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

Will They Really Destroy Hongkou Fire Station?

Posted: December 7th, 2016 | No Comments »

Some worrying news recently from some friends that visited a “heritage” conference in Shanghai that turned out to be far more about destruction than preservation. Among  large number of buildings previously thought protected, but now not, one that stands out in my mind as I always enjoyed passing it and admiring it – the Yichang Road (formerly Ichang Road) Fire Station at 216 Yichang Road in Hongkou, which was formerly the Hongkew Fire Station (and is still a perfectly adequate functioning fire station).

1

The station was completed in 1932 – replacing an older station that stood there before and had become too small to cope with demand as the suburb of Hongkew expanded and became more densely populated. It is a classic Municipal Council design and opened for business in 1933. There was accommodation for four engines and twelve firemen, recreation rooms, kitchen etc etc. Rewi Alley got his first job in Shanghai at the station and passed his exams for engine driving, pump operation and started Shanghainese lessons while there.

I’m not going to argue about it – if this is bulldozed it will be a major tragedy and an act of vandalism – I’d like to say “unparalleled vandalism” but that wouldn’t be true in Shanghai given the last two decades of destruction.

2

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

And, as it’s that time of year, here’s my annual Popular Opium References 2016

Posted: December 6th, 2016 | No Comments »

I’ve been spotting opium references in popular culture with interest for a few years now (2015, 2014, 2013 & 2012) – just how opium keeps fascinating us…

What a start to the year with Sherlock on New Year’s Day dipping almost immediately into a Limehouse opium den – not much detail but dope mentioned plenty. Then came ITV’s Jericho, navvies ooop north in pain and needing their laudanum badly. Best perhaps in the first half of the year was the Maharajah’s mistress Sirene (aka Phyllis from Oz) who took a few puffs of opium from her natty little pipe at the Royal Simla Club in series 2 of Indian Summers. Of course series 3 (sadly it seems the final series) of Penny Dreadful went down into Chinatown while series 3 of those Peaky Blinders had them on the “snow” from episode 1 and getting seriously fu*ked up with some naughty White Russians.

93105963_Indian_Summers_Yr_2_Ep_3_Channel_4_wk13_season_2_episode_3_handout__Sirene_Rachel_Grif-large_trans++qVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8I got to it a bit late but season two of the 1870s French bordello drama Maison Close had Rose taking to the pipe as Mosca introduced her to the delights of balanced amounts of liquid cocaine and smoked opium which, if the show is to be believed, heightens all sorts of experiences.

maison-close-saison-2let’s do the liquid cocaine first then…

Literary references were a bit scant this year (though that might be my reading of course) but M.J. Lee’s Inspector Danilov series (a third is out in 2017), set in 1920s Shanghai, has the White Russian super sleuth hitting the pipe to assuage the guilt of having lost his family somewhere between Minsk and the Bubbling Well Road – Death in Shanghai and City of Shadows are the first two Danilov books. We did also get a new biography of the great opium eater Thomas de Quincey – Frances Wilson’s Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas de Quincey.

51lgjt8odl-_sx323_bo1204203200_

Patrick Hennessey explored Rudyard Kipling’s experiences of opium on hot Lahore summer nights in his BBC documentary Kipling’s Indian Adventure. And finally, of course, the ever reliable Ripper Street (series 5…and, sadly, the final one) had Jedediah Shine staving off his headaches with the opium pipe down in old Chinatown.

Any others do let me know…

tumblr_mvqc8tm0lo1qa8xyfo3_500

Jedediah self-medicates in 1899 Limehouse

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Homare Endo’s ‘Japanese Girl at the Siege of Changchun’

Posted: December 5th, 2016 | No Comments »

Homare Endo’s memoir, “Japanese Girl at the Siege of Changchun,” is written from the perspective of her 7-year-old self revealing the horror of one of the Chinese Civil War’s nastiest moments, when between 150,000 and 300,000 civilians starved to death during a five-month siege by People’s Liberation Army at Changchun in 1948.

images

Over 150,000 innocents died of starvation in Changchun, northeastern China, after the end of WW2 when Mao’s army laid siege during the Chinese Civil War. Japanese girl Homare Endo, then age seven, was trapped in Changchun with her family. After nomadic flight from city to city, Homare eventually returned to Japan and a professional career. This is her eyewitness, at times haunting account of survival at all costs and of unspeakable scenes of barbarity that the Chinese government today will not acknowledge.

Homare Endo was born in China in 1941 and is director of the Center of International Relations at Tokyo University and Graduate School of Social Welfare.

 

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Old Shanghai – A city where men wore skirts and women wore trousers, at least in this photo

Posted: December 4th, 2016 | No Comments »

One canny photographer got a great shot that ran in many, many newspapers in the early 1920s – Shanghai – with a woman wearing trousers and two men, Scottish soldiers, wearing kilts. This picture ran in newspapers round the world in November 1924.

Now I’m rubbish at uniforms, regiments and all that so perhaps someone more knowledgeable can tell me if these gentleman are i) a Scottish regiment stationed in Shanghai at that time or b) members of the Scottish Company of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps??

the_courier_journal_sun__nov_30__1924_

the_courier_journal_sun__nov_30__1924_1

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Royal Asiatic Society Beijing – film showing: “Devils on the Doorstep” with remarks by Matthew Hu – 3/12/16Xinyu

Posted: December 3rd, 2016 | No Comments »

unnamed

“Devils on the Doorstep(鬼子来了)”a 2000 black comedy directed by Jiang Wen, will be preceded by remarks by Matthew Hu Xinyu. You may know that the movie, set in the waning days of WWII, sparked heated discussion because it underscores common human traits of both Japanese and Chinese. But did you know its most memorable scenes were filmed not far from Beijing in Hebei province? Before the film, Matthew Hu Xinyu, one of Beijing’s top cultural-preservation experts, will identify important examples of ancient Chinese architecture shown in the film.

WHAT: “Devils on the Doorstep” film showing, preceded by remarks by Matthew Hu Xinyu
WHEN: Saturday, Dec. 3 from 6:30 to 9:00 PM
WHERE: The Courtyard Institute, #28 Zhonglao Hutong, Dongcheng District www.courtyardinstitute.com
COST: 30 RMB for RASBJ members; 50 RMB for non-members
RSVP: please email events@rasbj.org and write “Devils” in the subject header

PLEASE NOTE: The black-and-white film, which is 139 minutes long, will be shown in Chinese with English subtitles

unnamed1

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Shanghai Zig-Zag Bridge, Tea House and Yu Gardens in the Snow, 1920s

Posted: December 2nd, 2016 | No Comments »

aaahhh lovely – no crowds, no tour groups with yellow baseball caps, no Starbucks, no tour guides with megaphones, but with snow in 1924….appears to be a little bit of restoration going on with some bamboo scaffolding up…

the_baltimore_sun_sun__nov_30__1924_1

 

 

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Wartime Macau: Under the Japanese Shadow

Posted: December 1st, 2016 | No Comments »

This collection, Wartime Macau: Under the Japanese Shadow, is most welcomed by me personally as a subject that has long fascinated. I have, in literary non-fiction style, written about the period myself – most recently in the September 2016 issue of Cha, the online literary journal based in Hong Kong with my piece Strangers on the Praia. Anyway, here are the proper academics weighing in on the subject. There’s a lot about Macao’s wartime history that remains secretive and of potential embarrassment to some of Hong Kong and Macao’s biggest families and companies, so I’m sure there’s still more to come out….

Gunn_hc.indd

It has intrigued many that, unlike Hong Kong, Macau avoided direct Japanese wartime occupation albeit being caught up in the vortex of the wider global conflict. Geoffrey Gunn and an international group of contributors come together in Wartime Macau: Under the Japanese Shadow to investigate how Macau escaped the fate of direct Japanese invasion and occupation. Exploring the broader diplomatic and strategic issues during that era, this volume reveals that the occupation of Macau was not in Japan’s best interest because the Portuguese administration in Macau posed no threat to Japan’s control over the China coast and acted as a listening post to monitor Allied activities.

Drawing upon archival materials in English, Japanese, Portuguese, and other languages, the contributors explain how, under the high duress of Japanese military agencies, the Portuguese administration coped with a tripling of its population and issues such as currency, food supply, disease, and survival. This volume presents contrasting views on wartime governance and shows how the different levels of Macau society survived the war.

Geoffrey C. Gunn is an emeritus professor at Nagasaki University and author of History without Borders: The Making of an Asian World Region, 1000–1800.

“Wartime Macau deals with a fascinating and woefully understudied topic. The essays collected here show that there was no singular experience of World War II in Macau; how one experienced the war depended on a complex calculus of ethnicity, class, and connections. And yet, taken together, these experiences shaped the trajectory of the city’s political and social development for decades to come.”
—Cathryn H. Clayton, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

“This book represents a real breakthrough. Previous English-language accounts of Macau during the World War II have focused largely on the activities of the British in this neutral ‘Casablanca’. Drawing extensively on Portuguese, Japanese, and local Macanese sources, Geoffrey Gunn and his team have assembled a far broader picture, revealing the dilemmas and choices of Portugal’s beleaguered colonial government and placing Macau in a geopolitical context that stretched from the Azores to Australia.”
—Philip Snow, author of The Fall of Hong Kong

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

A Chinese-American Thanksgiving Menu, Reno 1924

Posted: November 30th, 2016 | No Comments »

Apologies for being a bit late with this but I just came across the Thanksgiving menu offered by the very well known and highly regarded Shanghai Low restaurant in Reno, Nevada in 1924…

 

1480422638_tmp_reno_gazette_wed__nov_26__1924_

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter