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

Baedeker in Port Arthur and Peking

Posted: April 19th, 2014 | No Comments »

In 1914 the world’s leading travel guides publisher Baedeker published the first edition of their guide to Russia which included chapters on Tehran, Port Arthur and Peking. The Russians still had a base at Port Arthur and the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway was just a couple of years away connecting Moscow to Peking,  so it made sense to have these inclusions. This edition published by Karl Baedeker of Leipzig was nearly 600 pages long and was presumably intended for those both visiting and travelling across Russia to either China or Persia by train.

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World Film Locations: Shanghai

Posted: April 19th, 2014 | No Comments »

The World Film Locations series has added Shanghai to its list with John Berra and Wei Ju’s new book. The book is most interesting to China Rhymers when it talks about old Shanghai’s indigenous movie business and those that recreate old Shanghai – Shanghai Triad, Lust/Caution etc. I’m not overly bothered about Skyfall etc as the reason for these recent films being partly or wholly set in Shanghai seems rather obvious given the cityscape and potential of Chinese eyeballs and ticket sales.

51ZjUr4yLfL._Celebrating Shanghai’s rich cinematic history, the films covered here represent a lengthy time period, from the first Golden Age of Chinese Cinema in the 1930s to the city’s status as an international production hub in 2013. Given the enduring status of Shanghai as the “Paris of the East,” World Film Locations: Shanghai emphasizes the city’s cosmopolitan glamour through locations that are steeped in cinematic exoticism, while also probing the reality behind the image by investigating its backstreets and residential zones. To facilitate this study of Shanghai’s dual identity through reference to film locations, the book includes films from both the commercial and independent sectors, with a balance between images captured by local filmmakers and the visions of Western directors who have also utilized the city for their projects.

With numerous essays that reflect Shanghai’s relationship to film and scene reviews of such iconic titles as Street Angel, Temptress Moon, Kung Fu Hustle, and Skyfall, World Film Locations: Shanghai is essential reading for all scholars of China’s urban culture.

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Belvoir Castle’s Chinoiserie wallpaper and “Chinese Rooms”

Posted: April 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

I’ve just been reading Catherine Bailey’s The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery (a good read by the way – though more about World War One than anything overtly Gothic). The book centres around  Belvoir Castle (the Duke of Rutland’s residence) and notes the castle as being famous for its Chinoiserie rooms (Bailey notes several “Chinese rooms”) and, in particular, the exquisite Chinoiserie wallpaper that covered many other rooms. Belvoir (in Grantham Leicestershire)  has been overhauled quite a bit and seems to do a nice turn in weddings and I’m afraid I don’t have any old shots – but the wallpaper remains Chinoiserie.

Belvoir Castle and peacock

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Belvoir Chinese wallpaper

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The Penguin China Specials: First World War Series

Posted: April 17th, 2014 | No Comments »

Regular readers will know that the first two books in this great series from Penguin China have already been published and are available on Kindle and, in Asia, in hard copy form. Here are the titles in the rest of the series (including my own coming soon) – they all look fantastic (click on the image to enlarge)…..

Penguin Specials WW1-China list

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Rare ‘China Magazine’ 1860s Photographs of China & Hong Kong

Posted: April 16th, 2014 | No Comments »

Some photographs of China and Hong Kong from the 1860s, believed to be among the earliest of their kind in existence, came up for auction the other day. The scenes of ordinary Chinese life and Hong Kong streets and harbour are remarkable. The photographs are taken from the China Magazine, which began as a weekly publication on March 7 1868 and continued monthly until it reached its fourth and final volume in 1870.

Here’s a link to a selection of the images in the Daily Mail

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The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited – 25 Years Since the Tiananmen Massacre

Posted: April 16th, 2014 | No Comments »

Louisa Lim’s The People’s Republic of Amnesia is now published. I’ve read and was greatly impressed but am reviewing elsewhere so here’s the blurb….

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On June 4, 1989, People’s Liberation Army soldiers opened fire on unarmed civilians in Beijing, killing untold hundreds of people. A quarter-century later, this defining event remains buried in China’s modern history, successfully expunged from collective memory. In The People’s Republic of Amnesia, NPR correspondent Louisa Lim charts how the events of June 4th changed China, and how China changed the events of June 4th by rewriting its own history.

Lim reveals new details about those fateful days, including how one of the country’s most senior politicians lost a family member to an army bullet, as well as the inside story of the young soldiers sent to clear Tiananmen Square. She also introduces us to individuals whose lives were transformed by the events of Tiananmen Square, such as a founder of the Tiananmen Mothers, whose son was shot by martial law troops; and one of the most important government officials in the country, who post-Tiananmen became one of its most prominent dissidents. And she examines how June 4th shaped China’s national identity, fostering a generation of young nationalists, who know little and care less about 1989. For the first time, Lim uncovers the details of a brutal crackdown in a second Chinese city that until now has been a near-perfect case study in the state’s ability to rewrite history, excising the most painful episodes. By tracking down eyewitnesses, discovering US diplomatic cables, and combing through official Chinese records, Lim offers the first account of a story that has remained untold for a quarter of a century. The People’s Republic of Amnesia is an original, powerfully gripping, and ultimately unforgettable book about a national tragedy and an unhealed wound.

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China’s ‘Leftover’ Women: London Events This Week

Posted: April 15th, 2014 | No Comments »

A new title has just been published in the Asian Arguments series I edit for Zed Books - Leta Hong Fincher’s Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Equality in China. This week Leta will be making a few appearances and speaking in London…this Thursday lunchtime at Probsthain‘s for a talk and signing and then in the evening at the Royal Asiatic Society in an event with the Young China Watchers London branch – details of both events below…..

Leta London launch

Leta Hong Fincher book signing e-flyer-page-0

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Meridian Society talk – London 15/4 – “May 30th Changes Everything”

Posted: April 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
Talk by Chris Corin: “May 30th Changes Everything”
How an event in Shanghai in 1925 challenged British policy makers and how the Shanghailanders (entrenched British settlers) complicated thingsDate: Tuesday, 15th April
Time: 6:30pm
Venue: SOAS (School of Oriental & African Studies), Russell Square, Main Building G3Entry: Members of The Meridian Society, SACU  & SOAS CSSA  free
Non-members £5 donation

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On May 30, 1925 workers and students demonstrated on the Nanking Road, the main shopping thoroughfare in the International Concession, in Shanghai. They were shouting slogans, “Take back the concessions” and “down with the imperialists” and they were told to disperse. 10 seconds later the Shanghai Municipal Police, commanded by a British officer, opened fire on an unarmed crowd.  13 were killed and more than 20 wounded. The event mobilised Chinese nationalism “as a nation responded to a policeman’s bullet”, and was a direct challenge to British policy makers.  Shanghai was the most significant single element of British interest in China, and Britain sought to defend that interest but the Foreign Office was aware of the limits of British power. The Shanghailanders were not.  The Shanghailanders, as they called themselves, were the small treaty port people, whose fortunes were inextricably tied up with the existence of the British concessions and extraterritorial privileges in China. Even a Shanghailander himself called them, “the spoilt children of the Empire”. They were to complicate British policy making. Indeed “the ramifications of the imperialist mind” has been called “the barbed wire thread which bound together the whole fabric of foreign imperialism in China and made it so unbearable to Chinese nationalism.”  This talk will look at 3 things:

 

·       The clash between nationalism and imperialism and the challenge this brought to British policy makers

·       The views, actions, hopes and fears of the Shanghailanders.

·       The implications for today of the intertwined and interconnected histories of Britain and China.

 

Chris Corin is a member of The Meridian Society.  He taught History at Worthing College for many years.  With Terry Fiehn, he has written Russia under Tsarism and Communism 1881 – 1953 (2nd edition 2011) and a number of articles for History Review and New Perspective.  He has a long standing interest in British Foreign Policy and, after a visit to Shanghai, became fascinated with the development of that great city.

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