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

Under Our Shelter – Hong Kong and its Refugee Communities – 19-22 October, Hong Kong

Posted: October 19th, 2017 | No Comments »

This exhibition deals with the many refugee communities that have passed through or settled in Hong Kong including mainland refugees, Vietnamese boat people and goes back to the city’s oft-neglected White Russian and Jewish emigre communities too…

Under Our Shelter: A Photographic Exhibition

Hong Kong Centre for Refugees

The exhibition explores the city that was, and continues to be, a haven for people forced to seek refuge in Hong Kong, escaping war and persecution in their home countries. The Under our Shelter exhibition features:

— archival photographs dating from the 1950s – this will be the first time that these images will be displayed in public;
— Images for the exhibition have been sourced from the extensive photographic archives of Christian Action, who has been providing assistance to refugees arriving in Hong Kong since the 1950s, with others donated by a private collector.
— Beyond the archives, the exhibition will also feature contributions by some of Centre for Refugees clients who have found refuge in Hong Kong, as well as images by photographer Alexander Treves, whose widely published work has documented the plight of displaced people around the world.

Under our Shelter is the story of those who were forced to Hong Kong to seek sanctuary. It’s not an easy story to tell, but one that needs to be told.

Not just a reflection of our city’s past, Under our Shelter aims to empower people forced to seek refuge in Hong Kong with the knowledge that they can do so with dignity and live in hope for the future, under our shelter or that of someone else.

From Thursday 19th October to Sunday 22nd October, the exhibition is at Loft 22 at 22/F California Tower, 32 D’Aguilar Street Lan Kwai Fong, Central.

 

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The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China from the Ground Up – Michael Meyer’s new one out now

Posted: October 16th, 2017 | No Comments »

Michael Meyer of Last Days of Old Beijing and In Manchuria fame is back with the third in his China trilogy (a bit memoir, a bit analysis, a bit travelogue as always)….The Road to Sleeping Dragon….

From the highly praised author of The Last Days of Old Beijing, a brilliant portrait of China today and a memoir of coming of age in a country in transition.

In 1995, at the age of twenty-three, Michael Meyer joined the Peace Corps and, after rejecting offers to go to seven other countries, was sent to a tiny town in Sichuan. Knowing nothing about China, or even how to use chopsticks, Meyer wrote Chinese words up and down his arms so he could hold conversations, and, per a Communist dean’s orders, jumped into teaching his students about the Enlightenment, the stock market, and Beatles lyrics. Soon he realized his Chinese counterparts were just as bewildered by China’s changes as he was.

Thus began an impassioned immersion into Chinese life. With humor and insight, Meyer
puts readers in his novice shoes, introducing a fascinating cast of characters while winding across the length and breadth of his adopted country –from a terrifying bus attack on arrival, to remote Xinjiang and Tibet, into Beijing’s backstreets and his future wife’s Manchurian family, and headlong into efforts to protect China’s vanishing heritage at places like “Sleeping Dragon,” the world’s largest panda preserve.

In the last book of his China trilogy, Meyer tells a story both deeply personal and universal, as he gains greater – if never complete – assurance, capturing what it feels like to learn a language, culture and history from the ground up. Both funny and relatable, The Road to Sleeping Dragon is essential reading for anyone interested in China’s history, and how daily life plays out there today.

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Dealing with Corruption in Shanghai, 1948 style

Posted: October 13th, 2017 | No Comments »

Corruption’s nothing new in China; certainly nothing new in Shanghai; and extreme measures to try and deal with it are nothing new either…here from October 1 1948…

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Oil for the Lamps of China Redux

Posted: October 12th, 2017 | No Comments »

We have a new ebook (with paper copies to follow next year) of Alice Tisdale Hobart’s Oil for the Lamps of China (1933), the story of the young American expats working for SOCONY selling oil throughout China’s hinterlands. The new edition s being published by Taiwan’s Camphor Press – see the new cover below. If you haven’t read it you really should – there’s also a not-so-great 1935 B-movie adaptation. It was a massive China bestseller in its day – up there with Carl Crow and Pearl Buck – and one of only a couple of China books selected during WW2 as a title for the Armed Forces Editions (see here).

The new reprint made me dig out my own old copy from 1933…

the artwork on the inside back cover

 

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Zed Asian Arguments – Myanmar’s Enemy Within: Buddhist Violence and the Making of a Muslim ‘Other’

Posted: October 11th, 2017 | No Comments »

The latest edition to my Zed Books Asian Arguments series is, if I say so myself, timely – though has been in the planning for some years. Sadly however the publication of Francis Wade’s Myanmar’s Enemy Within comes at a devastating time for Muslim minorities in Myanmar….

For decades Myanmar has been portrayed as a case of good citizen versus bad regime – men in jackboots maintaining a suffocating rule over a majority Buddhist population beholden to the ideals of non-violence and tolerance. But in recent years this narrative has been upended.

In June 2012, violence between Buddhists and Muslims erupted in western Myanmar, pointing to a growing divide between religious communities that before had received little attention from the outside world. Attacks on Muslims soon spread across the country, leaving hundreds dead, entire neighbourhoods turned to rubble, and tens of thousands of Muslims confined to internment camps. This violence, breaking out amid the passage to democracy, was spurred on by monks, pro-democracy activists and even politicians.

In this gripping and deeply reported account, Francis Wade explores how the manipulation of identities by an anxious ruling elite has laid the foundations for mass violence, and how, in Myanmar’s case, some of the most respected and articulate voices for democracy have turned on the Muslim population at a time when the majority of citizens are beginning to experience freedoms unseen for half a century.

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Clare Hollingworth Google Doodle on her birthday – 10/10/11

Posted: October 10th, 2017 | No Comments »

Today Google has devoted their search engine to the great female foreign correspondent Clare Hollingworth. Hollingworth was known for her reporting in World War Two and also her trips to China. She ended up deciding to live in Hong Kong. She died back in January at a wonderful 105! I wrote a small tribute to her and her Hong Kong days for The Literary Hub here. Today is her birthday – she was born on the 10/10/11 (what a great day to be born for a China Hand – I hadn’t realised before!!)

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Kazuo Ishiguro, the Toyoda Mills and Shanghai

Posted: October 6th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

So Kazuo Ishiguro has won the Nobel prize for literature. China Rhyming readers will all obviously know his Shanghai-set When We Were Orphans (2000) and know his screenplay for the Shanghai-set movie The White Countess (2006). Ishiguro’s link to Shanghai is that his Japanese grandfather worked for Toyota in Shanghai in the inter-war period and his father was born in the International Settlement. Toyota then was primarily a textiles company.

Toyota Textiles had a rather rocky ride in Shanghai. I’m not sure when Ishiguro’s grandfather arrived in Shanghai. Toyota Mills was first founded in Shanghai in 1920. During the communist-organized strike wave of 1925 in Shanghai Japanese workers were fired upon and the Toyota Textile Mill set alight. Toyota called for Japanese navy vessels to come to Shanghai to protect Japanese commercial interests. In 1925 Japan did not move gunboats to the Whangpoo – of course, at other times they would do just that. However, despite constant strike agitation and various anti-Japanese boycotts apparently the Toyota Textile mills were consistently profitable.

Toyota Textiles are often referred to as Toyoda – the Toyota company was started by the Toyoda family manufacturing automated looms for Japan’s weaving industry. The name change came about in 1936 and was to do with lucky 8s – the number of strokes to write Toyota in Japanese being eight. At its height Toyoda/Toyota Textiles in Shanghai had 40,000 spindles operating and 1,300 looms. They also got to take over the mills of the Chinese Rong family after they were confiscated by the Japanese military in 1937 and handed over to Toyoda (showing neatly the close links between the Japanese army and major corporations in the occupation of Shanghai). The mills were all out in the Western Roads District, the rather lawless Badlands area in the late 1930s and beyond the control of the Settlement authorities. ‘m not sure the actual mill address but I think they were up above what is now Zhongshan Park (formerly Jessfield Park) close to the banks of Soochow (Suzhou) Creek close to Robison Road (now Changshou Road). Toyoda also certainly had mills further to the north-west along Chungshan (or Chungsan sometimes) Road (today’s Chingshan North Road, by what is now the Inner Ring Elevated Road, north of Suzhou Creek in Chapei (Zhabei).

A Shanghai textile mill (but not Toyoda)

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Everyday Old Shanghai – a dollar for your cushion

Posted: October 5th, 2017 | No Comments »

An old Shanghai anecdote I came across the other day that I didn’t know previously. It’s from Danish journalist Karl Eskelund’s memoir of his trip back to China in 1957, The Red Mandarins (1959). Eskelund’s an interesting character himself – a journalist in China in the 1930s, married a Chinese woman, his father had been the King of Siam’s dentist.

Anyway, here’s the anecdote – Eskelund is recalling an incident on the Shanghai Bund around 1936. He got into an altercation with a Chinese rickshaw puller over the fare. A small matter but the inevitable crowd of curious onlookers gathered round blocking the street. A Sikh Shanghai Municipal Policeman came over to sort out the incident. Of course he had little interest in the Chinese puller’s side of the argument – even though Eskelund thought the puller’s argument was valid in hindsight. The policeman told the puller to stop arguing and go about his business or he’d ‘confiscate your cushion’, meaning  the cushion the rickshawmen provided the passenger to give their rear end some comfort on the journey. Without it nobody would hire their rickshaw.

Eskelund recalls that this was the usual punishment for a rickshaw puller and they would then have to go to the police station to redeem their confiscated cushion for the price of a dollar (Chinese). Obviously a major hassle and so to be avoided. How much the SMP made out of this system I’ve no idea!

 

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