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

Remembering Some of the Shanghai Grand Theatre’s Past – Shirley Temple & Ronald Reagan, but not the Lesbian matinees sadly….

Posted: July 17th, 2019 | No Comments »

I walked past the Grand Theatre on Bubbling Well Road (Nanjing Xi Lu) a couple of months back and noticed this new poster celebrating its past as one of the great cinemas of old Shanghai. Worth showing and some pics of the cinema in its heyday.

Shame they forgot to mention the lesbian hook up matinees the place was famous for back then!! – http://www.chinarhyming.com/2015/06/09/lesbian-hook-ups-in-the-grand-cinema-on-the-bubbling-well-road/

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Dealing with Blocked Noses in 1930s Shanghai….

Posted: July 16th, 2019 | No Comments »

Who says China Rhyming doesn’t delve deep into the minutiae of inter-war Shanghai life?

A slightly curious 1930s advertisement for a nose blockage treatment produced in Shanghai. The China Biological and Chemical Laboratories is long gone I feel, but once did have offices down on Kiangse Road (Jiangxi Road). What has me slightly alarmed is that Comfortal is advertisied as being between than ‘arsphenamine’ is a derivative of arsphenamine, once used to treat syphilis and yaws (the latter being a tropical infection of the skin, bones and joints caused by the spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum pertenue and found mostly, these days at least, in Africa and Papua New Guinea). Seems an odd way to unblock your nose – any ideas sciencey types?

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The Untameable, 1923 – Etta Lee on screen

Posted: July 15th, 2019 | 1 Comment »

One of the good things about spending the summer working in Los Angeles is going to the movies – not just some beautiful old cinemas but a great range of old Hollywood to see too. Managed to see the 1923 silent movie (with a great live piano accompaniment) The Untameable at Sid Graumann’s 1920s Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard last week…a tale of a woman suffering from dual personality syndrome and being manipulated by her doctor to get her fortune…

What really interested me though was that The Untameable was a big film for Hawaiian-born Asian American actress Etta Lee. I’d read about her but never seen her on the big screen.

Born in 1906 Lee was of Chinese and French descent; her father was a Chinese medical doctor and her mother was of French ancestry. She grew up in California, studied at Occidental College in LA, Lee moved back to Hawaii to be a teacher, and then returned to LA to begin her career as a silent movie actress. In The Untameable she plays Chinese maid named Liu. In a sense this was her break through movie – her next would be The Thief of Baghdad with Douglas Fairbanks Snr. Born around the same time and appearing in a number of early movies together Lee was contemporary of the better remembered Anna May Wong.

Most of her roles were rather stereotypical and exoticised. She herself complained about this and also that she was sometimes passed over for roles as ‘not being Chinese enough’ due to her mixed race heritage. She retired in 1932 after getting married.

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Jonathan Chatwin’s Long Peace Street…

Posted: July 12th, 2019 | No Comments »

Jonathan Chatwin’s Long Peace Street: A Walk in Modern China is out this month from Manchester University Press. It’s a great read as Chatwin flaneurs down Beijing’s Chang’an Street.

“Through the centre of China’s historic capital, Long Peace Street cuts a long, arrow-straight line. It divides the Forbidden City, home to generations of Chinese emperors, from Tiananmen Square, the vast granite square constructed to glorify a New China under Communist rule. To walk the street is to travel through the story of China’s recent past, wandering among its physical relics and hearing echoes of its dramas. Long Peace Street recounts a journey in modern China, a walk of twenty miles across Beijing offering a very personal encounter with the life of the capital’s streets. At the same time, it takes the reader on a journey through the city’s recent history, telling the story of how the present and future of the world’s rising superpower has been shaped by its tumultuous past, from the demise of the last imperial dynasty in 1912 through to the present day.”

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BEST OF CRIME with Paul French

Posted: July 11th, 2019 | No Comments »

Just in case you ever wondered…..http://off-the-shelfbooks.blogspot.com/2019/07/best-of-crime-with-paul-french.html

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Tsundoku #6 – July/August 2019

Posted: July 10th, 2019 | No Comments »

My monthly column for Asian Books Blog – Tsundoku – is now up for the summer months….a round up of new and interesting Asia-themed fiction and non-fiction….

http://www.asianbooksblog.com/2019/07/tsundoku-6-julyaugust-2019.html

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Sound Advice on Shanghai….

Posted: July 9th, 2019 | No Comments »

Given to Charlie Chan in 1935, but applicable to just about every character in City of Devils I feel….

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Cholera in Canton in 1902…

Posted: July 9th, 2019 | No Comments »

In March 1902 the American newspapers were advising against travel to Canton (Guangzhou) due to a severe cholera outbreak in the city and surrounding countryside. It was actually a pandemic that seems to have begun in India and then led to a rapid spread of the infection south-eastwards and eastwards. It reached Burma and Malaya in 1901 by 1902 was spreading over most parts of the Far East as far as China and Manchuria, Korea, Japan, and the Philippines.

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