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

RAS Shanghai – The History of the Royal Asiatic Society Shanghai Library – 27/1/15

Posted: January 26th, 2015 | No Comments »

RAS LECTURE

TUESDAY 27th January 2015
7pm for 7.15pm
 
RAS Library, Sino-British College

Linda Ferguson:
The RAS Shanghai Library 

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In a meeting at the Masonic Lodge in Shanghai, a small group of British and Americans seeking intellectual engagement in a city dedicated to commerce decided to established a “Learned Society” in Shanghai.  It was originally called the Shanghai Literary and Scientific Society, but within one year it had become associated with the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, and had changed its name to the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (NCBRAS).  The Society’s intent was to investigate subjects connected with China and surrounding nations, to publish papers in a Journal and to establish a public library and a museum.
In 1858 they purchased 761 books from Alexander Wylie, a renowned Sinologist living in Shanghai.  This became to the core of the NCBRAS Library.  Primarily through public donations, over the next 90 years this library became the preeminent Library in the Far East.
Based on the records of the NCBRAS Journals, Linda Ferguson will retrace the history of the RAS Library in Shanghai, the people who created it and the challenges they faced over the years.
RSVP: bookings@royalasiaticsociety.org.cn
ENTRANCE:  Members 20 RMB – Non Members 50 RMB
Includes a glass of wine or soft drink
Priority for RAS members. Those unable to make the donation but wishing to attend may contact us for exemption.
MEMBERSHIP applications and membership renewals will be available at this event.
WEBSITE:  www.royalasiaticsociety.org.cn
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Locating Shanghai’s Rokusan Gardens

Posted: January 25th, 2015 | No Comments »

I blogged at the start of the year on the little known and not much remembered Rokusan Gardens that once existed in Shanghai’s Hongkew (Hongkou) District – Little Tokyo. They were small and don’t really appear on many maps – at least not ones I’ve seen. But here is a map of Hongkew that does give an indication of where the Gardens were roughly by identifying both the Shinto shrine (Shanhai Jinja – 12 on the map below) that was in the Gardens and the famous Uchiyama Bookstore (13 on the map below) run  by Uchiyama Kanzo in the 1920s and 1930s, probably the most important bookstore Shanghai ever had.

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Picturing 1950s-1960s Taiwan – Canberra, Australia National University – 6/1/15-3/4/15

Posted: January 24th, 2015 | No Comments »

The lucky folk of Canberra have this exhibition to attend….

 

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間:臺灣五六十年代面影
Between – Picturing 1950-1960s Taiwan

Politics has had complex effects on the cultural life of Taiwan in the twentieth century. These forty-four works, curated from the collection of the National Museum of History (Taipei), offer subtle observations of Taiwan in the 1950s and 1960s, from the perspectives of fifteen artists and photographers, as fresh and curious witnesses to lives in flux.

Featuring photography, sketches and prints by: Chang Tsuan-chuan, Chao Erh-tai, Chen Shih-an, Cheng Shang-hsi, Hsi Teh-chin, Kao Shan-lan, Lin Chih-hsin, Liu, An-ming, Teng Nan-kuang, Tsai Hui-ch’un, Tsai Hui-feng, Tsai Kao-ming, Tu Feng-hui, Yang Chi-hsin, Yu Ju-chi.

Curated by Dr Olivier Krischer (Australian Centre on China in the World), Dr Hsieh Shih-ying 謝世英 (National Museum of History)

Exhibition dates: 6 January – 3 April, 2015
Gallery hours : 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday
Download the exhibition information

Opening Reception

The exhibition will be opened by Dr Yui-tan Chang (Director, National Museum of History, Taipei) at 5pm on Tuesday 6 January.

Image credit: Yu Ju-chi, Historical Image of Taichung Station (12-11), c.1960, gelatin silver print, 45 x 66cm. Courtesy the National Museum of History, Taipei.

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This exhibition is made possible through the generous loan of works from the National Museum of History, Taipei. The Australian Centre on China in the World also gratefully acknowledges the support of the Ministry of Culture, ROC (Taiwan), and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Australia.

 

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Josef von Sternberg Week #5 – Keye Luke’s Murals for The Shanghai Gesture

Posted: January 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »

Von Sternberg’s 1941 The Shanghai Gesture is, without doubt, the most hyper real portrayal of old Shanghai’s casinos and Badlands. I must have watched the film a hundred times. What I didn’t know till the other day is that murals that dot the walls of the casino and Mother Gin Sling’s (Ona Munson in yellow face) casino and rooms were done by the Chinese-American actor Keye Luke. Canton born Luke was about the best known Chinese face in cinema before the war in all those Charlie Chan and Mr Moto movies and had a career that went on long after too. He was also a talented painter. In fact, after growing up in Seattle, he first worked in the film business as a commercial artist and a designer of movie posters. He did a lot of murals including some for the inside of Graumann’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. Luke was hired by von Sternberg to do murals for The Shanghai Gesture and commented that,

‘…it was like painting the Great Wall of China. It was a huge room – a dining room – and there was four sides and one a plate glass mirror. It was very, very effective.’

Here then some scenes from the movie with the mural in the background….

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Josef von Sternberg Week #4 – Harry Hervey’s Where Strange Gods Call, 1925

Posted: January 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »

I blogged yesterday on Harry Hervey, the man who wrote the original treatment for Josef von Sternberg’s Shanghai Express and a number of other Far-East and China related movies. He was also a writer and his book Where Strange Gods Call – Pages Out of the East, from 1924, is now largely forgotten – but well worth remembering. The book is an account of the author’s travels in Hawaii, Japan, China (though I don’t think he actually visited Shanghai), the Malay Archipelago, Indonesia and the South Seas with vignettes portraying the exotic people, sights and cultures he found there accompanied by illustrations from Christopher Murray (about whom I know nothing).

 

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Josef von Sternberg Week #3 – Harry Hervey – The Man who Wrote Shanghai Express

Posted: January 21st, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Re-reading Josef von Sternberg’s very funny autobiography, Fun in a Chinese Laundry, the other day I was reminded that the notion to make the film Shanghai Express came to von Sternberg from a one page idea from the writer Harry Hervey (1900-1951). As it’s such a great film, a Shanghai film, the film where Marlene Dietrich and Anna May Wong appear together, and where Marlene immortalises Shanghai Lily, it seems worth knowing a little more about Hervey.

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Harry Hervey

Hervey had a strong interest in China and Asia related stories – his film credits, and he dated back to the silent era, as a story outliner and writer include Madame Butterfly (a Japanese set police story featuring a very young Cary Grant), The Road to Singapore (with Bing and Bob obviously), Night Plane from Chungking, and Peking Express (Joseph Cotten fleeing the Commies).

Hervey also wrote novels – several also set in Asia – most notably Congai: Mistress of Indo-Chine, the story of an Indo-Chinese girl (congai in Vietnamese). Hervey had travelled extensively in French Indo-China in the mid-1920s and written it up in his travelogue Travels in French Indo-China. He also visited China – photographed in 1926 (below) looking far more dapper than most visitors to Beijing these days (reminding  us how fleece, Gortex and trainers have cheapened our world immeasurably)..

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Josef von Sternberg Week #2 – Did Josef von Sternberg Meet Count Leopold von Sternberg in Shanghai?

Posted: January 20th, 2015 | No Comments »

I’ve found that one of the most useful aspects of having a blog like this is that I can occasionally throw out questions and conundrums I’ve been unable to solve and find people who know the answers. Here’s one I’ve not got very far with…

The film director Josef von Sternberg was born Jonas Sternberg in Austria in 1894 to a Jewish family. He obviously became a film director and crops up repeatedly on this blog for his excellent autobiography Fun in a Chinese Laundry and his movies Shanghai Express, The Shanghai Gesture and Macao. He added the “von” to his name in 1925 when he was starting out in the film business.

In his autobiography he recounts that “many years later” he met the Count Leopold von Sternberg in Shanghai – a Czech and the most well known genuine von Sternberg in the world at the time. The Count apparently asked to meet Josef in Shanghai to thank him for making his name famous. However, I can’t find any reference to the Count visiting Shanghai. His wife, Cecilia, wrote an autobiography of her life with the Count, The Journey (1977) but doesn’t mention China or Shanghai at all. The photo below shows the Count and Countess in 1934 (“some years later”) relaxing on the beach at Waikiki, Hawaii in 1934 on what was supposedly their first “American stop” on a trip from Europe to the USA. This indicates that they came via Suez and Asia to America, rather than across the Atlantic and then overland, and so could well have previously stopped in Shanghai and met Josef as he claims in his autobiography. I like the picture below as it features a Chinese parasol, another favourite motif of this blog.

If anyone has anymore information on the Count in Shanghai I’d love to know?

indexon the beach at Waikiki, 1934

 

Cecilia von sternbergCount Leopold, Countess Cecilia and their daughter Diana

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Josef von Sternberg Week #1 – Amy Jolly’s Chinese Doll

Posted: January 19th, 2015 | No Comments »

Regular readers will know that many China Rhyming posts are slightly obscure. Here’s one of those – by way of explanation I’ve just visited Essaouira in Morocco, which used to be called Mogador, which is the town that Marlene Dietrich’s character, wandering showgirl Amy Jolly, arrives in at the start of her movie Morocco (1930), directed by Josef von Sternberg (two years before they did Shanghai Express) and from the 1927 Benno Vigny novel Amy Jolly, die Frau aus Marrakesch (which became Mogador in the movie). So visiting Mogador I re-watched the movies and remembered that Amy is, in her apartments in the town, alone with few of her belongings except a Chinese and African doll…what can these mean?

Hard to say but a few theories – the academics appear to have none except that perhaps the African doll presages Dietrich’s Hot Voodoo number in Blonde Venus - but I’m not convinced by that. More likely is that Von Sternberg, a great fan of China (Shanghai Express came later as did 1941’s The Shanghai Gesture and 1952’s Macao, while his autobiography was called Fun in a Chinese Laundry and dwells on his Shanghai and Chinese experiences closely) dropped the doll in the shots to show Amy’s previously wandering proclivities. of course showgirls wander and never return as the script goes with La Bessiere (a rich Frenchman played by Adolphe Menjou) talking to the ship’s deck officer:

La Bessiere: Good evening, officer.

Ship’s Deck Officer: Good evening.

La Bessiere: [Referring to Amy Jolly/Dietrich] Do you know who that woman is?

Ship’s Deck Officer: [Indifferently] A vaudeville actress, probably.

La Bessiere: Uh, just, uh, how do you know that?

Ship’s Deck Officer: Oh, we carry them every day. We call them ‘suicide passengers.’ One way ticket. They never return.

So perhaps we will never why Marlene (or Amy, whichever you prefer) had a Chinese doll – however, there was a real Amy Jolly who had been a showgirl and dancer and ended up a brothel madam in Agadir (rather nastily selling young girls – very young girls – to French Legionnaires). She was broke and wrote to Dietrich asking for money and, it seems, Marlene sent her some (the whole story is here) – sadly no pictures of the real Amy Jolly survive.

 

Picture 2 12-20-38Amy (Marlene) with her Chinese doll in Morocco

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