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

A Few Posts on Madrid #2 – The Chinoiserie fountains of the Palace of Aranjuez

Posted: October 31st, 2014 | No Comments »

The Royal Palace of Aranjuez is the home of the King of Spain in Madrid, but it’s open to the public. Ir was mostly completed in the mid-18th century so Chinoiserie would have to appear somewhere. The gardens also feature a number of fountains and pavilions (first two images below) as well as what are called “kiosks”, officially “Kioscos chinescos” (bottom image), which look fairly unique to me.

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A Few Posts on Madrid #1 – The Original Cafe Oriental

Posted: October 30th, 2014 | No Comments »

A recent trip involved a great deal of mooching around Madrid and, of course, yielded a few China/Chinoiserie-related posts. Today Madrid’s well known Cafe de Oriente is situated on the Plaza de Oriente near the Royal Theatre and opposite the Royal Palace. It is one of Europe’s noted literary cafes but is a late twentieth century construction with a neo-Baroque interior. It’s a nice place to stop for a drink. However, the original Cafe de Oriente (or Oriental Cafe) was some way away along the Calle Gran Via between the streets of Carmen and Atlantico in the basement of a hotel – a few photos of the exterior survive….I’m not sure any exist of the interior….

Café Oriental,

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The Oriental Club, New York, 1920s

Posted: October 29th, 2014 | No Comments »

Sadly the Oriental Club is a fiction, created for the 1960 film The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, a bio-pic of the life and times of the Irish-American gangster Jack “Legs” Diamond. As well as being a gangster and a thief Diamond was an accomplished dancer, as well as having several mistresses associated with the Ziegfeld Follies. In the movie version of his life (which is not entirely accurate) Diamond, played by Ray Danton, and his girlfriend Alice, played by Karen Steele, enter a dance competition in 1920s Manhattan at a place called the Oriental Club. Though, in reality, Diamond did participate in such events none of his biographies record the Oriental Club so I’m assuming it’s fictitious (though dancehalls called the Oriental did exist at the time, most notably in New Orleans). Anyway, here’s some stills of the place, that didn’t exist, but would have been fun to visit if it did….

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JackDiamondThe real Jack “Legs” Diamond

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Jack’s real life dancing partner – Ziegfeld Follie girl Marion “Kiki” Roberts

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Early views of Hong Kong Exhibition, From 28th October, Hong Kong

Posted: October 28th, 2014 | No Comments »

Jonathan Wattis has an exhibition of early views of Hong Kong for all to see at The Rotunda in Hong Kong’s Exchange Square running from the 28th of October. The exhibition runs till the 12th of November and includes original paintings and prints as well as some pictures from the Chater Collection of early Hong Kong photographs from 1860-1935.

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A.R. Johnston’s Record Office believed to be the first Government House c.1845

by unknown Chinese artist

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Andrew Field on Shanghai: Rise and Fall of a Dancing Metropolis – 28/10/14, Shanghai

Posted: October 28th, 2014 | No Comments »

Andrew Field, author of Shanghai’s Dancing World and the recent Mu Shiying: China’s Lost Modernist will be speaking on Shanghai’s old dancehall culture on the 28th October in Shanghai – details below (ignore the date – it’s apparently wrong, but the venue is right)

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The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History

Posted: October 27th, 2014 | No Comments »

Rian Thum’s The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History looks like an interesting read….

Read an excerpt from the book here

 

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For 250 years, the Turkic Muslims of Altishahr—the vast desert region to the northwest of Tibet—have led an uneasy existence under Chinese rule. Today they call themselves Uyghurs, and they have cultivated a sense of history and identity that challenges Beijing’s official national narrative. Rian Thum argues that the roots of this history run deeper than recent conflicts, to a time when manuscripts and pilgrimage dominated understandings of the past. Beyond broadening our knowledge of tensions between the Uyghurs and the Chinese government, this meditation on the very concept of history probes the limits of human interaction with the past.

Uyghur historical practice emerged from the circulation of books and people during the Qing Dynasty, when crowds of pilgrims listened to history readings at the tombs of Islamic saints. Over time, amid long journeys and moving rituals, at oasis markets and desert shrines, ordinary readers adapted community-authored manuscripts to their own needs. In the process they created a window into a forgotten Islam, shaped by the veneration of local saints.

Partly insulated from the rest of the Islamic world, the Uyghurs constructed a local history that is at once unique and assimilates elements of Semitic, Iranic, Turkic, and Indic traditions—the cultural imports of Silk Road travelers. Through both ethnographic and historical analysis, The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History offers a new understanding of Uyghur historical practices, detailing the remarkable means by which this people reckons with its past and confronts its nationalist aspirations in the present day.

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A Bit of Yellow Peril Fiction – Edgar Wallace’s The Yellow Snake

Posted: October 26th, 2014 | No Comments »

Came across this cover the other day. Edgar Wallace’s 1926 The Yellow Snake (Sometimes called The Black Tenth) concerns Fing-Su, a graduate of Oxford and head of the dread Society of the Joyful Hands, which he leads in his quest to dominate the world. The name “Yellow Snake” was bestowed on him by his opponent, Clifford Lynne. Not dissimilar to a Fu Manchu, Fing-Su employs blackmail, bribery, and kidnapping to further his own nefarious aims. There’s a more detailed review of the novel here.

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More Encouraging News From Taipei – Tsaoshan Police Station gets heritage listing

Posted: October 25th, 2014 | No Comments »

It seems Taipei has really started to get its act together as regards preserving historic buildings. I’ve blogged before about the Dihua Street restoration and other projects. Now it has been announced that Tsaoshan Police Station will be preserved as a local government-listed historic building, according to Taipei City’s Department of Cultural Affairs. The station was  designed by architect Ide Kaoru, a chief engineer in Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945), and the man behind the listed Zhongshan Hall. The station is in the Yangmingshan district which I’ve blogged about repeatedly and is an area full of architectural candidates for preservation that are both of interest and have a historic role in Taipei’s history.

More good news, and correcting bad decisions of the past, is that the building is located close to the site of Taiwan Railways Administration’s 100-year-old Xinbeitou Station, which was dismantled in 1988 to make way for the Tamsui metro line and is now scheduled for reassembly this year. The authorities have approved shifting the station 50 meters from its original position and allocated NT$20.6 million (US$678,425) for the undertaking.

Now a couple of other suggestions for preservation in the area:

The Aifu Road bungalows, which have always looked like potentially highly desirable residences to me – more on them here too

the Grass Mountain waterworks

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Tsaoshan Police Station

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The old Xinbeitou Railway Station – scheduled to be rebuilt this year

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