THE BOOKS

The China Lovers

John Byron's first book was The China Lovers, which was a detective story set in the Beijing of the early 1980s, and which set out to describe the complex bureaucratic rivalries that were emerging in a society in which the ways of the Communist Party were being challenged by the policy of economic reform, and by the renaissance of a long-suppressed Chinese passion for the material and spiritual values of the outside world

The China Lovers came out in 1985, published by the South China Morning Post.  Read more...

Portrait of a Chinese Paradise

John Byron lived in Beijing from 1981 through to 1984 and during those four years he succeeded in accumulating a considerable collection of Chinese erotic art, most of which dated back to the second half of the Qing Dynasty, which had been overthrown in 1911.  After leaving Beijing he began an intensive investigation into the origins of this material, exploring Robert van Gulik's pioneering work on Chinese erotic art and culture, and also drawing on the Chinese books about erotica and prostitution that appeared in the 1920s and 1930s.  Following the Communist takeover in 1949, of course, the Chinese tradition of erotic art and culture was ruthlessly suppressed, and nothing was published on the subject until the 1990s.  The result of Byron's research into traditional Chinese erotic art and culture was Portrait of A Chinese Paradise, which was published by Quartet Books in London in 1987.  Read more...

The Claws of the Dragon

This book is the most important of Byron's publications so far.  The Claws of the Dragon is a biography of Kang Sheng, a shadowy but seminal figure in the creation of the Communist Chinese state.  Kang Sheng was the creator of the Communist intelligence service, but his role extended far beyond that of a spymaster, and he became Mao Zedong's chief adviser on ideological issues and on relations with the Soviet Union.  Drawing on secret Chinese Communist Party documents that Byron managed to obtain while living in Beijing in the early 1980s, The Claws of the Dragon was the first of the line of books that have now emerged revealing the major flaws in Mao's policies and approach to politics.  Read more...

To Eastern Lands

To Eastern Lands is a collection of poetry, perhaps more accurately described as "verse", which recounts many of the encounters and experiences that oriented the author to become deeply engaged in Asian issues, from the personal through to the cultural and political.  The verse is presented in four sections --- grammar school days, the time spent working as a journalist in India, information and insights gained while at university, and time spent on the diplomatic stage. Read more...


The China Dream

The China Dream features the translation of a collection of 14 Chinese poems by Yan Zhen, a famous Chinese poet and painter. The format Chinese use when publishing a book that includes the originals and translations does not feature the translator's name on the front cover, but just focuses on the author, so the cover of this volume does not mention that the poems were all translated by John Byron, under his real name Roger Uren. The poem "The China Dream", which was selected as the title of the volume, offers a unique view of Chinese society and culture today, and the impact of materialism on the Chinese psyche.   Read more...


© John Byron - 2017