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

Animated Encounters: Transnational Movements of Chinese Animation, 1940s–1970s

Posted: February 22nd, 2019 | No Comments »

Daisy Yan Du’s book looks excellent and does start in the 1940s….

China’s role in the history of world animation has been trivialized or largely forgotten. In Animated Encounters Daisy Yan Du addresses this omission in her study of Chinese animation and its engagement with international forces during its formative period, the 1940s–1970s. She introduces readers to transnational movements in early Chinese animation, tracing the involvement of Japanese, Soviet, American, Taiwanese, and China’s ethnic minorities, at socio-historical or representational levels, in animated filmmaking in China. Du argues that Chinese animation was international almost from its inception and that such border-crossing exchanges helped make it “Chinese” and subsequently transform the history of world animation. She highlights animated encounters and entanglements to provide an alternative to current studies of the subject characterized by a preoccupation with essentialist ideas of “Chineseness” and further questions the long-held belief that the forty-year-period in question was a time of cultural isolationism for China due to constant wars and revolutions.

China’s socialist era, known for the pervasiveness of its political propaganda and suppression of the arts, unexpectedly witnessed a golden age of animation. Socialist collectivism, reinforced by totalitarian politics and centralized state control, allowed Chinese animation to prosper and flourish artistically. In addition, the double marginality of animation—a minor art form for children—coupled with its disarming qualities and intrinsic malleability and mobility, granted animators and producers the double power to play with politics and transgress ideological and geographical borders while surviving censorship, both at home and abroad.

A captivating and enlightening history, Animated Encounters will attract scholars and students of world film and animation studies, children’s culture, and modern Chinese history.

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Shanghai’s Slozky Vodka, 1930s

Posted: February 21st, 2019 | No Comments »

A little mystery here – an advert in Shanghai for Slozky Vodka from the 1930s. The usual sort of marketing – the ‘best’, ‘ask for’ etc. However, I can find no other references to Slozky Vodka from the 1930s or any other time period?

I don’t know the supposed manufacurers – Atlantic Company either. Could it be that someone was brewing up backdoor hooch and selling its as Russian/Polish/whatever vodka in Shanghai to unsuspecting boozers? I know Russian emigres were cooking up various bootleg samogen for their own consumption – but selling it as a branded product?

Any information gratefully received…

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Graham Greene on Saigon, 1955

Posted: February 20th, 2019 | No Comments »

“I can’t say what made me fall in love with Vietnam – that a woman’s voice can drug you; that everything is so intense. The colors, the taste, even the rain. Nothing like the filthy rain in London. They say whatever you’re looking for, you will find here. They say you come to Vietnam and you understand a lot in a few minutes, but the rest has got to be lived. The smell: that’s the first thing that hits you, promising everything in exchange for your soul. And the heat. Your shirt is straightaway a rag. You can hardly remember your name, or what you came to escape from. But at night, there’s a breeze. The river is beautiful. You could be forgiven for thinking there was no war; that the gunshots were fireworks; that only pleasure matters. A pipe of opium, or the touch of a girl who might tell you she loves you. And then, something happens, as you knew it would. And nothing can ever be the same again.”

Graham Greene – The Quiet American (1955)

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Talking with Xinran at the Daunt Books Marylebone Spring Festival 2019 – 14/3/19

Posted: February 19th, 2019 | No Comments »

I’ll be talking to Xinran about her new book The Promise at the Daunt Books (Marylebone High Street) Spring Festival on 14/3 at 1.30pm…

It goes without saying that it’s a beautiful venue and attendees get a sausage roll courtesy of London’s best butcher, Marylebone’s own The Ginger Pig!! Ticket details here – https://www.dauntbooks.co.uk/product/events/the-promise-love-and-loss-in-modern-china/

Tickets are £7 including mini sausage rolls provided by The Ginger Pig.

Xinran’s acclaimed body of work, encompassing 30 years and hundreds of interviews, has established her as the finest chronicler of Chinese women’s lives. Her new work The Promise focuses on the moving stories of six women from four generations of the Han family, and how much has changed in their differing understanding of sex, emotions and love. In their own words, the life of the heart shines through the generations against a vivid backdrop of war, political turmoil and hardship.

Chatting to Xinran we welcome historian Paul French, whose evocative and gripping accounts of 1930s Peking and Shanghai have delighted readers in his bestselling books Midnight in Peking and City of Devils.

This event is part of the Daunt Books Festival 2019.
The event will start at 13:30 and end at approximately 14:30


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Cities Under Occupation – City of Devils Comes to Jewish Books Week 2019, London – 3/3/19

Posted: February 18th, 2019 | No Comments »

I’m delighted to be talking about City of Devils at this years Jewish Book Week in London on 3/3/19 at Kings Place, up behind King’s Cross Station. It’s a special treat as I’m in conversation with the biographer Anne Sebba whose most recent book, Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved, and Died Under Nazi Occupation, dovetails nicely with mine.

Obviously there are differences between Japanese-occupied Shanghai and Nazi-occupied Paris but the parallels, variations and differing responses to occupation are interesting.

3/3/19 – 3.30pm – Kings Place – tickets – http://jewishbookweek.com/event/city-of-devils-a-shanghai-noir/

1930s Shanghai: in the years before the Japanese invaded, the city was a haven for outlaws from all over the world; a place where pasts could be forgotten, fascism and communism outrun, names invented, fortunes made – and lost. Award-winning author Paul French offers a spellbinding account of Shanghai’s lawless 1930s, and two of its most notorious criminals who bestrode the city like kings: ‘Lucky’ Jack Riley, an ex-Navy boxing champion; and ‘Dapper’ Joe Farren, a Jewish boy who fled Vienna’s ghetto to establish a chorus line that rivalled Ziegfeld’s.

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The Royal Asiatic Society Journal (China) 2018 is now Available to View online…

Posted: February 14th, 2019 | 1 Comment »

The Royal Asiatic Society Journal (China), edited by Julie Chun, is now available to view online. Officially that’s Vol.78, Issue 1, 2018…

Past issues are also available….

So, i hear you ask, what does the issue contain?

Well, the following:

Peter Hibbard on the history of the North China Branch of the RAS;

David Bridgman on Eliza Bridgman and the ‘awakening’ of women;

Andrew Field on an Irish Policeman in Shanghai;

Christian Mueller on the ILO and Republican China;

Lukas Gajdos on a Czechoslovak Founding Father in Harbin;

Evan Taylor on INDUSCO during WW2;

John Van Fleet on enduring myths in China and Japan;

Jimmy Nuo Zhang on Ming and Qing Dragon Marble Reliefs;

Parul Rewal on Hong Hong hawker culture

Edith Yazmin Montes Incin on Mexican Foreign Policy and the PRC;

The Young Scholar Essay – Athena Ru on China’s Script Revolution;

& reviews of Lynn Pan’s When True Love Came to China and Luise Guest’s Half the Sky;

And, I have to give a quick plug as it’s my blog – there’s a piece by me on Beijing’s ‘most foreign hutong’, Kuei Chia Chang and the foreigners who inhabited it in 1922…

Amou Factory Alley/Kuei Chia/Kuijiachang Hutong today….

And it’s all here to read and download – http://www.royalasiaticsociety.org.cn/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/RAS.Journal2018.pdf


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Why Evelyn Waugh Never Went to China

Posted: February 13th, 2019 | No Comments »

I am always slightly fascinated by why many famous English writers of the inter-war period never made it to China – Orwell went East of course, but never to China; Graham Greene likewise. Evelyn Waugh, like so many people at the time, had a fascination with China. I have written about one aspect of this in my recent piece for the South China Morning Post Magazine on Mrs. “Tinko” Pawley, her friend Charlie Corkran, & her dog Squishy – how they were captured by Bandits in 1932 Yingkou and how Waugh used his close interest in their case to write a short story…set in Africa! https://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/long-reads/article/2180648/how-chinese-bandits-kidnapping-blond-british

But why did Waugh never go? Well, he nearly did…in 1930. A busy year for Waugh – his second novel Vile Bodies was published and was a well reviewed bestseller; he separated from his wife (also called Evelyn) and converted to Catholicism. He spent the summer in Ireland at Tullynally Castle (the home of the Pakenham family in County Westmeath) with friends including Alastair Graham (one of his “loves” and the model for Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited) and the author Elizabeth Harman (who was to marry Frank Pakenham, seventh earl of Longford). Here Waugh spent his days consulting atlases and the library researching a trip to China and Japan.

Graham, Waugh and Harman in Ireland, summer 1930

However Alastair Graham had been working for the Foreign Office in Cairo where he had met some Abyssinian (Ethiopian) princes. The tales of them, their attire and country fascinated Waugh. When he heard that a new emperor was to be crowned in Addis Ababa that November (Ras Tafari, thence Emperor Haile Sellasie) he immediately dropped all thought of China, got an accreditation from the Times and headed for Africa. His dispatches from Abyssinia are collected in the Penguin Modern Classic, Remote People…

And so China never got the Waugh treatment…

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Le Drame de Shanghai, 1938

Posted: February 12th, 2019 | No Comments »

Some artwork from GW Pabst’s French movie Le Drame de Shanghai – which i have sadly never seen…but sort of know I would like….

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