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

Shanghai’s Clover Beer

Posted: September 18th, 2019 | No Comments »

Among the old beers of Shanghai the Jardine-Matheson brew EWO (from the company’s Hong name) stands out, but there was also Clover beer….

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Putnam Weale’s The Silver Sutra…

Posted: September 14th, 2019 | No Comments »

Bertram Simpson, aka Putnam Weale, is one of the most interesting foreigners in early twentieth century China. He is best remembered now for his book Indiscreet Letters From Peking By the time of the First World War he was serving as the Daily Telegraph correspondent in Peking from and had devoted himself to writing – a jobbing hack, begging up newspaper work, earning a few coppers stringing for the new-fangled wire services, penning pretty bad sensationalist novels – for instance, The Silver Sutra (1934) featuring dashing adventurers and beautiful women in Mongolia hunting priceless silver and fighting Russian bandits…The book was published posthumously as Simpson was hacked and shot to death in a Tientsin street in 1930…(but that’s another story!)

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Royal Asiatic Society Beijing – A panel discussion on architecture, preservation and heritage – 24/9/19 – Beijing Bookworm

Posted: September 12th, 2019 | 1 Comment »

Architecture is the soul of a city and civilization. Over thousands of years, western architectural history has never recognized the classification of Chinese or East Asian architecture until prominent architectural historians like Zhu Qiqian and Liang Sicheng, through the work of the Society for Research in Chinese Architecture, put it on the map. Throughout China, we can still see the remains of these beautiful ancient structures, some very well-preserved with support from government and civil society organizations, but others left in isolation and dilapidation.
How do we interpret the beauty and function of these ancient structures today? And more importantly, how can we continue to preserve their magnificence and dignity for years to come?

ANNIE YANG ZHOU: Annie Zhou is Director of External Affairs at the U.S.-China Green Fund and Executive President of the corporate foundation which focuses on environmental education and action. Previously, Annie worked in financial services, a policy think tank, and founded her own strategy consulting company. She earned her MBA from University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, MPA from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, where she serves as an ambassador, and her BBA from George Washington University. She is also on the International Advisory Committee of Miss Porter’s School.
PROF. WANG NAN: Wang Nan had received a Bachelor of Architecture in School of Architecture from Tsinghua University in 2001 and PHD in School of Architecture from Tsinghua University in 2008 with Professor Wu Liangyong as the supervisor. He had been lecturer in School of Architecture in Tsinghua University since 2009, teaching the architectural design and urban design courses. He had been the Visiting Professor in Institute of The Forbidden City in Beijing since 2019. He had been the Associate of The Chinese Art Media Lab(CAMLab)of the Department of History of Art and Architecture in Harvard University since 2019. His main research interests are History of Chinese Traditional Architecture and Proportions of Chinese Historical Architecture.
MATTHEW HU (HU XINYU): As China Representative of the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts, Matthew represents the Prince’s School in China, manages all of the School’s Chinese contacts and relationships; and coordinates the School’s activities in China.
In November 2013, Matthew and two other friends started an educational project called “the Courtyard Institute”, aiming at increasing visibility of traditional culture education in the public, as well as exploring a new methodology for alternative education. From October 2009 to November 2014, Matthew served for five years in the Prince’s Charities Foundation (China), a sister charity of PSTA, as its China Representative. From July 2006 to March 2009, Matthew worked as the Managing Director of Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP). As the first professional Managing Director of the organization, Matthew set a solid foundation for its development strategy, overall project management and general administration system.
In October 2015, Matthew accepted the invitation of Mr. He Shuzhong, the founder of CHP, to take up the role of trustee for the next three years. He is now also playing a leading role for reorganizing a new board for CHP. Prior to joining CHP, Matthew worked for five years in the tourism industry with WildChina Company Limited, handling inbound China travel programs for non-profit and educational institutions. A graduate of the Beijing Second Foreign Language Institute in 1997 with a BA in English Literature, Matthew has over the years developed a focus on Chinese history and religion.

A panel discussion on architecture, preservation and heritage.

WHAT: A panel discussion on architecture, preservation and heritage
WHEN: Tuesday Sept. 24 from 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM
WHERE: The Beijing Bookworm, Bld 4, Nan Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing tel: 6586 9507
HOW MUCH: RMB 60 (includes one welcome drink); free for members of RASBJ or Bookworm (this does not include a welcome drink)

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Shanghai Gas Company Ad, 1920s

Posted: September 7th, 2019 | No Comments »

A 1920s advert for the Shanghai Gas Company….

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John Reeves: Pioneering Collector of Chinese Plants and Botanical Art

Posted: September 5th, 2019 | No Comments »

A lovely new book by Kate Bailey from the Royal Horticultural Society on John Reeves, East India Company tea inspector and plant collector….

This is the story of the Reeves Collection of botanical paintings, the result of one man’s single-minded dedication to commissioning pictures and gathering plants for the Horticultural Society of London.

Reeves went to China in 1812 and immediately on arrival started sending back snippets of information about manufactures, plants and poetry, goods, gods and tea to Sir Joseph Banks. Slightly later, he also started collecting for the Society but despite years of work collecting, labelling and packing plants and organising a team of Chinese artists until he left China in 1831, Reeves never enjoyed the same degree of recognition as other naturalists in China.

This was possibly because he had a demanding job as a tea inspector. Reeves himself never claimed to be a professional naturalist and the plant collecting and painting supervision were undertaken in his own time. Furthermore, fan qui (foreign devils) were restricted to the port area of Canton and to Macau, so that plant-hunting expeditions further afield were impossible. Furthermore, Reeves never published an account of his life in the country, unlike Clarke Abel and Robert Fortune, but he left us some letters, notebooks, drawings and maps.

The Collection is held at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Lindley Library in Vincent Square, London. It is a magnificent achievement. Not only are the pictures accurate and richly coloured plant portraits of plants then unknown in the West, but they stand as a record of plants being cultivated in nineteenth-century Canton and Macau. In John Reeves: Pioneering Collector of Chinese Plants and Botanical Art, Kate Bailey reveals John Reeves’ life as an East India Company tea inspector in nineteenth-century China and shows how he managed to collect and document thousands of Chinese natural history drawings, far more than anyone else at the time.

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Getting a Proper Shampoo in 1920s Shanghai….

Posted: September 4th, 2019 | No Comments »

Whitworth’s on Kiangse Road offered “proper shampooing”, or at least could sell you Palm Tree of Cocoa-nut oil shampoo. Leonard Whitworth, originally from Manchester, was a sales agent for mostly textile companies, but obviously diversified. He’d worked in textile engineering in India and Japan before the First World War before settling in Shanghai working for Calder, Marshall & Co around 1919. He was also the proud Chairman of the Shanghai Lancastrian Association (sadly now defunct I believe!!)…

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Master of Deception: The Wartime Adventures of Peter Fleming

Posted: September 3rd, 2019 | No Comments »

A new book from Alan Ogden that sheds more light and detail on Fleming’s activities in China, and especially in the wartime capital of Chungking, in WW2…..

Master of Deception is a biography of Peter Fleming, elder brother of Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond. Peter Fleming worked as a travel writer and journalist, serving with distinction throughout World War II and played a crucial role in British intelligence operations in the Far East. This biography ranges from the personal life of Fleming such as his marriage to Celia Johnson, a famous actor of the time, to his extensive military intelligence career which took him from Norway and Greece to the Far East. Framed through the life of Peter Fleming this book offers an in-depth study of British intelligence operations in the Far East during World War II.

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Chinese on the Boulevard de Crenelle, 1928

Posted: September 2nd, 2019 | No Comments »

French author Francis Carco’s novel Perversity (sometimes called Depravity) was first published in 1928 and translated into English by Jean Rhys. It’s set in the Paris underworld, where a prostitute and her pimp live n the same house as her sexually immature brother. A situation that doesn’t end well.

Interestingly, for this blog, the book, which is set mainly along Paris’s Boulevard de Crenelle. Several times in the novel Carco mentions that the Boulevard de Crenelle, in the 15th arrondissement to the south west of the city, was particularly popular with Chinese and other foreign workers in the city at the time, as well as other minority groups. I don’t know if this is true, or if it’s just Carco using the imagery of the Chinese to exoticise the world of Pervesity. Of course he is also suggestign that these women have fallen so low – indeed are ‘hatless!’ (often a sign of low class) – as to sleep with foreign men (or anyone not French basically)…

‘Sometimes they would watch the procession of men who were hunting for a woman, Chinese, Arabs, Negroes.’

‘Many of his neighbours promenaded hatless young girls, and under their caps their faces were ravaged. There were many foreigners amongst them: swarthy Arabs, Chinese, Italians with short black moustaches, filthy Spaniards, Russians with reddened eyelids lacking eyelashes, Germans, fat Belgians.’

Carco, born in New Caledonia, did like to exoticise his writing and was part of the French Fantaisiste school of writers and artists.

Francis Carco
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