Here at Bespoke we’re known (we hope!) for the stellar line up of experts and guides that bring serious chops to our tours across China. Well, for reasons that we probably don’t need to go into, we’re unable to run actual on-the-ground tours right now. But here’s the good news: we’ve lined up a series of fabulous speakers that will, via the magic of modern technology (also known as Zoom), be broadcast live and direct to your living rooms to speak on a series of tantalising China-related topics that range from true crime through to tea appreciation and hand-pulled noodle classes.
We’ve set up an initial series of seven sessions that, as outlined below, will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from the 14th of April. Not only are they a great way to keep your brain active, but also to support a small company like Bespoke as travel becomes all but impossible.
Each talk cost 80 CNY (approx 10 EUR / 11 USD) per session, or you can snap up a Full Access Pass to the entire set of talks for 400 RMB ( 52 EUR / 56 USD) by clicking right here. That’s over ten hours of entertainment for less than the price of a meal out: Just think of the knowledge you’ll acquire!
What’s more, if you are unable to make any of the talks after paying, we are recording each session and will send you the file afterwards for you to enjoy at a better time. Here’s what’s on:
1. Sojourning in Peking: The surprising Western Aesthetes that once called Beijing home
Date: Tuesday April 14, 2020 at 7 pm China Standard Time/12 pm GMT
The Talk: In the 1930s, a motley crew of foreigners that became known as the ‘Peking Aesthetes’ resided in the city’s ancient hutong neighborhoods where they wrote novels, studied the language, learnt Chinese painting and even, in some cases, explored what was a surprisingly vibrant gay scene. Our speakers have chosen their favorite ‘original hutong hipsters’ to discuss during this talk, and will spill the beans on the likes of Wallis Simpson and Anna May Wong to boot – giving us a unique glimpse into the lives of the famous foreign residents you didn’t even know had spent time in China.
Speakers: Paul French & Jeremiah Jenne
New York Times bestselling Author Paul French is one of the best-known chroniclers of old China, having written Midnight in Peking and Murders of Old China, as well as other bestsellers brimming with gangsters, chancers and raffish rogues from the wrong side of the tracks. Jeremiah Jenne is a beloved, Beijing-based historian, writer and expert guide who brings the sights of the capital to life with his extensive research and vivid storytelling, as well as being a charismatic commentator on contemporary China.
2. All the Tea in China: A masterclass in Chinese tea appreciation
Date: Thursday April 16, 2020 at 7pm China Standard Time / 12pm GMT
The Talk: OK so we’ve all tried green tea but after this you’ll never drink your cup of cha in the same way again. Our session is designed to provide cultural and historical context on the plant that changed the world (an adventure which takes us from China to the UK by way of devious international espionage) plus a demonstration of loose leaf tea prep, including the accessories required to make a good cuppa the proper way. In China, tea appreciation is an art every bit as complex and sophisticated as wine culture is in Europe and Tracy will offer some tasting notes to ensure you enjoy your brew in a new light.
Speaker: Tracy Lesh
In 2007, Tracy left Florida as a coffee-drinking mortgage lender to follow her spouse to China. When she arrived, she discovered that tea was a 5,000-year-old culture, opening the door to a whole new world. She is now a certified tea expert who has designed and led tea-focussed educational experiences through the wholesale markets of Shanghai as well as to some of the best-known plantations of Hangzhou and Suzhou.
3. Shanghai, Sassoon and the Cathay: How a visionary Iraqi-Jewish entrepreneur built the world’s most glamorous hotel
Date: Tuesday April 21, 2020 at 7pm China Standard Time / 12pm GMT
The Talk: 1930s Shanghai was the Far East’s most cosmopolitan city, a city that exuded luxury, style and excitement attracting businessmen, thrill-seekers and refugees from across the globe. Nowhere represented this more than Sir Victor Sassoon’s Cathay Hotel (now the Peace Hotel), an Art Deco masterpiece that towers above Shanghai’s Bund and was the heart of the city’s wild social scene. The fortunes of the hotel have since mirrored those of the city, weathering war, revolution and social upheaval. Join Peter as he shares the fascinating stories and personalities behind the city’s most iconic landmark.
Speaker: Peter Hibbard MBE
Not only is Peter one of the leading authorities on old Shanghai, it’s fair to say he knows a thing or two about historic hotels: he currently serves as Heritage and Archive Ambassador to The Peninsula Hong Kong and wrote Peace at the Cathay, the definitive work on the Peace Hotel, which was published in 2011. He lived in Shanghai for many years, reviving the Royal Asiatic Society, acting as an expert guide and publishing a number of key works on the city’s foreign concession era before he returned to the UK in 2013.
4. Eight Golden Treasures: The ancient Chinese workout that will keep you fighting fit during lockdown
Date: Thursday April 23, 2020 at 5pm China Standard Time / 10am GMT
The Talk: Think you’re coordinated? Let’s see what you got. This 10-minute set of Daoist exercises changed our lives so we hope they’ll do the same for you! While it may be easy to dismiss some aspects of Chinese traditional medicine (ahem), you can’t argue with a set of movements that have been keeping Chinese warriors healthy for a couple of thousand years, and this qigong routine is a winner. Not only is the sequence amazing for flexibility and strength, but each movement is designed to benefit (even massage) your internal organs to keep them functioning well. Our resident martial arts master will teach you how to regulate your breathing, stretch those muscles and, most importantly, align yourself with the Universe. You know, before you kill that family member for not doing the washing up properly.
Speaker: Eric Liu
Eric Liu began his Kung Fu training at the tender age of 14. A specialist in internal martial arts and the more in-depth aspects of traditional Chinese culture such as Daoism and the I-Ching, he’s the perfect person to explain the ancient Chinese wisdom behind the 8 Golden Treasures. His passion for finding ways to maintain good health and a positive mental state to prevent illness is what drives him, and he’s been teaching Tai Chi in Beijing’s beautiful parks to Bespoke’s clients for many years now.
5. The Life of Empress Dowager Cixi: China’s most remarkable and misunderstood defacto ruler
Date: Tuesday April 28, 2020 at 7pm China Standard Time / 12pm GMT
The Talk: Like a phoenix, she rose from the ashes of a palace demolished by foreign troops to become one of the most powerful women in the world. China’s Empress Dowager Cixi (pronounced “suh-shee”) ruled from 1861 to 1908 and is one of the most notorious figures in Modern Chinese history. For nearly half a century, she used her cunning and connections to rule China from behind the throne, but she’s also been accused of being heartless, presiding over the country’s downfall, and for amassing a huge fortune which she proceeded to spend on fripperies such as marble boats.
As always, though, the real story is much more complicated. Are the scathing depictions of her fair? Or is she just another victim of History not Herstory? Join Bespoke favourite Jeremiah Jenne as he unpacks the life of China’s most influential female. In the absence of a chance to tour Cixi’s beloved Summer Palace with him, we promise this is the next best thing.
Speaker: Jeremiah Jenne
Jeremiah Jenne is a writer and academic based in Beijing since 2002. He taught Late Imperial and Modern Chinese History for over 13 years and has written extensively on China for The Economist, South China Morning Post, Los Angeles Review of Books and others. Jeremiah is frequently asked to speak or lead workshops on Chinese history, culture, and cultural adaptation for students, embassies, organizations, and company groups from around the world.
6. Hand-Pulled Noodle Making Class: How to make an easy, affordable and fun Chinese meal for the whole family
Date: Thursday April 30, 2020 at 7pm China Standard Time / 12pm GMT
The Talk: In the most appropriate way possible, we’re going to send you some noods over Zoom. That’s right, we’re going to show you how to make those amazing hand pulled noodles you see in Asian food shows. You know the ones – a chef takes each end of a chunk of dough and slowly pulls it apart with a bouncing motion until it becomes a perfect, springy long noodle. Looks complicated, but happily, it really isn’t – especially when you have an expert showing you how. With just some flour, water, oil, eggs and tomatoes, Bespoke’s favorite chef will teach you how to whip up a tasty and authentic Chinese dish in less than 45 minutes, and have fun doing it! A perfect class for the whole family to join.
Speaker: Sue Zhou
Bespoke’s Chinese Cuisine Expert is a China-born, Holland-raised chef, restaurateur and all round good ji dan* (*that’s ‘egg’ in Chinese) who is passionate about bringing Chinese food to the world. She is an experienced food educator, food consultant and chef, and has spent years documenting the food from different regions of China by cooking as much as possible with elderly locals wherever she goes!
7. Murders of Old China: The foreigners caught up in China’s most controversial killings, and the mysteries solved a century on
Date: Tuesday May 5, 2020 at 7pm China Standard Time / 12pm GMT
The Talk: We’ve saved the best till last! Revenge, passion, greed, racism, corruption…this talk has it all. Following his triumph in retrospectively ‘solving’ the 1937 Pamela Werner murder in bestseller Midnight in Peking, Paul French has returned to true crime in his latest work for Audible Originals to reinvestigate a dozen controversial murder cases in old China, uncovering startling new evidence over a century later. Why did a remote police station, built to combat pirates, find itself at the centre of a murder-suicide after a constable went on the rampage? Who was trafficking vulnerable women from Europe to Shanghai in the early 1900s? How did Chinese gangsters avoid conviction after serving a deadly dinner to Shanghai’s elite? And why is Britain’s Foreign Office still withholding a key document crucial to solving a murder that took place in the Gobi desert in 1935?
By delving deep into twelve of China’s most fascinating murder cases, this talk delivers a rip roaring journey through China’s early 20th-century history and its criminal under-belly, with cases in Peking, Tianjin, Shanghai and Hong Kong included. A real treat of a talk to close out our Speaker Series.
Note for those wanting to enjoy the book in advance: Murders of Old China is available exclusively on Audible Originals, and is downloadable worldwide. Audible subscribers can use a credit, while non-subscribers can sign up to Audible to get this book for free as part of a one-month trial. Please note that you can cancel your subscription any time before the trial expires if you do not wish to pay for Audible monthly.
Speaker: Paul French
Paul French is the award-winning British author and China expert who lived in China for more than a decade before returning to the UK. He is a widely published analyst and commentator whose books include a biography of Shanghai adventurer Carl Crow, and a history of foreign correspondents in China, among others. He is the author of New York Times Bestseller Midnight in Peking, and most recently, the Audible Originals exclusive Murders of Old China.
For the full range of talks on offer, and to purchase tickets, click HERE.
Want to support Bespoke and join us for the whole season, or send a gift to a friend? You can purchase a Full Access Pass to all 7 sessions RIGHT HERE. And don’t worry, for those of you not used to Zoom, we’ll send clear instructions two days in advance of each talk.
If you need more information shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org