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

Hello Gold Mountain – A Chamber Orchestral Piece Remembering the Shanghai Jewish Ghetto

Posted: September 20th, 2021 | No Comments »

Just before Covid-19 hit, at the invitation of the Chinese mucisian Wu Fei, I put together a small privately published book entitled The Port of Last Resort and aiming to show through pictures and anecdotes the history of the Shanghai Jewish Ghetto and the European Jewish refugees who lived there from the late 1930s till Shanghai’s liberation in 1945 (and stayed somewhat longer in many cases).

The short book supports Hello Gold Mountain, an original composition by Wu Fei for chamber orchestra, performed by chatterbird ensemble, featuring Wu Fei on guzheng and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz (Silk Road Ensemble) on oud — the traditional Chinese and Jewish plucked string instruments respectively. The work premiered at Vanderbilt University’s Ingram Hall in Nashville, TN. More details are here.

Then Covid-19 rather derailed plans. However, hopefully there will be more performances now, included one in Washington DC next year.

My thanks also to Bill Lascher for sharing the previously unpublished photographs of the ghetto taken by his relative the Jewish-American journalist Melville Jacoby (there is a book of all his China/HK/Macao photographs in the works at the moment). Do watch out for posts on future performances…

Wu Fei published a few pics of the small book which i’m reposting here….

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Betty Joel Rugs, 1920s/1930s

Posted: September 17th, 2021 | No Comments »

See my post yesterday on Betty Joel, the interior designer and daughter of British diplomat James Stewart Lockhart of Hong Kong and Wehaiwei. Joel also offered a successful range of rugs, mnay designed by the French designer Ivan da Silva Bruhns and manufactured in Tientsin (Tianjin)… here then a picture of Betty and some of her rugs (all designed by da Silva Bruhns I believe)…

Betty Joel
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Chiang Yee at the Betty Joel Gallery, 1936

Posted: September 17th, 2021 | No Comments »

In January and February 1936 the artist Chiang Yee had his first solo exhibition in the UK – ‘Exhibition of Modern Chinese Pictures and Fans’, which included Chiang’s paintings and some Qing Dynasty fans. The exhibition was held at the Betty Joel Gallery, 25 Knightsbridge near Hyde park Corner.

It was a fitting venue for Chiang. Betty Joel was originally Mary Stewart Lockhart, the Hong Kong-born daughter of the British diiplomat in East Asia James Stewart Lockhart. A portion of her youth was spent in Weihai. She married a Royal Navy officer called Joel and so Betty Joel. In England she became a noted textiles and interior designer in part creating the art-deco interiors of the 1930s, with elements of Chinoiserie and having rugs made in Tianjin for sale in England (I’ll post some rugs another day).

Anyway, here is her shop, workshop and gallery at 25 Knightsbridge where Chiang exhibited.

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The Rise & Fall of Shanghai’s ‘Coffee King’ (Supchina/MOFBA)

Posted: September 10th, 2021 | 1 Comment »

An interesting story in Supchina Chang Pao Cun was a coffee pioneer in China, one of the first people to bring the dark caffeinated beverage to locals. But his story, set against the unhinged origins of Shanghai coffee culture, is also full of tragedy. Click here

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Adrian Bradshaw’s The Door Opened: 1980s China

Posted: September 9th, 2021 | No Comments »

I’ve noticed that Adrian Bradshaw has been posting quite a lot on FB with his great photos of 1980s China. Worth reminding you that there is an accompanying book – The Door Opened: 1980s China – which is quite expensive but a almost unique gallery of images. Some sample pages/images here.

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Dwelling in the World: Family, House, and Home in Tianjin, China, 1860–1960

Posted: September 8th, 2021 | No Comments »

Dwelling in the World considers family, house, and home in Tianjin to explore how tempos and structures of everyday life changed with the fall of the Qing Empire and the rise of a colonized city. Elizabeth LaCouture argues that the intimate ideas and practices of the modern home were more important in shaping the gender and status identities of Tianjin’s urban elites than the new public ideology of the nation. Placing the Chinese home in a global context, she challenges Euro-American historical notions that the private sphere emerged from industrialization. She argues that concepts of individual property rights that emerged during the Republican era became foundational to state-society relations in early Communist housing reforms and in today’s middle-class real estate boom.

I’ve not this book as forthcoming before with some anticipation – it has now arrived and doesn’t disappoint…. so a reminder…

By the early twentieth century, Chinese residents of the northern treaty-port city of Tianjin were dwelling in the world. Divided by nine foreign concessions, Tianjin was one of the world’s most colonized and cosmopolitan cities. Residents could circle the globe in an afternoon, strolling from a Chinese courtyard house through a Japanese garden past a French Beaux-Arts bank to dine at a German café and fall asleep in a British garden city-style semi-attached brick house.

Dwelling in the World considers family, house, and home in Tianjin to explore how tempos and structures of everyday life changed with the fall of the Qing Empire and the rise of a colonized city. Elizabeth LaCouture argues that the intimate ideas and practices of the modern home were more important in shaping the gender and status identities of Tianjin’s urban elites than the new public ideology of the nation. Placing the Chinese home in a global context, she challenges Euro-American historical notions that the private sphere emerged from industrialization. She argues that concepts of individual property rights that emerged during the Republican era became foundational to state-society relations in early Communist housing reforms and in today’s middle-class real estate boom.

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Hennessy in Shanghai and Hong Kong…

Posted: September 7th, 2021 | No Comments »

Along with Johnnie Walker whisky French cognac brand Hennessy was one of the most widely distributed and noted foreign alcohol brands in old Shanghai. See their 1930s advert below. But I was intrigued to see that post-war it was also a highly recognisable brand in Hong Kong, as seen here in this 1960 movie about alcolohlism (that, incidentally, shows how the styles of pre-war Shanghai lingered and lingered a la In the Mood for Love)…More after the 1930s Shanghai ad…

Death Traps (Sha ji chong chong) is a 1960 Hong Kong movie directed by Wong Tim-lam, written by Chang Cheh and starring (Helen) Li Mei, a Chinese actress who moved to Hong Kong in 1949 (for obvious reasons). The movie’s rather convulted plot is that Li Mei is an alcoholic (albeit a rather well dressed and presented one) who hire a mafia boss to kill her. Anyway, here’s the look and the Hennessy (perhaps nowadays not their preferred product placement!)…

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Regresar a China (Returning to China) by Carles Prado-Fonts

Posted: September 6th, 2021 | 1 Comment »

The cover of the winner of the 2021 Spanish-Language Book Prize is “Regresar a China [Returning to China]” by Universitat Oberta de Catalunya sinologist Carles Prado-Fonts. Here’s hoping for a translation into English soon…

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