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From forest cottages and Antarctic cruises to Chengdu and Greece in London

Leading article: Out of the rubble

As the first anniversary approaches of the earthquake that killed an estimated 87,000 in Sichuan, the aftermath is exposing some of the better, and some of the worse, aspects of today's China. On the plus side, the provincial authorities have just released an official figure for the number of children killed when their schools collapsed. That they have finally produced a figure is a good sign from officials whose default position is still secrecy. On the minus side, however, the number given – at 5,335 – is far lower than many believe and was immediately called into question by parents of those who died.

Courage amid the rubble: Return to Beichuan

The deadly quake that hit central China killed half the residents of one town. A year later, Clifford Coonan finds remarkable tales of courage amid the rubble

The quake victims who won't be silenced by the state

Clifford Coonan reveals how he was caught in the clampdown by Chinese police struggling to stifle dissent from angry parents

China's quake cover-up

Families seeking justice for child victims are being intimidated by the state, alleges Amnesty

Ba Shan's snacky delights from the farthest reaches of the People's Republic could just be the best buns in Soho

Ba Shan, 24 Romilly Street, London W1, tel: 020 7287 3266

Raw power: Mark Hix gets fresh for summer

When fresh ingredients have this much flavour, there's no need even to cook them

Pineapple with Sichuan peppercorn sorbet

Serves 4

The happy list 2009: Readers responses

Our Happy List, published last week, celebrated some of people who make Britain a better place. We asked for nominations, and readers responded with some shining examples

Ba Shan, 24 Romilly Street, London W1

A new Chinese restaurant in Soho? Why bother? Since Soho is separated from the sprawl of Chinatown by a single avenue, you'd imagine the district was a little over-subscribed with the things. But Ba Shan sets out to be something different from the predictable Gerrard Street fare of wind-dried duck, chow mein and dim sum. It's the new brainchild of Shao Wei, who brought the Bar Shu and Baozi Inn to London, and Mr Wei is big on authenticity; he goes to the extent of flying gen-u-ine Chinese chefs in from northern provinces such as Henan and Shaanxi, as well as the over-familiar purlieus of Sichuan. He has linked up with Fuchsia Dunlop, the chef and author of three books on Chinese food, and together they're offering ... Chinese tapas. In case you thought that dim sum was already a tapas style of eating, they explain that they're dealing in xiao chi or "small eats", supposedly roadside snacks sold by street vendors.

Gunman shoots 11 dead in random killing spree

Detectives were yesterday trying to piece together what led Michael McLendon to kill 11 people in Alabama on Tuesday.

China clamps down ahead of key Tibetan anniversary

Armoured troop carriers and tour buses packed with police roll along the winding mountain roads. Internet service is dead in some places. Military camps fortified with sandbags sit amid Tibetan communities, where strings of prayer flags flutter in the wind.

Album: Neko Case, Middle Cyclone (Anti)

On her follow-up to Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Neko Case replaces the animal metaphors with a new allegorical system in which elemental ruction conveys the surging of emotions.

The birth of Christianity: How a Jewish carpenter's son became a subversive threat to Roman rule

In the midst of this hurricane of indulgence, exploitation and violence there was a miraculous moment of calm. As if it were the eye of the imperial storm, almost exactly halfway through Rome's dominance of the Mediterranean world, a son was born to a Jewish carpenter and his wife in a place called Bethlehem, a town situated just south of Jerusalem. His name was Jesus.

The Roman supremacy: How a mighty new empire was built by violent copycats

Rome's rise and fall was like a human weather system, as destructive as nature's most violent hurricanes. This enormous whirlwind was powered by three essential ingredients: grain, booty and slaves.

War of the worlds: The beginnings of a major rift between the cultures of East and West

In a bid to put a permanent end to the trouble from the Scythians, Darius took a huge army north in about 512BCE and marched across the Bosphorus, the short stretch of sea that divides Europe from Asia, and on into what is modern-day Greece. He marched as far as the Danube so he could attack the Scythians from the rear. Unfortunately, thanks to an incorrect understanding of the geography of the region, Darius missed his intended target altogether and instead attacked and subjugated the people of Thrace and Macedonia in northern Greece.

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Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

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From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

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Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

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The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

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