All things old China - books, anecdotes, stories, podcasts, factoids & ramblings from the author Paul French

Mr & Mrs Satterthwaite’s Silver Dragon Bowl, 1934

Posted: April 16th, 2024 | No Comments »

A Chinese silver dragon bowl by Sing Fat of Shanghai. Embossed with a finely detailed flying dragon below a scrolling foliate border. Presented as a wedding gift in 1934 to Mr & Mrs C.G Satterthwaite, by Lo Po Chun & Lo Po Wa. I think Satterthwaite was actually the Reverend Satterthwaite and originally came from Wales.

Some Images of Wartime Chungking from A Danger Shared

Posted: April 15th, 2024 | No Comments »

The new collection of never-seen-before images by the 1930s/wartime correspondent in Asia Mel Jacoby, A Danger Shared is now available here from Blacksmith Books. It contains an amazing array of photographs from Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macao, and Chungking as well as French Indochina, the Philippines and Australia. The pictures and Mel’s story are annotated by Bill Lascher and there’s an introduction by me. An exclusive run of images from Chungking, China’s wartime capital, ran in the South China Morning Post weekend magazine recently – here.

April 17 Zoom – Ian Gill discusses online the family mysteries unveiled in his book “Searching for Billie”, with RASBJ moderator Rianka Mohan

Posted: April 13th, 2024 | No Comments »

WHAT: Author Ian Gill unravels his family’s past and discusses his new book “Searching for Billie” with moderator Rianka Mohan (ONLINE)

WHEN: Wednesday, April 3, 2024 at 7:00-8:00 PM Beijing Time (ONLINE)

MORE ABOUT THE EVENT: Ian Gill’s first visit to Hong Kong takes an unexpected turn when he meets his Chinese mother Billie’s friends, colleagues and fellow ex-prisoners of war, lifting the veil on a tumultuous past in Shanghai and Hong Kong. He moves to Asia and unravels her intriguing journey: from controversial adoption by an English postmaster in Changsha to popular radio broadcaster in wartime Shanghai, from tragedy and a doomed romance in a Japanese internment camp to being decorated by Queen Elizabeth II for services to the United Nations. He discovers a great-grandmother in a determined English farm girl who ends up owning a well-known hotel on the China coast in the 1870s – and he finally meets his father for the first time on a Canadian island in 1985. The backdrop for this fascinating family story is China’s turbulent century between the Anglo-Chinese wars and the advent of communism.

MORE ABOUT THE SPEAKER: Because of his mother’s circumstances, Ian Gill was conceived in a Japanese prison camp in Hong Kong in 1945 and born in New Zealand after liberation. With his mother, he spent his early life in England, China and Bangkok. After boarding school, university and joining newspapers in England, he worked as a journalist in New Zealand, Fiji, Australia, Hawaii (where he took a master’s degree as a grantee with the East-West Center), Hong Kong and Singapore for 14 years. In 1985, he joined the Asian Development Bank, a multilateral financing institution with headquarters in Manila. Over two decades, he travelled widely around the Asia-Pacific region, writing and producing video documentaries.

HOW MUCH: Free for RASBJ members. RMB 50 for members of RAS branches in London, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Seoul. RMB 100 for non-members. If you experience difficulty paying via Wechat, please try Alipay instead. You can also pay by credit card. Interested in becoming an RASB member? Please sign up at

HOW TO JOIN THE EVENT: Please click “Register” or “I will attend” before April 15 and follow the instructions. After successful registration you’ll receive a confirmation email with a link to join the event online. If you seem not to have received it, please check your spam folder.

Members of partner RAS Branches: Please register 72 hours in advance to allow time for membership verification. You’ll receive three emails from us: the first confirming receipt of your registration request, the second requesting payment, and the third confirming receipt of your payment. Please check your spam folder to ensure you see all RASBJ emails.

HOW TO BUY THE BOOK: Blacksmith Books will ship hard copies to purchasers in mainland China with no shipping fee. To take advantage of this offer, go to

Tientsin Chinese Arsenal, 1909

Posted: April 13th, 2024 | No Comments »

A rather dull postcard of Tientsin’s (Tianjin) Chinese Arsenal, 1909, with a Peking postmark…

Dragon Women: Early Chinese Photography – Loewentheil China Photography Collection – NYC

Posted: April 13th, 2024 | No Comments »

Dragon Women: Early Chinese Photography

Opening Reception: March 15,  6pm to 9pm

On view March 14 – May 15, 2024
10 West 18th Street 7th Floor, New York
Open by appointment only: 646-838-4576 or 410-602-3002

Rare early photographs of Chinese women from the Loewentheil Photography of China Collection will be exhibited for the first time in New York as part of Asia Week New York. Dragon Women: Early Chinese Photography curated by Stacey Lambrow runs from March 14th – May 15th 2024. Admission is free.

Dragon Women: Early Chinese Photography celebrates the Year of the Dragon and the representation of women in the earliest photography of China. This is the first exhibition devoted to the depiction of Chinese women in early photography. The over 50 photographs selected from the Loewentheil Collection include the first photographic portraits of Chinese women, most made in the 1860s and 1870s. Many have never before been shown. The exhibition examines women’s place in society in the late Qing dynasty and their depiction in historical photography of China. It also presents work by the few known early female photographers of China.

Highlights include a rare photograph by the first known Chinese female photographer, Mae Linda Talbot, and works by Hedda Morrison, Isabella Bird, and Eva Sandberg Xiao. Masterworks include photographs by Chinese and international artists such as Sze Yuen Ming Studio, Pun Lun Studio, A Chan Studio, Lai Fong, John Thomson, and Thomas Child. The exhibition showcases the diversity of Chinese women and their experiences during the final decades of imperial China.

More information here

Portrait of a Woman
Photographer in China, 1870s, albumen silver print
Manchu Ladies
John Thomson, c.1868, albumen silver print
Empress Dowager Cixi
Yu Xunling, c. 1903, albumen silver print
Portrait of Three Women from Amoy Lai Fong, Afong Studios 1870s Albumen silver print

ChinaRhyming on Substack – April 12th 2024 – Getting Kinda Surreal

Posted: April 12th, 2024 | No Comments »

A new Substack round up of stuff – Forbidden City tutors, Shanghai surrealism, Anna May Wong, Deng Xiaoping , Cultural Revoltuon memoirs and a chance to se e if you can identify this reference to old Shanghai’s Blood Alley… click here to read…

The Taiping Civil War and Chinese Literature and Culture, 1850–1880 – Huan Jin – March 22

Posted: April 11th, 2024 | No Comments »

Huan Jin’s The Taiping Civil War and Chinese Literature and Culture, 1850–1880 (Harvard University Press)…

The Collapse of Heaven investigates a long-neglected century in Chinese literature through the lens of the Taiping War (1851–1864), one of the most devastating civil wars in human history. With the war as the pivot, Huan Jin (Assistant Professor, Division of Humanities, at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) examines the manifold literary and cultural transformations that occurred from the 1850s to the 1880s. The book analyzes a wide range of writings—proselytizing pamphlets, diaries, poetry, a full-length novel, drama, and short stories—with a particular emphasis on the materiality of these texts as well as their production and dissemination. Tracing allusions to political turbulences across many genres, Jin discusses how late imperial Chinese literary and cultural paradigms began to unravel under conditions of extreme violence and tracks the unexpected reinventions of literary conventions that marked the beginning of Chinese literary modernity. In addition to making a significant contribution to Chinese studies, this book offers an important comparative perspective on the global nineteenth century and engages with broad scholarly discussions on religion, violence, narrative, history, gender, theater, and media studies.

Coming to Amazon Soon – China Revisited #4

Posted: April 10th, 2024 | No Comments »

Books are afloat and headed to Long Beach and Southampton…China Revisited #4 – Harry A Franck’s Roving Through Southern China on Amazon this June – available from Blacksmith Books now here….