WildChina Book Club:
Fragile Cargo by Adam Brookes (Event #102)
For our February book club we’re reading “Fragile Cargo: China’s Wartime Race to Save the Treasures of the Forbidden City” in preparation for our chat with the author, Adam Brookes.
In 1933, as Japanese armies ravaged China, a small band of Chinese museum curators in Peking packed the imperial art collections of the Forbidden City for evacuation to safety.
For sixteen years, these devoted curators shepherded twenty thousand cases of irreplaceable art through war-torn China. The cases traveled by steamship and train, truck and bamboo raft. They journeyed thousands of miles up vast rivers and over mountain ranges, through bombing and famine, across the unimaginable destruction of China’s second world war.
Overseeing this extraordinary effort of conservation was Professor Ma Heng, a reticent, unassuming scholar of ancient inscriptions. Professor Ma’s decades-long commitment to preserving the imperial art collections of China brought him, at the end of his life, only fear and humiliation.
In Fragile Cargo, Adam Brookes brings us – for the first time in English – the story of Ma Heng, the wartime curators of Peking, and their invaluable cargo.Purchase the book here
Speaker for Kingdom of Characters
Adam Brookes grew up in the UK and studied Chinese at SOAS, University of London.
For many years he was a reporter for BBC News and served as correspondent in Jakarta, Beijing and Washington DC.