A Taste of Beijing: George Hogg and Joseph Needham


In September this year, the Beijing Publishing Group (BPG), Peking University (PKU) and the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU) held the event ‘A Taste of China’ at the British Library in London. The event featured lectures by key-note speakers and the promotion of newly published books by the BPG. The winners of the Needham Essay Competition (Anneka Shah of Oundle School and Robbie Pope of St. George’s School) were also invited to attend the event and have their essays celebrated.

The Needham Essay Competition is in memory of Joseph Needham (pictured), a former Oundle student who went onto study Biochemistry at Cambridge University in 1918. 220px-joseph_needhamNeedham is best known for his magnum opus, Science and Civilisation in China, for which he wrote the first 15 volumes about Chinese technological achievement. Needham took to learning Chinese after the visit of three Chinese research students to the Biochemistry Department in the mid-1930s. In 1942 he was sent to become Scientific Counsellor to Chiang Kai-shek’s government at Chungking where he immersed himself in the historical records of China’s science1. Needham’s biography by Simon Winchester, The Man Who Loved China was launched as one BPG’s newly published books at ‘A Taste of Beijing’.


George Hogg in China – Courtesy of St. George’s School

Another incredibly important book, I See a New China by George Hogg was also introduced as one of the BPG’s newly published books. Hogg was a student of St. George’s School in Harpenden during the late 1920s, before going onto study Economics at Oxford University. After completing his undergraduate degree, Hogg travelled to Japan and China. Hogg arrived in Shanghai, in 1938, shortly after the Japanese invasion and four years later he took the post of headmaster at one of Chinese Industrial Cooperative’s Bailie schools in the remote town of Shuangshipu in Shaanxi province. By December 1944, the future of the school was in peril with the advance of the Japanese armies. As a result, Hogg set off with 30 boys on a 10-week trek across the mountains to Shandan in neighbouring Gansu province. They eventually arrived at their destination and set about re-establishing the school in the buildings of an old temple. Just months later, Hogg caught tetanus after stubbing his toe while playing basketball with the boys, and died3.


Whilst in China, Hogg adopted four brothers. Two of the those brothers visited St. George’s School in 2008 (Courtesy of St. George’s School)

‘A Taste of Beijing’ has remembered the extraordinary lives of Joseph Needham and George Hogg, who contributed greatly to Anglo-Chinese relations and helped forge better understandings of both cultures. Congratulations once again to the two winners of the Needham Essay Competition, Anneka Shah and Robbie Pope.


  1. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/obituaryjoseph-needham-1612984.html
  2. http://www.harpenden-history.org.uk/page/george_hogg_1915-1945_and_st_georges_school_-_1927-1934?path=0p25p27p
  3. http://www.sacu.org/georgehogg.html