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

Anthony E Clark’s China Gothic: The Bishop of Beijing and His Cathedral

Posted: December 5th, 2019 | No Comments »

Highly recommended read for any Beijing Heads out there…Anthony Clark’s China Gothic…

As China struggled to redefine itself at the turn of the twentieth century, nationalism, religion, and material culture intertwined in revealing ways. This phenomenon is evident in the twin biographies of North China’s leading Catholic bishop of the time, Alphonse Favier (1837-1905), and the Beitang cathedral, epicenter of the Roman Catholic mission in China through incarnations that began in 1701. After its relocation and reconstruction under Favier’s supervision, the cathedral-and Favier-miraculously survived a two-month siege in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion. Featuring a French Gothic Revival design augmented by Chinese dragon-shaped gargoyles, marble balustrades in the style of Daoist and Buddhist temples, and other Chinese aesthetic flourishes, Beitang remains an icon of Sino-Western interaction. Anthony Clark draws on archival materials from the Vatican and collections in France, Italy, China, Poland, and the United States to trace the prominent role of French architecture in introducing Western culture and Catholicism to China. A principal device was the aesthetic imagined by the Gothic Revival movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the premier example of this in China being the Beitang cathedral. Bishop Favier’s biography is a lens through which to examine Western missionaries’ role in colonial endeavors and their complex relationship with the Chinese communities in which they lived and worked.

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The City of Devils at Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue – 4/12/19

Posted: December 3rd, 2019 | No Comments »
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Christmas is Coming…..

Posted: December 3rd, 2019 | No Comments »
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Royal Asiatic Society Shanghai – S. C. Young – The Rise of an Irish Policeman in Shanghai, 1904–1938 – 5/12/19

Posted: December 1st, 2019 | No Comments »

Drawing from a treasure trove of original photos and documents as well as newspaper articles from the era, this talk tells the story of S. C. Young, a policeman from Ireland, who arrived in Shanghai in 1904 and remained there until 1938, making his way up the rungs of the police force to eventually serve as Commissioner.
Amidst the dramatic backdrop of war, revolution, crime and gangland politics, Mr Young married an Englishwoman and raised three boys. It will be argued that his stable family life, and he and his wife’s devotion to their church and other social and civic organizations in the city contributed to his rise in the hierarchy of the city’s British community. This talk will feature many photos; it is based on an article that Dr Field published in the RAS Journal in 2018.


Andrew David Field earned a Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. He has taught at universities in the USA, Australia, China and Korea. He currently serves as an administrator and professor of Chinese History at Duke Kunshan University. He has published three books: Shanghai’s Dancing World: Cabaret Culture and Urban Politics (2010), Mu Shiying: China’s Lost Modernist (2014), and Shanghai Nightscapes: A Nocturnal Biography of a Global City (co-authored with James Farrer, 2015).

Entrance feeMembers: 50 RMB  Non-Members: 100 RMB(one drink included)
VenuePunchline Café Paramount Metropolis, 22F1728 West Nanjing Road (Enter the building from West Nanjing Road and walk to the elevator at the back of the lobby)

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Printed in North Korea: The Art of Everyday Life in the DPRK

Posted: November 28th, 2019 | No Comments »

Just in time for Christmas another lovely book from the excellent Nick Bonner….

Never-before-seen North Korea – a rare glimpse into the country behind the politics and the creativity behind the propaganda

This incredible collection of prints dating from the 1950s to the twenty-first century is the only one of its kind in or outside North Korea. Depicting the everyday lives of the country’s train conductors, steelworkers, weavers, farmers, scientists, and fishermen, these unique lino-cut and woodblock prints are a fascinating way to explore the culture of this still virtually unknown country. Together, they are an unparalleled testament to the talent of North Korea’s artists and the unique social, cultural, and political conditions in which they work.

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Coming Down Alert – Xundao Jie, Shanghai Old Town

Posted: November 26th, 2019 | No Comments »

More of Shanghai’s Old Town (Nantao) is coming down – leaving very, very little now. Xundao Jie is near Qiaojia Lu, the site of Catalpa Gardens, the mansion of the famous painter Wang Yiting (who hosted Albert Einstein for dinner there in 1922) and the oldest decently intact residence left in Nantao.

Much of Xundao Jie is now bricked up ready to come down sadly….

View across Xundao Jie

Catalpa Gardens – just around the corner
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Vera Schwarz’s In the Crook of the Rock – Jewish Shanghai

Posted: November 25th, 2019 | No Comments »

A recent new book on Jewish Shanghai a kind stranger in a cafe in Hendon, North London, brought to my attention when overhearing me in a conversation about the old Hongkou….

Focusing upon the life of Chaya Walkin-one little girl from a distinguished Torah lineage in Poland-this book illustrates the inner resources of the refugee community that made possible survival with dignity. Based on a wide variety of sources and languages, this book is crafted around the voice of a child who was five years old when she was forced to flee her home in Poland and start the terrifying journey to Vilna, Kobe, and Shanghai. The Song of Songs is used to provide an unexpected and poetic angle of vision upon strategies for creating meaning in times of historical trauma.

Vera Schwarcz was born in Romania and became an historian of China and a poet in the United States. For the past four decades she taught at Wesleyan University and Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Her work was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fullbright Fellowship, a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and a Lady Davis Fellowship. Schwarcz is the author of nine books about Chinese and Jewish history, including Bridge Across Broken Time: Chinese and Jewish Cultural Memory (Yale University Press, 1989) which was nominated for the National Jewish Book Award and Colors of Veracity: A Quest for Truth in China and Beyond (University of Hawai’i Press, 2014). She has also written six books of poetry, including most recently The Physics of Wrinkle Formation (Antrim House, 2015). For more information about her work, visit between2walls.com.

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Once Upon a Time in Shanghai…

Posted: November 22nd, 2019 | No Comments »

a fascinating new book (of course I should have bagged the title first!!)….

China, poised to become the world’s largest film market, is home to an expansive state-supported movie and television industry. On an unparalleled scale, entire towns have been built around making movies. Given film censorship codes in China, period films provide a safe and familiar format to tell stories based around “official” narratives. The movie sets, rivaling real-world cities and monuments in their scale, have themselves become destinations for domestic and international tourists. Despite the fiction, they bear witness to a dynamic and changing China. Photographer Mark Parascandola, has spent five years photographing movie production sites and outdoor sets across China.

There’s an interview with the photographer here…https://supchina.com/2019/11/20/the-ambiguity-between-truth-and-fiction/

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