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

Jukong Road – Gutted Twice & Gone

Posted: June 28th, 2016 | No Comments »

Shanghai’s Jukong Road (now Zhongxing Road) was right on the border of Hongkew (Hongkou) and Chapei (Zhabei). This meant that from 1937 it got hammered in the fighting between Chinese and Japanese soldiers. The first three pictures below show how bad it got gutted. However, some of it survived amazingly and other parts were restored and rebuilt. But what survived the war couldn’t necessarily survive Shanghai’s relentless destruction/construction boom and philistine leaders. The last of the original Jukong Road recently went under the wrecker’s ball….

Jukong Road 2 - digitalcollections.library.ubc.ca

Jukong Road 3 - Cantonese theatre - digitalcollections.library.ubc.ca

Jukong Road 5 - refugees returning - digitalcollections.library.ubc.ca

Jukong Road 1 2013

Jukong Road 2 2013

Jukong Road 3 2013

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Lyda Roberti – A Shanghai Star That Made it to Hollywood

Posted: June 27th, 2016 | No Comments »

I was blogging the other week about Lotus Liu, who started out in a Shanghai acting class and got to Hollywood. Other great stars that made it from China to Hollywood – Sari Maritza of Tientsin should be noted; sadly Nina Barsamova never quite made it. Lyda Roberti though made it big in Hollywood and on Broadway after Shanghai. She’s pretty forgotten now but worth remembering…


Lyda was born in Warsaw (then part of the Russian Empire) in 1906. Her grandfather and father were both famous circus clowns; her mother was a trick pony rider. They were a circus family. Lyda, fro childhood, was a circus performer and dancer and travelled with the circus around the world. Come the Russian Revolution the family fled across Siberia and eventually settled in Shanghai – another White Russian refugee family in the city. Sadly the reformed circus went bankrupt in Shanghai but Lyda got a job dancing at the Carlton Cafe (Which was a fabulous establishment and worthy of its own blog post one day). Lyda made enough money to get a ship to America (it’s been said she wanted to escape her abusive father) and became a star of the Vaudeville circuit (including alongside Eddie Cantor) with her blonde good looks, Polish accent and dancing skills. To cut a longish story short she eventually made it into the movies. The papers loved her Shanghai past and she was happy to play it up (see below)…”…Lyda Roberti, who draws a Paramount contract, waited on tables in China when her show stranded there.”

The_Brownsville_Herald_Mon__Jun_27__1932_Lyda played a Mata-Hari type alongside WC Fields…took a lot of Mae West type roles….eloped and married the radio announcer Hugh Ernst…all the usual Hollywood shenanigans. But her health was never good, she suffered frequent heart attacks and finally succumbed to heart disease in 1938. Her mother and father remained in Shanghai and I’m not sure what became of them. Anyway, Lyda lived the dream from Shanghai to Hollywood…






Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Shanghai to Europe for SH$300

Posted: June 26th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

The Union Steamship Agency got you back to Europe from Shanghai about as cheaply as anyone could – might be a bit of a round about route though but still only 16 days. Problem was that Europe was Vladivostok!

Union Steamship Agency

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Shanghai’s Shirt & Pyjama Hospital

Posted: June 25th, 2016 | No Comments »

Yes, in the heat and humidity your shirts can start to look a little unwell. Nowadays of course people don all manner of alternatives – casualwear, sportswear other shirt oddities. Those that insisted on a spruced up shirt (or pyjamas) had the Shanghai Shirt Hospital at 26 Carter Road (now Shimen No.1 Road). The Embassy Hotel, by the way, was at No.7. by the junction with Bubbling Well Road (now Nanjing West Road).


Shirt hospital

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Eve of a Hundred Midnights – The Star-Crossed Love Story of Two WWII Correspondents and Their Epic Escape Across the Pacific

Posted: June 24th, 2016 | No Comments »

Eve of a Hundred Midnights is Bill Lascher’s excellent biography of the great China hack Melville Jacoby and his equally talented partner and wife Annalee. Both were great China Hands and crucial to foreign reporting of World War Two in China and the Pacific so a dedicated biography of the pair, their close friends in the China press corps of the period and their work is long over due….


The unforgettable true story of two married journalists on an island-hopping run for their lives across the Pacific after the Fall of Manila during World War II—a saga of love, adventure, and danger.

On New Year’s Eve, 1941, just three weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were bombing the Philippine capital of Manila, where journalists Mel and Annalee Jacoby had married just a month earlier. The couple had worked in China as members of a tight community of foreign correspondents with close ties to Chinese leaders; if captured by invading Japanese troops, they were certain to be executed. Racing to the docks just before midnight, they barely escaped on a freighter—the beginning of a tumultuous journey that would take them from one island outpost to another. While keeping ahead of the approaching Japanese, Mel and Annalee covered the harrowing war in the Pacific Theater—two of only a handful of valiant and dedicated journalists reporting from the region.

Supported by deep historical research, extensive interviews, and the Jacobys’ personal letters, Bill Lascher recreates the Jacobys’ thrilling odyssey and their love affair with the Far East and one another. Bringing to light their compelling personal stories and their professional life together, Eve of a Hundred Midnights is a tale of an unquenchable thirst for adventure, of daring reportage at great personal risk, and of an enduring romance that blossomed in the shadow of war.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Radiograms in Old Shanghai

Posted: June 23rd, 2016 | No Comments »

Radiograms were a very useful means of communication in old Shanghai. A radiogram was basically a written message transmitted by radio. They became extremely useful after the telephone service got a bit rickety after the Japanese invasion. Using the Chinese post office network you could also move messages around the country (and world) quite quickly – they tended to be brief, to the point and with no wasted words (sort of like texts I suppose) – there’s an example of one below. The service was operated by the Chinese Government Radio Administration (and they lasted a long time – I knew people in the early 1990s who were still trained by the Shanghai post office to send these messages).

the Chinese Government Radio Administration was HQed at Sassoon House (it started up services in 1931), adjacent to the Cathay Hotel. The branch on Avenue Edward VII would have been particularly useful for the cluster of journalists and newspapers along that part of the street (obviously heavy users of radiograms). It seems they also had a motorcycle messenger to pick up the message!




Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Ian Fleming, David Chipp and Who Did and Who Didn’t Work for Reuters in Peking

Posted: June 22nd, 2016 | No Comments »

51AO3vr+zjL._AC_US160_Peter Fleming (he of News from Tartary and One’s Company as well as a history of the Boxer Rebellion) has been a regular guest on this blog (use the search engine if interested). His, nowadays better known, brother Ian, less so. Still there are a few interesting references in the very readable (in fact to use an overused phrase) “unputdownable” The Man with the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters (edited by Fergus Fleming). Ian Fleming was about to be offered the post of Shanghai correspondent for Reuters in 1939 after he resigned from the Berlin post. He didn’t take the job. He is famously supposed to have given his reason for refusing the job: “the salary wouldn’t have even covered my opium bill.” In 1957 Fleming received a letter from David Chipp, then the Reuters Representative in Peking (the first after 1949 and serving from 1956-1958), asking why Fleming appeared to have killed off Bond in From Russian With Love? Fleming fudged on the issue, wanting Chipp (and a couple of million other people) to buy the next Bond outing Dr No – Bond aficionados will know whether I’ve got the books right – I haven’t read them since I was supposed to be revising for O Levels!. He did however recall his own Reuters days noting:

‘…I only resigned when I was offered an appointment as Chief Representative in the Far East on a salary, with expenses, of £800 a year – barely enough to cover my opium consumption.’

Chipp (who had been Reuters correspondent in Rangoon in the late 1940s) remained in Peking for a while longer and wrote a wry memoir, The Day I Stepped on Mao’s Toes (which he apparently once did). It was printed in a private edition and is quite tricky to get nowadays (though a good place to start tracking it down is here).


David Chipp with Zhou En-lai

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Royal Asiatic Society Shanghai – Imagining “America” in Communist China of the 1950s and 60s – 23/6/16

Posted: June 21st, 2016 | No Comments »
Thursday, 23rd June 2016
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Tavern at the Radisson Xingguo Hotel

Imagining “America” in Communist China of the 1950s and 60s

Speaker: Andrew Kuech


Throughout the 1950s and 60s depictions, denunciations and declarations against the United States filled the Chinese Communist presses and were made visible in the proliferation of mass art and political performances that decorated Chinese public spaces. In rhythm with Mao’s frequent condemnations of “American imperialists,” books, magazines, songs and plays created caricatures of how these “imperialists” looked and sensationalized the depravities of a strange American society.

Amidst the backdrop of these ubiquitous representations of the United States, however, the role of an imagined American enemy mobilized Chinese political society in a large number of ways. From the “Resist America, Aid Korea” war drive to the development of sanitation campaigns, from worker productivity competitions to rallyings for the liberation of Taiwan, from the economic mania of the Great Leap Forward to the creation of a Chinese-led Third World solidarity movement, the United States functioned as a consistent, if malleable, enemy for China to stay ever-vigilant against. Based upon ongoing doctoral research, this talk examines the visual and discursive ways in which the US was depicted and discussed throughout these various political and propaganda movements and argues that the imagined American enemy played a significant and prominent role in the development of both Chinese political and social life throughout the 1950s and 60s.

About the Speaker

Andrew Kuech is a PhD Candidate in Politics and Historical Studies at the New School for Social Research in New York City. He received a Master’s Degree in History from Northeastern University in 2011 and a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005. He has been living and doing dissertation research in China for the past year as a Fulbright Student Scholar. His dissertation examines the role of imagery and imaginings of the United States in the rival development campaigns of Communist and Nationalist China during the early decades of the Cold War, 1949-1965.

RSVP: bookings@royalasiaticsociety.org.cn

ENTRANCE: Members: 70 RMB Non-members: 100 RMB

Includes a glass of wine or soft drink

VENUE: Tavern; Radisson Plaza Xingguo Hotel, 78 Xing Guo Road
Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter