Posted: October 27th, 2016 | No Comments »
A header for the marvellous La Librairie Francaise of China. The publusher was the imprint of the great Henri Vetch who ran the French Bookstore inside the lobby of the Grand Hotel de Pekin (now “Block B” of the Beijing Hotel – aaahh, the romance of communism!!) from 1930 to (about) 1953 (I think). The Libraire had been started originally by Henri’s father, Francis. Henri Vetch (who eventually went to Hong Kong and died in the 1970s) also had a branch at 71 Rue de France in Tientsin (that’s the formerly French bit of Jiefang Road in Tianjin now).
Posted: October 26th, 2016 | No Comments »
Cincinnati’s Giddings Department Store ran a promotion in January 1937 on the delightful looking (but perhaps not so delightfully named) felt “coolie sailor” hat, the “China-China”. As the advertising says – “gay as a Peking party” it will “China Clipper you right into Spring”. And only $3.95.
Posted: October 25th, 2016 | No Comments »
Here’s something you don’t see that often anymore – a bunch of bandits paraded down the Nanking Road. But in October 1925 it was a daily occurrence apparently. they had to walk all the way out to Lungwha to get themselves hung – 180 of them! ‘The Chinese people seem to enjoy it” says the article – but then where were public executions not popular? Certainly not in London and Paris where crowds would gather only a few decades previously for such displays. Still, public execution was long lived in China – in 1937 over 50,000 people turned out to see drug dealers and addicts executed in Peking.
Posted: October 24th, 2016 | No Comments »
James Wong Howe is a fascinating character – born in Guangdong in 1899 he came to America as a small boy. Interested in cameras and the early movie business he got a job with Cecil B DeMille on the silents. In 1928 he returned to China to film some location shots for a movie – that movie never happened, but later Josef von Sternberg used some of the footage in Shanghai Express.
Anyway, Wong Howe was asked to contribute to the very thoughtful and now largely forgotten magazine Rob Wagner’s Script that mixed authors, actors, film folk and cultural critics together between 1929 and 1949 to produce a fascinating magazine. Wong Howe’s contribution, published in October 1945, was called Electric Shadows and it was an article dealing with Chinese cinema since the Japanese invasion and the opportunities for Chinese film in the immediate aftermath of WW2. He discusses how the traditions of lantern shows morphed into “electric shadow” shows. He throws in a few useful stats:
Pre-war China had 400 cinemas showing American films (85%), Chinese, Russian, British and French being the rest (15%).
He also talks of the possibilities of adaptations of Lu Xun and Lao She and the opporutnities for co-operation between Shanghai’s film studios and Hollywood now the Japanese have been defeated.
The whole essay is available in this collection, The Best of Rob Wagner’s Script (just $5 on Kindle)…which has a lot of other good writing on Hollywood.
James Wong Howe on the set of The Alaskan, 1924
Posted: October 23rd, 2016 | No Comments »
October 1925 – China’s telegraph operators go on strike (you could that then before the Communists banned proper trade unions and striking) demanding better wages and shorter working hours. How long were there working hours? By 1925 China had a pretty effective telegraph system up and running – 417 stations across the country and the strike was total across them all!!
Posted: October 22nd, 2016 | No Comments »
Hong Kong seems to have stood up well against Typhoon Haima – though it was a shame the authorities rushed to cut down so many trees! Will they be replaced?
Anyway, 1924 was a year of terrible drought in most of Northern China but the following year that all changed. Peking saw 15 inches of rain in just eight days turning hutong laneways into rivers…..
Posted: October 21st, 2016 | No Comments »
If you were a true connoisseur of Chinese art in all its forms then Strehlneek’s on Kiangse Road (now Jiangxi Road). The store was the pride and joy of Mr E.A. Strehlneek who also produced a number of exquisite books on Chinese art around the time of the First World War and shortly after – though he stayed in business well into the 1940s. Strehlneek’s Chinese Pictorial Art, published in 1914 in Shanghai by the Commercial Press (and with a text by Florence Ayscough – see the great small biography of her I was involved in publishing some years back) is beautiful and you’ll be lucky to get a copy for under US$650 these days. Some images from the lavishly produced book below.
Strehlneek, born around 1870 in Latvia, came to Shanghai in 1890 as an appraiser in the Chinese Maritime Customs, based in Tientsin (Tianjin). He started dealing in art opening his store in 1910. He made good money selling entire collections of Chinese art to wealthy Shanghailanders or foreign museums. He hosted exhibitions in Shanghai and also, I believe, in Tokyo in the 1920s. Strehlneek was certainly well connected and counted the Swedish art historian and Sinologist Osvald Siren (Strehlneek’s Latvian roots probably gave him a grasp of Swedish and he sold extensively to Swedish collectors all his career) as well as fellow well known dealer in Chinese art Peter Bahr among his close friends. Strehlneek knew Siren quite well and the two met repeatedly between their first meeting in 1908 and his lengthy visit to China in 1922. He maintained close contacts with Chinese artists and was known to them under his Chinese name Shih Te-ni.
Posted: October 20th, 2016 | No Comments »
The photographer Marc Riboud died this summer at a very respectable 93. By Asia Hands Riboud will be best remembered for his Asian photography – grouped together partly in his books The Three Banners of China, Face of North Vietnam, Visions of China, and In China. Riboud was amazing for many reasons (not least he was a member of the French Resistance in WW2). He didn’t really start seriously taking pictures until the 1950s – previously he worked in a Lyon factory. He first went to China in 1957 and then returned later, during the Cultural Revolution. In 1971 John Kenneth Galbraith visited China. He published a book about his impressions and experiences on that trip, A China Passage, at that amazing time in the country’s history, and used Riboud’s photographs. The book and the photographs stand as rare eye witness testimonies to life in China in the early 1970s – still in the Cultural Revolution and the grip of Mao’s madness.
the pictures below are from that 1971 trip…
Hutongs close to Tiananmen Square (no longer there of course)
Peking Department Store
The HSBC lions on the Bund, Shanghai
Yarn delivery – Shanghai