“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Crime and the City – My New Series on Literary Hub

Posted: March 29th, 2017 | No Comments »

Apologies for self-promotion….

Herewith begins a new fortnightly series I’m writing for the Literary Hub – Crime & the City – we start with Amsterdam….but, you won’t be surprised to hear, Asian cities will feature quite prominently as the months pass…..

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Tsui Kwo Yin – What a wedding gift! – a cloak of Tibetan goat

Posted: March 28th, 2017 | No Comments »

The late Qing Dynasty Chinese diplomat Tsui Kwo Yin (Cui Guoyin) is not well remembered by China. He is seen as ineffectual at best and actually harmful to the cause of China at worst. Tsui was a senior diplomat though, representing China in major countries such as America, Japan and Peru. However, his English language skills were not deemed sufficient to really get his points across to the American media at a time when China sought to both protect its countrymen against discrimination and voice its disapproval of the Chinese Exclusion Act.  He is also criticised for being bad at small talk (silly, but probably quite a useful skill for a diplomat) and a bit of an introvert. But this is a slightly different and more positive anecdote…from Juliet Nicolson’s A House Full of Daughters about her mother, grandmother (Vita Sackville West), great grandmother (the Victoria noted below) and great-great grandmother, the Spanish dancer and beauty Pepita.

In 1892 Victoria West (below) was married to Lionel Sackville-West. Victoria’s parentage is a tricky business (to complicated to go into fully here – I’d suggest reading A House Full of Daughters) but she had spent time in Washington DC in the 1880s when her father (also called Lionel Sackville-West – the uncle of the Lionel above and so they were first cousins, which was generally acceptable then) was British Ambassador to the USA. She was very popular, her looks and character much admired (she was reputedly proposed to at least 25 times by many famous men) and obviously also, along with her father, well-remembered.

So well-remembered that Tsui Kwo Yin sent her a wedding present from Washington to the Sackville-West family estate of Knole (in Sevenoaks, Kent). What he actually sent was a cloak of Tibetan goat. I don’t know whatever happened to that cloak (perhaps Juliet Nicolson knows?) but what a grand gift!! A nice gesture from someone rather written out of Qing-era diplomatic history now…

Here we have Minister Tsui himself, illustrated shortly after his Ambassadorship in Washington finished (1893) and himself and his retinue departing America for China….

 

 

 

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Chinese Labour Corps Project Launch Event – 19th April 2017 – SOAS, London

Posted: March 27th, 2017 | No Comments »

I’ve blogged a fair bit on the Chinese Labour Corps in WW1 so perhaps some readers may be interested in this event…

 

Chinese Labour Corps Project Launch Event – 19th April 2017

On 19th April, 1917, after a three-month journey over land and sea, a thousand Chinese men arrived in Le Havre, France, weary and bewildered. This was the first batch of the Chinese Labour Corps, recruited by the British to provide logistical help to the Western Allies. They would be followed by several tens of thousands, mainly from Shandong Province, thus forming one of the largest labour corps involved in the Great War.

To mark this historically significant event, exactly one hundred years later on 19th April, 2017, The Meridian Society, with SOAS China Institute as host, will be holding a film screening and talks to launch our heritage project on the Chinese Labour Corps, with the support of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The key resource is a collection of unique interviews with CLC descendants from Shandong. Their distinctive memories have been captured on camera and at this launch, guests will be able to view for the first time, a public screening of the documentary ‘Forgotten Faces of the Great War’, containing oral histories by descendants both of Chinese labourers and Western CLC officers.

Alongside the screening will be talks by eminent speakers
(Chaired by Lars Laaman SCI) including:
– Frances Wood, Author of Author of ‘Betrayed Ally’, former Curator of Chinese Collections at the British Library and Research Associate at SOAS China Institute;
– Dominiek Dendooven, Curator at In Flanders Fields Museum;
– Andrew Fetherston, Archivist at Commonwealth War Graves Commission and
– Zhang Yan The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

A small display of items, including photos, documents and memorabilia, will be on show.

We will also be announcing details of the Society’s year-long series of activities to commemorate the CLC.

The event will be brought to a close by a Ceremony for the Departed conducted by Representatives of the London Fo Guang Shan Temple.

We hope you will be able to join us for this special event.

Please reserve your place no later than Wednesday 22nd March by replying to The Meridian Society at chineselabourcorps@gmail.com

Date: Wednesday, 19th April Time: 2.00-6.00pm
Venue: Djam Lecture Theatre (DLT)

SOAS University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG Entry: Free, but places must be booked in advance

 

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Early Photographs of Hong Kong 1860-1927 – from 30/3 to 29/4 – Hong Kong

Posted: March 26th, 2017 | No Comments »

Early Photographs of Hong Kong 1860 – 1927

a collection of original photographs

including a selection of fine original panoramas

of the waterfront and the harbour

 
on Thursday 30th March 2017, 6.30 – 8.30pm
The exhibition continues until Saturday 29th April 2017
 Wattis Fine Art
20 Hollywood Road, 2/F, Central, Hong Kong
Tel. +852 2524 5302 E-mail. info@wattis.com.hk
www.wattis.com.hk
Gallery open: MondaySaturday 11am – 6pm
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Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival – 9-26 May 2017

Posted: March 25th, 2017 | No Comments »

Here’s the programme for the 2017 Asia House Literary Festival this May in London with a bunch of good events (including me with Suki Kim on North Korea – more to follow on that….

Details of all events here. China Rhymers will probably be most interested in Xiaolu Guo on her new autobiography; Choo Waihong and Isabel Hilton on the Mosu and Zhang Lijia on Shenzhen hookers!

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Sincere – “Shop Where You Save” – 1930

Posted: March 24th, 2017 | No Comments »

This advertisement for Sincere Department Store is from 1930 though the store had already been open for over a decade. Of course the building is still there on Nanjing Road, though (like so much along Nanjing Road) has never recovered its former glory.

 

 

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David Rockefeller 1915-2017, Tientsin and the China Branch of the New York Equitable Banking Corporation

Posted: March 23rd, 2017 | No Comments »

The American banker David Rockefeller died this week. Douglas Red, long time Tianjin resident and himself an American banker in China recalled meeting him and discussing the origins of the Rockefeller family’s banking operations in the city….

‘David Rockefeller was a man for all seasons. As a young Chase officer serving in Asia in the 1980’s and 1990’s I was one of many who were honored to escort David as he met senior Chase clients and world leaders throughout the region. He was a graceful man who showed a personal interest in the lives of the countless number of people who knew him (whose names appeared in his famous Rolodex.) My favorite story took place in 1993 when David visited Tianjin, China to help us launch Chase’s first branch opening in the PRC. Speaking proudly to the Chairman Emeritus, I pointed out the old building on Liberation Road (Victoria Road) in which (I claimed) Chase had opened its first branch in Republican China. David was quick to correct me, sharing, “No, Douglas, you are mistaken. My Daddy opened the China Branch of the New York Equitable Banking Corporation here during a family trip to China in the mid 1920’s.”‘

 

the corner of Victoria Road that marked the divide between the British and French concessions and where the Tientsin (Tianjin) Branch of the New York Equitable Banking Corporation stood

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Pan-Asian Sports and the Emergence of Modern Asia, 1913-1974

Posted: March 22nd, 2017 | No Comments »

Stefan Huebner’s examination of the development of sport in Asia is a great read (even if, like me, you have no interest in the actual sports themselves)….

The history of regional sporting events in 20th-century Asia yields insights into Western and Asian perspectives on what defines modern Asia, and can be read as a staging of power relations in Asia and between Asia and the West. The Far Eastern Championship Games began in 1913, and were succeeded after the Pacific War by the Asian Games. Missionary groups and colonial administrations viewed sporting success not only as a triumph of physical strength and endurance but also of moral education and social reform. Sporting competitions were to shape a “new Asian man” and later a “new Asian woman” by promoting internationalism, egalitarianism and economic progress, all serving to direct a “rising” Asia toward modernity. Over time, exactly what constituted a “rising” Asia underwent remarkable changes, ranging from the YMCA’s promotion of muscular Christianity, democratization, and the social gospel in the US-colonized Philippines to Iranian visions of recreating the Great Persian Empire.

Based on a vast range of archival materials and spanning 60 years and 3 continents, Pan-Asian Sports and the Emergence of Modern Asia shows how pan-Asian sporting events helped shape anti-colonial sentiments, Asian nationalisms, and pan-Asian aspirations in places as diverse as Japan and Iran, and across the span of countries lying between them.

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