China’s New Silk Road: Weekly Arts & Culture Round Up – July 3, 2020

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The Corruption & Decadence Issue

Dictators Without Borders: Power & Money In Central Asia
This impressive book provides a penetrating look into the unrecognized and unregulated links between autocratic regimes in Central Asia and centers of power and wealth throughout the West. The former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are often dismissed as isolated and irrelevant to the outside world. But are they? This hard-hitting book argues that Central Asia is in reality a globalization leader with extensive involvement in economics, politics and security dynamics beyond its borders. Yet Central Asia’s international activities are mostly hidden from view.

Based on years of research and involvement in the region, Alexander Cooley and John Heathershaw reveal how business networks, elite bank accounts, overseas courts, third-party brokers, and Western lawyers connect Central Asia’s supposedly isolated leaders with global power centers. The authors also uncover widespread Western participation in money laundering, bribery, foreign lobbying by autocratic governments, and the exploiting of legal loopholes within Central Asia. Riveting and important, this book exposes the global connections of an influential region that can no longer be ignored. Available here

The Sogdian’s – Ancient Decadent China 
There’s a great article here about the Sogdian’s, a little known tribe of traders who benefited from bringing Chinese luxury goods to Iran, Turkic tribes, and others in their region. Sogdians maintained permanent neighborhoods in Chinese cities, enjoyed the favor of Chinese rulers, were extremely wealthy, and lived an elegant life in both China and the region. Sogdians were well-known in China, not only for their talent in commerce, but also for their music, dances, and art. Sogdians became the scapegoats for the decline of the Tang dynasty; Sogdian arts came to be seen as disgraceful and decadent. Yet they still influence Chinese culture today.

Kublai Khan’s Pleasure Dome 
The ancient capital of Mongolia, Kharokharam, was the seat of power for the most advanced empire at the time that the world have ever seen. Nestling in a valley to the North-West of Mongolia close to the border of todays Kazakhstan, the city must have been an impressive sight. It was from here that Kublai Khan and his advisors planned the conquest of China. Yet even Emperors and Generals need entertaining, and valuable individuals were captured to provide Kharokharem with the very best in decadent works of art and lifestyles. A French silversmith was captured while in the Caucasus and brought here to construct a 3 storey tall silver fountain, whose dragon heads poured out Wine, Spirits, Beer and Milk to the waiting. A copy is still there today. As for the Pleasure Dome, a massive Ger contained sections to which all manner of sexual activity awaited the invited, where every fantasy or kink could be sated, including the use of girls, boys and even animals in acts that would be considered highly illegal in today’s more prudish and less adventurous era. Samuel Coleridge wrote a poem about it, available here, while the British group Frannkie Goes To Hollywood used both that and a recreation of the Dome itself for the video “Welcome To The Pleasure Dome“.

Today there is an excellent museum on the site, with texts written by Kublai Khan in which he notes regret over his “spending too much time with naughty women”.

GooGosha – Unutma Meni 
What do you do when you’re one of the world’s richest women, glamorous, sexy, beautiful, have a Daddy as a dictator and a seat on the UN? That’s right, you release a pop single in your native country before being sentenced, upon your Fathers demise, to ten years imprisonment for embezzling over US$1.3 billion. That’s what happened to Gulnara Karimova, daughter of Islam Karimov, the hard line President of Uzbekistan until his death in 2016. GooGosha was her Daddy’s pet name for her as a child.

Her troubles didn’t prevent Russian musician Maxim Fadeev from writing and producing a tribute to her though. His hit single about her simply titled “GooGosha” which has to be said is pretty stylish, didn’t exactly help her cause when depicting expensive cars, jewelry and a lifestyle way beyond most Uzbeks. Still, if Gulnara is able to read this, reflect upon the good times, eh?

Imelda Marcos’s Shoes
Mind you, making pop songs isn’t quite as impressive as the shoe collection Imelda Marcos managed to acquire. 3,000 pairs. A tour is available here Despite obvious signs of corruption, and fleeing to the United States for five years, she eventually returned to the Philippines, and is free and supportive of political issues. She is worth about US$3 billion and regarded as a heroine among many Filipina women. Concerning criticisms, she has justified her extravagant clothing by saying that it “inspired the poor to dress better”, while in response to an accusation by Newsweek as being one of the “greediest people of all time”, Marcos replied “I plead guilty. For me, greedy is giving. I was first lady for 20 years, you have to be greedy first to give to all. It is natural. The only things we keep in life are those we give away.” Fatboy Slim and David Byrne released a musical about her life, entitled “Here Lies Love.” Here’s the video:

Chris’s Colonial Cocktails – The Paris Ritz Sidecar 
From – the Bar Hemingway, Hotel Ritz, Paris.
This is the actual birthplace of the sidecar, a drink that was created to take the chill off for a regular customer who arrived by motorcycle with sidecar. Former keeper of the Guinness World Record for the most expensive cocktail, it starts with extremely rare 1865 Ritz Reserve cognac, made from grapes that were on the vine before the devastating phylloxera infestation of the 1860s. Only a few bottles remain. One will set you back over US$500.

About Us

Silk Road Briefing is published by Dezan Shira & Associates. Chris Devonshire-Ellis is the practice Chairman. Please contact Chris at silkroad@dezshira.com or through his Linked In account, or visit the firm at www.dezshira.com

 

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