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A festive New York launch for the Berkshire Encyclopedia of China

I’m on my way to New York for a remarkable “Berkshire” event tomorrow: a China celebration in New York on May Day that brings the renowned author Simon Winchester, a resident of the Berkshires and a friend of Berkshire Publishing, to a lunch hosted by Jones Day and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. Here’s the invitation. More about the synchronicities tomorrow — along with photographs!

We are pleased to invite you to a luncheon program to hear renowned author, journalist, and broadcaster Simon Winchester discuss his latest book, The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom (HarperCollins, 2008) and share his thoughts about the life of its subject, Sir Joseph Needham.

Needham (1900-1995), the great Sinologist and English don, is a legend for his 24-volume encyclopedia Science and Civilization in China. His writings also shaped the West’s understanding of China through inquiries such as the famous “Needham question,” which asks why China failed to industrialize when Europe did, despite its prior achievements in printing, explosives, navigation, hydraulics, ceramics and governance.

Needham’s unconventional life took him from biochemical research in Britain to behind the front lines of Japanese-occupied China at the British government’s request. His intellectual curiosity, energy and peculiar lifestyle captured Winchester’s imagination and led to this book chronicling Needham’s remarkable contributions. Winchester believes that a contemporary understanding of China ought to be grounded in Needham’s life work cataloging all that fascinated him about China, from invention to Sino-British cultural and scientific exchange.

Simon Winchester studied geology at Oxford and has written for Condé Nast Traveler, Smithsonian, and National Geographic. Like Needham, Winchester’s work is very eclectic: he has written, to name just a few, The River at the Center of the World, about China’s Yangtze River; books about the great California earthquake of 1906 and the Krakatoa earthquake of 1883; and the best-selling The Professor and the Madman, which is to be made into a major film.

The program is being held in conjunction with the publication of the Encyclopedia of China (Berkshire, 2009) by National Committee member Karen Christensen.

This special program will be held Friday, May 1. Complimentary lunch courtesy of our host, Jones Day, will be available from 12:15 to 1:00 pm. The program will follow from 1:00 to 2:00 pm.

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