Speaking Engagements

Dr Jonathan Clements is an experienced public speaker at universities, colleges, museums and for international tour groups, as well on television and radio. Venues have included Asia House, the Finnish Institute, the National Portrait Gallery, the Reform Club, the Hong Kong Society and the RAC Club in London, the Liverpool World Museum, Screen Academy Wales, the Universities of East Anglia, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Nottingham and Trinity St David in the UK, the Irish Film Institute, Xi’an Jiaotong University in China, the Royal Geographical Society of Hong Kong, the Yokosuka Council on Asia-Pacific Studies and convention or festival appearances in the Czech Republic, India, Italy, Finland, Norway, Switzerland and the United States.

Bookings can be arranged through his agents, Fox & Howard.

Here are just some of the topics covered:

The Claims and Controversies of Marco Polo
The life and journeys of the famous Marco Polo, including an appraisal of the many misunderstandings and misleading statements both by Polo himself, and by generations of later scholars. Did he bring ice cream and pasta to Italy? Why doesn’t he show up in the records of Khubilai Khan’s administration? Was there a Mrs Polo in the east? Did he go to China at all?

…for the armchair traveller
An original history of the Beijing region – from its prehistoric roots to its place in myth as the site of wars between demigods, its forgotten 101 years as a kingdom in its own right, through the many centuries of the imperial era and the rise of Communism, through to the changes brought on by the 2008 Olympics, the city’s meteoric modernisation, and today’s “airpocalypse.”

A European perspective
Xi Jinping’s global investment scheme as it looks from its western end, in the context of less successful ventures by other powers, and in the history of international trade. Has Chinese enthusiasm for globalisation obscured the parallels with British imperialism?

How a warrior elite seized control of Japan.
They called themselves “They Who Serve”, the samurai – the disinherited sons of minor imperial princes, packed off to the north to win their fortunes seizing new domains. Instead, they fought among themselves and carried their violent way of life all the way back to the sleepy capital. The evolution of samurai arms and armour, and the transformative effect this warrior elite had on Japanese history and culture.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is emperors-feast-cover.jpgChop suey, snake oil and the Chinese diaspora
“Cantonese” has become a slippery term in modern Chinese, applied to a whole province, riding roughshod over local distinctions such as the Hakka and Teochew peoples, but also ignoring historical connections that extend far outside the borders of modern Guangdong. We examine Hong Kong’s role as a lifeboat for preserving Chinese culture, and as a gateway between China the the world, everything from the echoes of the Tang dynasty in the local language and the role of Hong Kong restaurants in the Republican Revolution, to the colony’s massive influence on restaurant culture in the rest of China.

The Man Behind the Myths
Often quoted but rarely understood, the thought of Confucius has shaped 2500 years of Asian history. Jonathan Clements outlines the life and times of China’s greatest philosopher, concentrating on sides rarely seen – the younger years of Confucius, his interaction with his pupils, his feuds with his enemies and even his sarcastic wit.

The True Story of the Shimabara Rebellion
The incredible story of the apocalyptic 1637 uprising in Shimabara and the Amakusa archipelago, which pitted the samurai elite against retired soldiers and starving farmers who claimed to be led by a teenage messiah. A taboo subject for 250 years, it saw the extermination of 37,000 alleged Christian believers, but is now one of the central themes in the folklore and tourism of southern Japan.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is silk-road-chinese.jpgTHE INVENTION OF THE SILK ROAD
The origins of China’s most famous trade route
The Silk Road is not a place, but a journey – a route from the edges of the European world to the central plains of China, through high mountains and inhospitable deserts. But the name is an invention of the 19th century, from the period when several imperial powers duelled fiercely over the chance to access its people and resources. Jonathan Clements introduces some of the oddities of its history, and their implications for the modern visitor to western China.

Hokkaido in Asian history.
The changing place of the island of Hokkaido in Japanese history – a distant frontier in the samurai age, a last redoubt of Japan’s aboriginal Ainu people, and home to many new-fangled foreign experiments in the 19th century, including cattle ranches and beer. Find out all about Hokkaido’s controversial six months as the “Republic of Ezo”, home to the last samurai, and its crucial role in the dying days of World War Two.

Admiral Tōgō and the British
The dramatic relationship between Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō (1848-1934) and the UK, beginning with the “Anglo-Satsuma War” of 1863, and continuing with his youthful years as a student at a Kent maritime school. In 1905, after Tōgō’s defeat of the Tsar’s fleet at the Battle of Tsushima, he was hailed as the “Nelson of the East” and an honorary Englishman.

The Turbulent Life of the “Pirate King” Coxinga
His mother was a samurai. His father was the richest pirate in the world. He grew up in the midst of a vibrant, illegal maritime trade between Japan and China. Besieged by Manchu invaders and betrayed by his family, he stayed true to a dying dynasty. After he died, his enemies worshipped him a god. Jonathan Clements chronicles the incredible true story of Coxinga (1624-1662), last hero of the Ming dynasty, and conqueror of Taiwan, the first modern-era Asian commander to win a battle against Europeans.

Behind the scenes on Japan’s media mix
The boondoggles and delusions, booms and busts of Japan’s animation business as it thrashes around in search of a cure for piracy, an audience that will pay for stuff, and a foreign footprint bigger than some guy’s living room. Warning: contains charts, and possibly a little bit of exasperated swearing.

Translating Japanese animation
A guide to maintaining professional standards when the actors have ten minutes to learn their lines, the director can’t pronounce the name of the show, and the producer thinks you’re an enemy spy.

Samurai-era Tokyo as revealed in woodblock prints
From images of the Shogun’s capital to intimate prints of geisha and kabuki celebrities, Jonathan Clements uses Japanese woodblock prints to explore the life and culture of old-time Tokyo. Glimpse forgotten technologies, scandals and fads of a time when Japan was shut away from the world outside, and witness the far-ranging impact of its art when the walls came down in the 19th century.

Celebrity, Sleaze and Spin in Medieval China
An examination of the myths and achievements of the only woman ever to rule China in her own name. Empress Wu Zetian (625-705AD) was the wife of two emperors, mother of two more, and was proclaimed a living goddess in a lifetime of scandal and intrigue.

In this workshop, delegates are put through a real-life brainstorming process to create the outline of a new animated TV show for a fictional corporation. They will experience the joy of new ideas and the misery of unwelcome truths from the company accountants. Their storyline will be subjected to due diligence from many real-world perspectives — as well as standard craft issues, they will be made to consider the effects of design, packaging, advertising, budgets, spin-offs, legal issues, broadcast paradigms, the international market, audience reception and earlier precedents.

The process is an exercise, but the directives are all genuine decisions made by real-world companies. Aspiring writers, designers and animators are all welcome –
as in the real world, the workshop comprises group efforts to reach saleable solutions.

The Life and Legends of the First Emperor of China.
Jonathan Clements tells the fascinating story of the brutal Qin Emperor. Crowned king while still a child, he was raised in a state devoted to the domination of the known world. Builder of the Great Wall and architect of China as we know it, this ruthless conqueror declared war on death itself, and is guarded to this day by the famous Terracotta Army.

The First Emperor’s tomb and the Fall of Qin
The place of the First Emperor’s tomb in the history of the Qin state, curiosities of its construction, and the tragic events that followed his death. Whatever happened to the Second Emperor…?

Kyoto in Japanese history
For a thousand years, the sleepy city of Kyoto was the capital of Japan, home to the emperors and the epicentre of Japanese culture. Jonathan Clements examines its history as a luxurious enclave of 5,000 lucky aristocrats, built in imitation of China’s legendary Chang’an, walled off from the dangers of the medieval world. Find about its place in Japanese literature, culture and religious life, from temples to tea ceremonies.

From Bronze Age sacrifices to the modern Chinatown
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is emperors-feast-cover.jpgThe diverse history of China as revealed through its food and drink, from the drunken priest-kings of the Shang dynasty to Tang noblewomen experimenting with tea and lychees, to the stand-off between Mongols and Muslims over halal meat. How have changes in politics, technology and ingredients have altered “Chinese” food over the centuries, as the nation copes with new peoples, crops and climate conditions?

Carl Gustaf Mannerheim and the Far East
The story of Carl Gustaf Mannerheim (1867-1951) the cavalry officer in the Tsar’s service who fought the Japanese in Manchuria and subsequently volunteered for a two-year spying mission in China. Returning to his native Finland during the Russian Revolution, he would enjoy a second, unexpected career as the newly independent country’s regent, wartime leader and, ultimately, president.

A Storm in the East
Seven decades after the end of the Second World War, Japan and Russia have yet to sign a peace treaty. Jonathan Clements investigates the history of Russo-Japanese relations, taking in an assassination attempt on the Tsar, the pivotal “World War Zero”, and Japan’s forgotten invasion of Siberia.