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

Toyo Murakami Curios and Shirts of Kiangse Road

Posted: February 27th, 2017 | No Comments »

I’ve blogged quite a bit about various curio stores in old Shanghai and Peking run by foreigners (Hoggard-Sigler, Jean Lindsay, Western Arts Gallery in Shanghai and The Golden Dragon, and of course The Camel Bell in Peking). Here though, from the 1930s is a Japanese run curio store in Shanghai – at 270 Kiangse Road (now Jiangxi Road) at the corner with Ezra Road (Shashi No.2 Road) – that also sold silk shirts. Most of their curios appear to be Japanese – Satsuma etc – though they also sold Chinese curios. I’m afraid I know very little about the shop except that it was run by  Mr Toyo Murakami. I have no more leads on the store or the owner – sadly I don’t read Japanese and Toyo Murakami appears to be a very common name and so you can’t pin any of the leads down.

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Mission to China: How an Englishman Brought the West to the Orient

Posted: February 25th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Walter Medhurst is remembered in this new biography of the intrepid missionary, adventurer, printer, writer, translator, teacher and nineteenth-century pioneer to China by John Holliday

The early 19th-century was a time of great change in English society. The growth of Humanism brought debates about slavery, workers’ rights and suffrage, while Britain’s determination to build an empire offered ambitious young men the chance to make their mark. Against this backdrop, 19-year-old Walter Medhurst was finding his way in the world, becoming an apprentice printer when family financial problems forced an abrupt end to his studies at the prestigious St Paul’s school. A chance encounter with an inspiring preacher in his hometown of Gloucester, at a time when Evangelical Christianity was starting to fire the public’s imagination, brought about Walter’s conversion, and the picture was complete.

Walter Medhurst – printer, missionary, adventurer – was primed to embark on the mission of a lifetime: to take the Lord’s word to the people of the exotic Far East, and change the world forever. China was a closed society by order of its Emperor and, even then, its trade potential highly prized. Walter and wife Betty – a beautiful young Anglo-Indian widow and officer’s daughter with whom Walter fell in love and married during a three-month stop in Madras – would spend more than 20 years working with Chinese communities throughout Asia before Walter reached China’s shores in 1835. When the Medhursts finally settled in Shanghai in 1843, they were delighted to find – contrary to popular belief – an outgoing and resourceful people more than willing to interact with them. Dealing with Chinese authorities, however, required great diplomacy and tact and the formidable Medhursts employed every skill in their considerable arsenal to achieve their goal, establishing the LMS Mission Centre in Shanghai.

When he died in 1857, Walter Medhurst left behind a great legacy that included the Parapattan Orphanage, All Saints’ Jakarta, Renji Hospital, the Shanghai Mission Press and a Chinese Bible that was used for more than 70 years. But Walter’s greatest achievement was surely the opening up of China to the West, a lasting legacy that affects our world even today.

John Holliday served in the Royal Air Force before going into the IT business in the UK and then Australia. A visit to a still-functioning orphanage in Jakarta founded more than 180 years before by his ancestor, Walter Medhurst, kindled his interest in recording Walter’s life.

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‘Madame Chiang Speaks’… on Women in China

Posted: February 24th, 2017 | No Comments »

Chinese feminists have been having a hard time of it lately, but then it’s never been easy. Here’s an illustration of Soong Mei-ling (Madame Chiang Kai-shek) in 1943 talking about the issue of women in China….

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Rubicon Villa’s Gardens to be Restored

Posted: February 22nd, 2017 | No Comments »

The Shanghai Daily tells me that the old 1932 Rubicon Garden Villa (at 2409 Hungjao Road, now renamed 2310 Hongqiao Road) was, the former home of Sir Victor Sassoon, has been ordered to change a vegetable patch back to a heritage British flower garden. Destroying the garden (which survived warlords, Japanese invaders and red Guards but not a consulting company called Kamel who inhabit the site) were growing vegetables and raising chickens who would want their invetsment advise!) having trashed what was a heritage protected flower garden.

The villa was one of Shanghai’s supposedly protected cultural units since September 1989. This cultural protection included the maples and poplar trees oriignally planted around the property.

Rubicon, by the way, was an amusing name given to a small creek in the area that the paper chase hunters used to jump on horseback and is close by.  Rubicon Road (now Hami Road, as anyone who has had to endure the compulsory Shanghai medical test for foreigners will know well) connected with Hunjao Road as part of the linking system that allowed the spread of the Western External Roads out towards Hungjao (Hongqiao) with its market gardens, farms, golf course, villas and aerodrome.

During WW2 the Japanese Navy took over the building. After Sassoon left Shanghai for good in 1950 a Ningbo tycoon bought the villa. After the revolution in the 1950s the villa was a sanatorium for workers of the Shanghai Textile Industry Bureau, as well as a retreat for the Gang of Four in the Cultural Revolution. I seem to remember visiting it once in the 1990s when it was the offices of BP, but I may be misremembering that – certainly it was a villa out Hungjao way.

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All Aboard the Indo-China Steam Navigation Company

Posted: February 21st, 2017 | No Comments »

Here an advert for the Indo-China Steam Navigation Company Ltd from 1930. The company dates back to the 1870s and was part of the Jardine Matheson empire. The main service from Shanghai ws up the Yangtze to Chungking….

BTW: their offices at 27 Bund were the offices of Jardines in Shanghai. You can read a history of that building by the writer and old China Hand Adam Williams here.

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Historic Shanghai on Shanghai’s Hazelwood – Butterfield & Swire taipan’s mansion

Posted: February 20th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Today I suggest you read Historic Shanghai’s history of Hazelwood, the old Butterfield and Swire taipan’s house now on the grounds of the Radisson Xingguo Hotel…marvellous that it’s survived, important architecturally and by a favourite architect and architectural critic of mine Clough Williams-Ellis (of Portmerion fame)….

Click here

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Merchants of War and Peace: British Knowledge of China in the Making of the Opium War

Posted: February 19th, 2017 | No Comments »

An interesting new addition to your opium war shelf from Chen Song-chuan

Merchants of War and Peace challenges conventional arguments that the major driving forces of the First Opium War were the infamous opium smuggling trade, the defense of British national honor, and cultural conflicts between ‘progressive’ Britain and ‘backward’ China. Instead, it argues that the war was started by a group of British merchants in the Chinese port of Canton in the 1830s, known as the ‘Warlike Party’. Living in a period when British knowledge of China was growing rapidly, the Warlike Party came to understand China’s weakness and its members returned to London to lobby for intervention until war broke out in 1839. However, the Warlike Party did not get its way entirely. Another group of British merchants known in Canton as the ‘Pacific Party’ opposed the war. In Britain, the anti-war movement gave the conflict its infamous name, the ‘Opium War’, which has stuck ever since. Using materials housed in the National Archives, UK, the First Historical Archives of China, the National Palace Museum, the British Library, SOAS Library, and Cambridge University Library, this meticulously researched and lucid volume is a new history of the cause of the First Opium War.

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China and Poker

Posted: February 18th, 2017 | No Comments »

I expect some day someone will (or perhaps already has) write a Phd on the early fad of poker in China. The fad appears to have been strongest around the mid-1920s. Certainly foreigners in Peking and the treaty ports were all playing poker (even though at the same time there was a mah-jong fad in the USA). This article from 1926 indicates that Wellington Koo (who should need no introduction to China Rhymers) was a poker man – certainly he had a poker face. Carl Crow (as he recounts in his class Four Hundred Millions Customers) made money both ways – he printed a guide to poker in Chinese and a guide to mah-jong in English thereby catching both waves

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