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Thursday, January 23, 2020 - 19:30

From great-grandmother to granddaughter: six generations of one family in China

Michael Crook

Embassy of Czech Republic
2 Ritan Lu Jianguomenwai, Beijing 100600

建国门外 日坛路 2号 捷克斯洛伐克大使馆

We are thrilled to announce a talk from teacher, translator, and co-founder of WAB Michael Crook on the extraordinary history of his family in China

In the late 19th century, a social gospel movement arose in Canada. Many idealistic young Christians decided to go out into the world, and so it was that Canadian medical and education missionaries began arriving in China throughout the 1880s. Michael Crook’s great-aunt Eveline came to China just before the end of the Qing dynasty, while his grandparents followed soon after Sun Yat-sen’s republican revolution. His grandfather  worked mostly with the West China Union University, while his grandmother, Muriel Hockey, founded the first Montessori kindergarten in China, and served on the board of the Chengdu School for the Blind, Deaf and Dumb. They devoted their entire lives to education in Western China.

Michael’s mother Isabel was born in Chengdu in 1915, and attended the Chengdu Canadian School. In 1938, after graduating from the University of Toronto she returned to Chengdu and met and fell in love with David Crook, a young British communist. In 1942, they left China and married in Britain, before returning to China in 1947 to study land reform in north China. After this, they were invited to teach at the Foreign Affairs School and embarked on 60 years of teaching at what eventually became the Beijing Foreign Studies University. It was in Beijing that Michael and his two brothers were born.

Their mother Isabel is now 104, and has been awarded the Friendship Medal by President Xi Jinping. She is  one of six generations of the Crook family to have lived or worked in China – the youngest two, Echo and Nova, having been born here in 2012. The lives and fates of the different family members vary greatly, and reflect the tremendous changes that have taken place in China over the years. Please join us to hear Michael Crook explain in words and photos how each of them lived and worked, and how their experiences can give us a fresh perspective on China’s incredible pace of change.   


Michael Crook

Michael Crook was born in Beijing to British and Canadian parents. He grew up on a university campus in Beijing and attended Chinese primary and middle schools. While in China, he lived through the Cultural Revolution, worked in Chinese factories, and then attended university in Britain. He began his teaching career in Britain, and has taught in Britain, US, and China. After some years working for the Canadian development assistance program in China, he helped found the Western Academy of Beijing in 1994.

Michael has done interpreting and translation work, and is interested in rural development, environmental protection, and heritage preservation, especially of old Beijing.


We would like to remind you that it is necessary to register before each event by writing to info [at]

Registration will be closed when we reach the venue’s maximum capacity. The very latest registration is midday (12.00pm) on Thursday 23 January. We cannot accept RSVPs after this time.

BIS events are open to foreign passport holders only, please remember to bring your passport.

Reservations are valid only upon receipt of a confirmation email from BIS.

All BIS events are off-the-record. Photography, filming and recording are not permitted.

Non-members welcome for a single lecture fee of RMB 60; students with valid ID RMB 30. 

Membership desk open 7:00 pm for 7:30 pm lecture.