The Book


5-star rated book and awards finalist


In Blades of Grass: The Story of George Aylwin Hogg, author and nephew of the late Mr Hogg, Mark Aylwin Thomas, explores his uncle’s own letters and writings and shares this astonishing life story of perseverance, service, and dedication. Thomas offers a personal and compelling window into the character of this remarkable man, and Hogg’s own words lend an authentic and distinctive insight into his service—training young Chinese men in their vocations in the remote confines of Northwest China in Shandan.

George Aylwin Hogg was part of a vision to create a unique form of industrial training on which to base the reconstruction of industry for a new post-war China. While a vignette of Aylwin’s life was portrayed in Roger Spottiswoode’s 2008 film, The Children of Huang Shi, the full picture of this remarkable life—often painted with Aylwin’s own words—shows how this young Englishman’s life was deeply interwoven in the lives of the men and people he served.

Blades of Grass is the inspirational story of a young man who died in China in 1945 at the age of only 30 after achieving amazing things during his seven years there. He touched the hearts of the ordinary Chinese people. It is an inspirational life-story of a unique humanitarian spirit, of vision, dedication, and heroism.

The logline is that of an adventurous young Oxford graduate who, in 1937, travels to China where, as a journalist, he reports to the world on the three-sided war there, cutting through Japanese propaganda, the fog of fake news; and as an inspired teacher he perseveres in creating a technical training school for refugees. He travels with guerrilla forces, finds the love of his life, adopts four brothers and saves his school from the advancing invaders.

He immerses himself in the language and culture. He grows to understand the people and becomes accepted by them. He comes to identify himself as Chinese whilst maintaining the westerner's broader understanding of the world.

His school thrives even today in the ancient oasis town of Shandan, on the Silk Road on the edge of the Gobi Desert. He is buried there and is respectfully remembered as a wise and noble friend of the Chinese people; a bridge between East and West. This fact was acknowledged with gratitude by President Xi Jinping during his State Visit to the UK in 2015.

The essence of the book is believe in yourself, trust in fate and by shrugging off prejudice to race, colour, creed, and language you can achieve truly amazing things.

 

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