George Aylwin Hogg was a man of remarkable dedication and honour. Though he died in 1945 at the age of thirty, Aylwin’s name and legacy is remembered in China to this day—where as a wise and noble friend to the people of China, he immersed himself in the culture and life of the Chinese people whom he served in his mission.
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 Northern 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.
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Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite Whether your interest is China in the 1930s and 1940s, the industrial cooperative movement, the role of foreigners in relief and development work in Asia, or just a very good biography about an ordinary but extremely talented and courageous Englishman who did extraordinary things in his short life, you’ll find Blades of Grass: The Story of George Aylwin Hogg (1915 – 1945) a fascinating read. Authored by his nephew, Mark Aylwin Thomas, it’s based on the memories of family and friends and, most importantly, contains Hogg’s personal and very detailed letters and writings. Less known in the west, Hogg is viewed in a heroic light in China, especially for his work in support of the “Gung Ho” cooperative movement and technical training schools, during a period of violent regional military and political conflicts that were blossoming into world wars in Asia and Europe. Illustrations, a map of China, a Chinese historical timeline, a key to pronunciation, and lists of references and sources are included. I really enjoyed reading the portrait of George Aylwin Hogg presented in Blades of Grass. Thomas’ narrative is engaging, well-organized, well-paced, and educational. Hogg’s own writings make his experiences and adventures vivid and real. I was immediately captivated and didn’t want to put the book down, as one adventure led to another. Hogg’s qualities as a human being and a man shine through his writings. He wasn’t alone in doing what he could to provide relief to the Chinese people during these chaotic decades when many were left homeless, hungry, and orphaned. His story gives credit to others with whom he worked. But, George Aylwin Hogg had a unique spirit, capability, and courage that will inspire those who read this book.