IlluminAsia is a newsletter about Asia's influence on Western life - history, culture, food, religion and philosophy. All posts are free to read.

My name is Christopher Harding and I’m a cultural historian of Japan, India and East-West connections, based at the University of Edinburgh.

If I tell you that IlluminAsia is the product of inadequate schooling, you might not find yourself rushing to hit the ‘subscribe’ button. But bear with me…

I’m a child of the 1980s and 90s, and back then we didn’t learn much about Asia at school. Instead it was Romans, Tudors and Nazis on repeat. When soldiers from India turned up to fight in the First World War, it seemed awfully generous of them to be helping us out – we’d been taught almost nothing about the British Empire. 

I’ve been trying to make up for this ever since, in my writing, broadcasting (amongst other things, I present episodes of BBC radio’s Free Thinking) and now this newsletter. IlluminAsia is all about the enlightening, enlivening effect of Asian culture on Western life - from the wisdom traditions that once inspired the Beatles to lead a celebrity pilgrimage out to India through to art, fashion, drama, cuisine and K-pop.

For those who prefer to listen rather than read, I’m gradually making audio versions of my essays available at the top of each essay page and as a podcast. If you have thoughts about what you’d like IlluminAsia to cover, please drop me a line ( or find me on Twitter/X: @drchrisharding.

To get started on the site, have a look at my five-part series - What has Asia ever done for us? - beginning all the way back in ancient Greece, with dreams of strange beasts roaming India’s plains…

Action shot from the Free Thinking studio…

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I'm a cultural historian & broadcaster exploring all things Japan alongside the fascinating, centuries-old encounter between East & West. Inspiring people, big ideas, classic stories & great food. And it's free to subscribe - come on in!