David Tang

Hong Kong Notebook

I have an aunt who is a 90-year-old Chinese Catholic nun. Until last year she was confined to a wheelchair, badly arthritic, and totally blind, but then a miraculous operation gave her back sight in one eye. Last week, to celebrate the Chinese New Year, she bravely travelled from her home in Wicklow to Hong

Letter from the Far East

In a tiny flat in Peking I heard a 105-year-old Chinese man explain how he was responsible for the capital of China being called Beijing. The centenarian, Mr Zhou Youguang, was the founder of Pinyin, the system of phonetic transliteration for all the Chinese characters. It might be argued that he is one of the

Diary – 8 August 2009

If you want to place-drop seriously, Bayreuth weighs in at a couple of tons. It has to be the snootiest place on earth to spend the height of one’s summer, though it’s not immediately obvious why. It’s not the Côte d’Azur nor the Amalfi coast, which offer the perfect climate and geology for beautiful people

Heed the Chinese ghosts of Morecambe Bay

‘Since Dad went to work in England, Mum and I have been missing him all the time. Dad isn’t young anymore and he’s alone in a foreign country. It’s all because of me. What an unworthy daughter I am! Dad wants me to go to university and have a good life. He’s making money for

Kabul Notebook

The grandson of the King told my wife and me at dinner that we were ‘the only two tourists in Kabul’! In fact, we nearly did not arrive because on the eve of our flight, the aid-worker Gayle Williams was shot dead by the Taleban in broad daylight. The incident made world headlines and the

Diary – 16 August 2008

An immediate rumour after the opening ceremony at the Beijing Games was that an emergency meeting of the British Olympic Committee was convened in order to find an excuse for cancelling London 2012. There might have been even greater panic because Britain is expected to produce a ‘performance’ of eight minutes as part of the

Imagine the terror of the Chinese officials

David Tang reflects on his visits to Beijing in the run-up to the Games, where Western expertise has been harnessed to the ruthless efficiency of China’s government machine Albert Speer was commissioned by the Chinese government to lay out a masterplan for the access to the Olympic Green in Beijing. His design consisted of one

Diary – 9 February 2008

David Tang reflects on the storms in China, and on being ‘Googled’ My daughter telephoned to say, to my disbelief, that she was snowbound in Hangzhou, where it never snows. The city is regarded as the most beautiful in China, with swaying willows surrounding an old lagoon on the edge of which Mao Tse-tung loved staying.

Mark Birley: a man who was right in everything

We had arranged to see Mark Birley at noon on the day he died. But my wife Lucy and I were just too late. He had suffered a stroke that morning. We missed him by a couple of hours and now, forever. I heard confirmation of the terrible news as I boarded a plane for

Thatcher, me and Hong Kong

It’s not enough, if you wanted a rare interview with Lady T, just to cosy up to her. This would only, in the parlance of formal logic, be a necessary but not sufficient condition. So first I took her out to lunch — at Scott’s. As we entered the restaurant, I observed to Lady T:

Diary – 4 August 2006

‘The true function of a writer is to produce a masterpiece and …no other task is of any consequence.’ So Palinurus, aka Cyril Connolly, warns in the opening sentence of The Unquiet Grave. This ruthless reminder made me totally depressed as I published my first book in English in Hong Kong last week. Obviously it’s