Old Bombay. In Rashid’s opium room the air is thick with voices and ghosts: Hindu, Muslim, Christian. A young woman holds a long-stemmed pipe over a flame, her hair falling across her eyes. Men sprawl and mutter in the gloom. Here, they say you introduce only your worst enemy to opium. There is an underworld whisper of a new terror: the Pathar Maar, the stone killer, whose victims are the nameless, invisible poor. In the broken city, there are too many to count.

Stretching across three decades, with an interlude in Mao’s China, it portrays a city in collision with itself. With a cast of pimps, pushers, poets, gangsters and eunuchs, it is a journey into a sprawling underworld written in original prose. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012.

The Taliban Cricket Club

by Timeri N Murari

Allen & Unwin,
ISBN 978-1742378848, £9.99

Rukhsana is a spirited young journalist working for the Kabul Times in Afghanistan. She also takes care of her mother and her younger brother Jahan. Their quiet but tenuous way of life is shattered with the arrival of a summons for Rukhsana to appear before the infamous Ministry to Promote Virtue and Punish Vice. The Minister, Zorak Wahidi, has two things in mind: to threaten the traditionally anti-Taliban news reporters, and to announce the Taliban’s intention to hold a cricket tournament, the winner of which will represent Afghanistan in the International Cricket Council. By the end of the meeting, he has a third desire: Rukhsana’s hand in marriage. Driven into hiding and cloistered in a burqua, Rukhsana does not despair – the Minister, without knowing it, has given her a way out.

The Harbour

by Frances Brill. Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 978-1408814826, £11.99

It is the summer of 1940, and for Stevie Steiber, a young American journalist in Hong Kong, the war raging in Europe is a world away. While longing to be taken seriously as a writer, she keeps her readers informed about society gossip from the Orient, her days at the Happy Valley racecourse slipping into dangerous, hedonistic nights. Major Harry Field has been charged by Her Majesty’s Government with investigating suspicious activity inside the colony. He is intrigued by the recent arrival of Jishang, a sophisticated Chinese publisher who owns a controversial political magazine. But it is Stevie, Jishang’s outspoken, beautiful correspondent who really fascinates him. As the decadent British contingent remain oblivious to the cataclysm nearly upon them, the spy and the journalist are obsessively drawn to one another. And when the Japanese army seizes the island, they are faced with terrifying challenges. What will they sacrifice to stay alive, and how far will they go to protect each other? The Harbour is a stunning and utterly compelling debut about war, love and betrayal.


by Timothy Mo. Turnaround Books,

ISBN 978-1873262795, £16.99
Timothy Mo’s first novel in a decade is set within the battle for secession in the Muslim regions of southern Thailand. Pure covers epic expanses of time and is told through narrators who range from fanatical zealots to decorated Oxbridge dons. Everything that Mo’s readers expect abound in this long-awaited novel: versatile style, memorable characters, insight into those tormented by dual loyalties and the ability to handle the weightiest of themes with a light touch. By examining the cultural wars of the past and present, Pure’s themes are among the most important of the day.

The Newlyweds

by Nell Freudenberger

Viking, ISBN 978-0670921843, £12.99

Amina Mazid is twenty-four when she leaves Bangladesh for Rochester,
New York, and for George Stillman, the husband who met and wooed her online. It is a 21st-century romance that echoes ancient traditions -– the arranged marriages of her home country. And though George falls for Amina because she doesn’t ‘play games’, they will both hide a secret, and vital, part of their lives from each other. A well-observed, wry and yet deeply moving novel about the exhilarations – and complications  – of getting, and staying, wed.

Illicit Happiness of Other People

by Manu Joseph. John Murray,

ISBN 978-1848543096, £18.99

Seventeen-year-old Unni has done something terrible. The only clue to his actions lies in a comic strip he has drawn, which has fallen into the hands of his father Ousep – a nocturnal anarchist with a wife who is fantasising about his early death. Ousep begins investigating the extraordinary life of his son, but as he circles closer and closer to the truth, he unravels a secret that shakes his family to the core. Set in Madras in the 1990s, where every adolescent male is preparing for the toughest exam in the world, this is a powerful and darkly comic story involving an alcoholic’s probe into the minds of the sober, an adolescent cartoonist’s dangerous interpretation of absolute truth, an inner circle of talented schizophrenics and the pure love of a twelve-year-old boy for a beautiful girl.

The Buddha in the Attic

by Julie Otsuka. Fig Tree,

ISBN 978-1905490875, £11.50

In eight incantatory sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces the women’s extraordinary lives, from their arduous journey by boat, where they exchange photographs of their husbands, imagining uncertain futures in an unknown land; to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; to their backbreaking work picking fruit in the fields and scrubbing the floors of white women in their homes; to their struggles to master a new language and a new culture; to their experiences in childbirth, and then as mothers, raising children who will ultimately reject their heritage and their history; to the deracinating arrival of war.

Shi Cheng: Short Stories from Urban China

by Han Dong, Zhu Wen, Jie Chen and

Liu Ding. Comma Press,

ISBN 978-1905583461, £9.99

An anthology of short stories that engage with themes such as migration, prosperity and politics. A glimpse of modern Chinese life, giving a snapshot of people’s emotions, hopes, dreams and fears.

The Village

by Nikita Lalwani. Viking,

ISBN 978-0670917082, £12.99

Ray, a young British-Asian woman arrives in the afternoon heat of a small village in India. She has come to live there for several months to make a documentary about the place. For this is no ordinary Indian village – the women collecting water at the well, the men chopping wood in the early morning light have all been found guilty of murder. The village is an open prison. Ray is accompanied by two British colleagues and, as the days pass, they begin to get closer to the lives of the inhabitants of the village. And then it feels too close. As the British visitors become desperate for a story, the distinction between innocence and guilt, between good intentions and horrifying results becomes horribly blurred. Set in a village modelled on a real-life open prison in India, The Village is a gripping story about manipulation and personal morality, about how truly frail our moral judgement can be. Nikita Lalwani has written a dazzling, heartfelt and disturbing novel which delivers on all the promise of her first.
Origins of Love

by Kishwar Desai. Simon & Schuster,

ISBN  978-1471101465, £12.99

In Delhi a small baby lies alone and abandoned. The product of IVF and surrogacy, she had been so coveted – until she was born with a fatal illness. No one knows how the infection could have been transferred to the child, but one thing is certain: no one wants her now. Thousands of miles away in London, Kate and Ben are desperate for a baby. But, despite all their efforts, fate seems to be skewed against them. Then, as Kate suffers another miscarriage, she knows something has to change. She has heard of women who are prepared to carry a baby for others, and she knows this might be a way to finally find happiness. But will her desire for a baby stop at nothing…? And between the two, feisty social worker Simran Singh is determined to uncover the truth behind the shadowy facade of the multi-million dollar surrogacy industry. Women and children are being exploited, their lives thrown away like so much dust. Is she is the only person prepared to stand up for what is right?

I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

by Rajesh Parameswaran
Bloomsbury Publishing,

ISBN 978-1408817766, £14.99

A Bengal tiger wakes up one morning realising he is ravenously in love. A pompous railway supervisor in a small Indian village bites off more than he can chew when a peculiar new clerk arrives on his doorstep. In another place and in another time, a secret agent who spends her days watching the front door of an unknown quarry discovers something she isn’t meant to. An immigrant housewife in an American suburb geeing up for Thanksgiving makes a wish she may come to regret. And a small and famous country’s only executioner claims his conscience is as clean as his heavy, washed stones. With this first collection, where reality loops in mind-bending twists and dazzles with cinematic exuberance, where frayed photographs take on a life of their own and where elephants wish only to die with dignity, Rajesh Parameswaran is a new talent on the literary landscape.

River of Smoke

by Amitav Ghosh. John Murray,

ISBN 978-0719568893, £7.99

In September 1838 a storm blows up on the Indian Ocean and the Ibis, a ship carrying a consignment of convicts and indentured labourers from Calcutta to Mauritius, is caught up in the whirlwind. When the seas settle, five men have disappeared – two lascars, two convicts and one of the passengers. Did the same storm upend the fortunes of those aboard the Anahita, an opium carrier heading towards Canton? And what fate befell those aboard the Redruth, a sturdy two-masted brig heading east out of Cornwall? Was it the storm that altered their course or were the destinies of these passengers at the mercy of even more powerful forces?

On the grand scale of an historical epic, River of Smoke follows its storm-tossed characters to the crowded harbours of China. There, despite efforts of the emperor to stop them, ships from Europe and India exchange their cargoes of opium for boxes of tea, silk, porcelain and silver. Among them are Bahram Modi, a wealthy Parsi opium merchant out of Bombay, his estranged half-Chinese son Ah Fatt, the orphaned Paulette and a motley collection of others whose pursuit of romance, riches and a legendary rare flower have thrown together.  All struggle to cope with their losses – and for some, unimaginable freedoms – in the alleys and crowded waterways of 19th-century Canton.

Drifting House

by Krys Lee. Faber and Faber,

ISBN 978-0571276189, £12.99

Alternating between the lives of Koreans struggling through 70 years of turbulent, post-World War Two history in their homeland and the communities of Korean immigrants grappling with assimilation in the United States, Krys Lee’s debut story collection Drifting House weaves together intricate tales of family and love, abandonment and loss on both sides of the Pacific. In the title story, children escaping famine in North Korea are forced to make unthinkable sacrifices to survive. The tales set in America reveal the immigrants’ unmoored existence, playing out in cramped apartments and Koreatown strip malls, from the abandoned wife in A Temporary Marriage, who enters into a sham marriage to find her kidnapped daughter to the makeshift family in At the Edge of the World which is fractured when a shaman from the old country moves in next door.

The Orphan Master’s Son

by Adam Johnson. Doubleday,

ISBN 978-0857520555, £18.99

This extraordinary novel is set in North Korea and explores one character’s life – Pak Jun Do, whose name is a pun for the common man, ‘John Doe’. Pak spent his early years in a harsh orphanage – The Long Tomorrows – then was pushed into a series of wildly improbable adventures (kidnapping Japanese citizens, toiling in a prison mine, meeting North Korea’s most famous propaganda-film actress) that eventually lead to an unforgettable outcome. In this book, the author has created an utterly believable universe, even though outsiders can never really know what really happens in the daily life of most North Koreans.

Dogs at the Perimeter

by Madeleine Thien. Granta,

ISBN 978-1847084903, £14.99

In the midst of a cold Montreal winter, a Cambodian woman, known only to us as ‘Janie’, separates from her husband and son. She takes refuge in the apartment of her friend, the neurologist Hiroji Matsui, but one day he leaves the Brain Research Centre where they are both employed and disappears into the night… We journey back thirty years from the moment of his vanishing to Janie as a young girl in Phnom Penh, where Cambodia is ruled by the brutal Khmer Rouge. People are seized in the night, families are torn apart, and hunger is everywhere. Helped by a defector, Janie escapes by sea, and arrives in Canada as a refugee. In Montreal, she meets Hiroji, whose brother James, a Red Cross doctor, disappeared in Cambodia in 1975 – and who, like Janie, is haunted by the many lives we carry within ourselves, and the unwieldy shards of history that we make efforts to displace, but fail to extinguish.

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken

by Tarquin Hall. Hutchinson,

ISBN 978-0091937416, £14.99

Book 3 in the series. Vish Puri is as fond of butter chicken as the next Punjabi. And when there’s plenty on offer at the Delhi Durbar hotel where he’s attending an India Premier League cricket match dinner, he is the first to tuck in. Irfan Khan, father of Pakistani star cricketer Kamran Khan, cannot resist either. But the creamy dish proves his undoing. After a few mouthfuls, he collapses on the floor, dead. Clearly this is not a case of Delhi Belly. But who amongst the Bollywood stars, politicians, bureaucrats and industrialists poisoned Khan is a mystery. And with the capital’s police chief proving as incompetent as ever, it falls to Most Private Investigators to find out the truth. Puri is soon able to link Khan to a bald bookie called Full Moon and all the clues point to the involvement of a gambling syndicate that controls the illegal X billion dollars betting industry. The answers seem to lie in Surat, the diamond cutting and polishing capital of the world (where Puri’s chief undercover operative Tubelight meets his match) and across the border in Pakistan, Puri’s nemesis, the one country where he has sworn never to set foot. Or do they? A certain determined, grey-haired lady with a unique insight into the murder believes that the portly detective is barking up ‘a wrong tree.’ Is Mummy-ji right? Is there more to the murder than meets the eye? And why, to make life even more complicated for Vish Puri, has someone tried to steal the longest moustache in the world – from right under the nose of its owner? Literally.  Great fun.


The Buddhas of Bamiyan

by Llewelyn Morgan. Profile Books,

ISBN 978-1846683763, £15.99

The Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan, carved in the 6th century, represented two aspects of the Buddha, universal and historical. In March 2001, the Taliban destroyed them. They were massive, 55m and 38m tall, hewn out of the solid rock face and it took weeks to bring them down. The Buddhas have a remarkable story to tell, from their creation at a time when Greek culture left behind by conquest influenced Buddhism to their role in the lead up to the destruction of two other colossi from a different era in New York in that same year. A book about the Buddhas is also a book about Bamiyan, a place that occupies one of the most strategic positions on earth and is also stunningly beautiful. And about the remarkable Hazara people who live in that valley and have played a central historical role in the history of the whole region. It is rare that a historical account of an extraordinary monument can also be of urgent contemporary relevance.

The Silk Road: A New History

by Valerie Hansen

Oxford University Press USA,

ISBN 978-0195159318, £20

In The Silk Road, Valerie Hansen describes the remarkable archaeological finds that revolutionize our understanding of these trade routes. For millennia, key records remained hidden – often deliberately buried by bureaucrats for safe keeping. But the sands of the Taklamakan Desert have revealed fascinating material, sometimes preserved by illiterate locals who recycled official documents to make insoles for shoes or garments for the dead. Hansen explores seven oases along the road, from northwest China to Samarkand, where merchants, envoys, pilgrims, and travellers mixed in cosmopolitan communities, tolerant of religions from Buddhism to Zoroastrianism. Hansen notes that there was no single, continuous road, but a chain of markets that traded between east and west. China and the Roman Empire had very little direct trade. China’s main partners were the peoples of modern-day Iran, whose tombs in China reveal much about their Zoroastrian beliefs. Hansen writes that silk was not the most important good on the road; paper, invented in China before Julius Caesar was born, had a bigger impact in Europe, while metals, spices, and glass were just as important as silk. Perhaps most significant of all was the road’s transmission of ideas, technologies,  and artistic motifs.

Asian Jewellery: Ethnic Rings, Bracelets, Necklaces, Earrings, Belts, Head Ornaments

by Bérénice Geoffroy-Schneiter

Skira, ISBN 978-8857208701, £29.95

A good reference book on the ethnic jewellery of Asian peoples that gives a comprehensive picture of jewellery beginning with prehistory and continuing into the 20th century with the works of contemporary designers. Ivory, beads, leather, shells, enamel work, precious metals, and stones, alone or in combination, are all illustrated throughout. Pieces chosen for their exceptional quality and historical importance, through wonderfully composed photographs, come to life here. It is rare for jewellery to have a solely aesthetic purpose, for above all it is anchored in the social, religious and political contexts that lend it meaning. Differing attitudes are explained by the function assigned to jewellery in the traditional societies from which the examples in the book are drawn.

Phantoms of Asia

Asian Art Museum, San Francisco,

ISBN 0939117592, US$35

In May 2012, nearly 30 leading contemporary artists from throughout Asia will present arresting and provocative works at the Asian Art Museum. Art objects from the museum’s extensive collection of traditional art will be juxtaposed with the contemporary works – not so much to compare the past and present as to expand our imaginations beyond space and time into the spiritual world and the afterlife.
Phantoms of Asia, the resulting publication, is a unique and intriguing exploration of the concept of Asia not as a block of political and economic interest but as an interconnected network of ‘phantoms’ of invisible spiritual energy.

Travels into Bokhara

by Alexander Burns. Ulan Press,

ASIN: B009UDSZ1Y, £19.99

This book was originally published prior to 1923, and represents a reproduction of an important historical work, maintaining the same format as the original work. While some publishers have opted to apply OCR (optical character recognition) technology to the process, this often leads to sub-optimal results (frequent typographical errors, strange characters and confusing formatting) and does not adequately preserve the historical character of the original. It is a work that is culturally important in its original archival form and needed a better imprint. Despite occasional imperfections, Ulan Press have brought it back into print as part of our ongoing global book preservation commitment, aiming to provide customers with access to the best possible historical reprints. This new edition was published September 2012.

The Mongols: A Very Short Introduction

by Morris Rossabi.

Oxford University Press USA,

ISBN 978-0-19-984089-2, £7.99

In the 13th and 14th centuries, the Mongols carved out the largest land-based empire in world history, stretching from Korea to Russia in the north and from China to Syria in the south, and unleashing an unprecedented level of violence. But as Morris Rossabi reveals in this Very Short Introduction, within two generations of their bloody conquests, the Mongols evolved from conquerors and predators to wise rulers who devised policies to foster the economies of the lands they had subjugated. By adopting political and economic institutions familiar to the local populations and recruiting native officials, they won over many of their non-Mongol subjects. In addition, Mongol nobles were ardent patrons of art and culture, supporting the production of Chinese porcelains and textiles, Iranian tiles and illustrated manuscripts, and Russian metalwork. Perhaps most important, the peace imposed by the Mongols on much of Asia and their promotion of trade resulted in considerable interaction among merchants, scientists, artists, and missionaries of different ethnic groups–including Europeans. Modern Eurasian and perhaps global history starts with the Mongol empire.

Indigo: The Colour that Changed the World

by Catherine Legrand. Thames and Hudson, ISBN 978-0500516607, £38

Well pieced together, much like the fine garments it portrays, this colourful volume takes the reader on an international tour of indigo-coloured textiles, presenting a huge swathe of remarkable clothing, people and fabric. Catherine Legrand, who has spent over 20 years travelling and researching the subject, has a deep knowledge of the ancient techniques, patterns and clothing traditions that characterise ethnic textile design, knowledge that she deploys to great effect in seven chapters exploring the production of Indigo textiles throughout America, China, India, Africa, Central Asia, Japan and Laos/Vietnam, and the men and women behind them. This illustrated photographic survey features more than 500 photographs, faithfully laid out to reproduce Catherine’s actual travel notebooks, and is completed by specially commissioned drawings that provide close-ups on patterns and clothes.

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