The Ten Thousand Things by John Spurling

Duckworth Overlook 24 April 2014 Historical Fiction/ Chinese Art

Duckworth Overlook
24 April 2014
Historical Fiction/ Chinese Art


Set in the final years of the Yuan Dynasty, The Ten Thousand Things revolves around Wang Meng—a low-level government worker and gifted Chinese painter. Too astute to believe in an artist’s autonomy from society, and yet too devoted to his art to treat his job with requisite seriousness, Wang is always between two lives—never fully committed to one pursuit. We follow Wang as he travels through an empire swept up by the Mongol invasion’s upheaval. In his wanderings, he encounters, among many memorable characters, other master painters of the period; a fierce female warrior known as the White Tigress who will recruit him as a military strategist; and an ugly young Buddhist monk who rises from beggary to extraordinary heights.

John Spurling captures the detail and specificity of fourteenth-century China in this expertly researched historical novel. He endows every description with the precision and depth the real-life Wang Meng brought to his paintings. It is a novel of fated meetings, grand battles, and riveting drama, and in its seamless fusion of the epic and the intimate, The Ten Thousand  Things achieves a truly singular beauty.

John Spurling is the author of the novels The Ragged End, After Zenda, and A Book of Liszts. A prolific playwright, his work has been performed on television, radio, and stage, including at the National Theatre. Spurling is a frequent reviewer and was previously for twelve years the art critic of The New Statesman.

The hardback was so successful that Duckworth will be publishing the book in paperback on 26 February 2015.

Media Relations 

My publicity campaign for this novel aimed at positioning John Spurling as an expert on 14th century China and in particular on the art and political landscape of this period.

The Ten Thousand Things received rave reviews in places as diverse as the Daily Mail,  the Sunday Times Culture Supplement, the Spectator, New Statesman, Herald Scotland, Literary Review, Times Literary Supplement,  and BBC History Magazine. John Spurling wrote editorial pieces for the Bookseller, BookBrunch and Condénast Traveller.


As part of the publicity for The Ten Thousand Things I organised a book launch at Daunt Books Holland Park and secured author events at the MaryPort Literature Festival and the Ikley Literature Festival in 2014. In January 2015, John Spurling presented The Ten Thousand Things at the Business Confucius Institute in Leeds.

BBC History Mag The Ten Thousand Things June 2014

The Ten Thousand Things review in BBC History Magazine




Launch of The Ten Thousand Things at Daunt Books Holland Park on 16th April 2014


John Spurling presents The Ten Thousand Things at the Business Confucius Institute on 29th January 2015



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