All things old China - books, anecdotes, stories, podcasts, factoids & ramblings from the author Paul French

A Little More on Old Shanghai’s SWETCO store…

Posted: January 18th, 2022 | No Comments »

I’ve blogged a couple of times on the old Bubbling Well Road SWETCO store. First from an old ad I found and then aftet a great photo (reproduced again below) was sent to me by Fred Schevtz, a relative of the owners and who explained the origin of the SWETCO name to me too (in that post – here).

This photo got the amazing Katya Knyazeva to work who dug out the following on her blog (full text here)…thanks Katya…

“The store opened in 1935 under a name that was both an abbreviation for Swedish Trading Co. and, apparently, a reference to the owner’s surname, Shvetz; the Chinese name was initially 四淮脱高, and later 瑞典洋行. The store sold high-class cut glass, household furnishings and fancy gifts – all “high quality goods at reasonable prices for every purse”. The managing director was Wm. M. Henkin, and the manager was E. M. Baumzweiger. The store had branches in Harbin and Tientsin.

“The display inside the store bears out the promise of the windows”, wrote The China Press in December 1936. “One huge case across the back of the room is full of nothing but cut glass and crystal, such as should grace a well-dressed dining room. There is a large selection of the famous Bohemian crystal, some Finnish “Kurgula” and some of the equally fine “Orrefos” from Sweden. Goblets, cocktail glasses, wine glasses, whiskey and wine decanters, cruets – in fact, every sort of article ever made of this lovely glass. Swetco also has an assortment of colored glass […], dinner and tea sets of Czechoslovakian and Chinese porcelain and a variety of different patterns in Swedish and German cutlery. Chromium plated odd dishes and small pieces for your living room are also in abundance. […] And if one is looking for gifts, there are countless small articles, which would always be acceptable, such as all manner of accessories for milady’s dressing table, manicure sets, vases, notebooks, wallets, lighters, cigarette cases, ash trays and more.”

The store’s founder, Efraim Grigorievich Shvetz (Эфраим (Ефим) Григорьевич Швец; 1874–1946), was originally from Kherson province, in today’s Ukraine. He owned a successful haberdashery in the town of Nicolaev, which he later recreated in Petersburg, Harbin and eventually Shanghai. His children, all born in Nicolaev, were Roman (b. 1909, listed in Shanghai as broker), Bella (1917–2012, dentist) and Alexander (1913–1993, listed as merchant), whose wife Ida (Eda) is in the picture above. A fake gravestone for Efraim G. Shvetz exists in Song Qingling’s Memorial Park in Shanghai. 

In April 1938, Swetco was among the 30 Russian stores which the local anti-Bolshevik publication Aktiv called to boycott; the list included Shanghai businesses and entrepreneurs that presumably sold Soviet goods or advertised in Soviet press. But Swetco survived this attack, and stayed in business as late as 1947.

The building on Bubbling Well Road (West Nanjing Road 南京西路) where Swetco was located, near the east end of Love Lane (Wujiang Road 吴江路), is no longer standing.”

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How a jade ornament from China casts new light on Freud’s psyche

Posted: January 17th, 2022 | No Comments »

An interesting article in The Guardian about the Chinese objects in Freud’s study, now his museum in Hampstead, a new exhibition and Craig Clunas’s long-running research into several of those objects…

A treasured jade screen Freud kept in his consulting room. Photograph: Ardon Bar-Hama/Karolina Heller © Freud Museum London
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China’s Great Eastern and Great Northern Ports, 1922

Posted: January 16th, 2022 | No Comments »

See below Sun Yat-sen’s 1922 map detailing his port development plans for China. Sun’s infrastructure obsessions were always fascinating, especially his plans for China’s rail network.

What is perhaps interesting here is that Sun has to deal with the issue of the treaty ports of Shanghai and Tientsin (Tianjin) being major ports. He neatly circumvents this by making them both First Class Ports and dubbing them Great Eastern Port and Great Northern Port respectively. I wonder if Shanghai as the GEP would ever have caught on?

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Noguchi at the Barbican, Till 23 Jan 2022

Posted: January 14th, 2022 | No Comments »

I should have noted the Noguchi exhibition at the Barbican earlier – but never late than never…more details here.

It’s a good excuse to also remind China Rhymers of my essay on Noguchi and his time in China working with Qi Baishi, – “Peking is Like Paris”: Isamu Noguchi and his Encounter with Beijing’s International Milieu in 1930.

You can buy as a chapter in my collection Destination Peking or as a separate inexpensive kindle here in the UK or here in the USA.

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Call for Submissions for the 2022 RAS China Journal

Posted: January 13th, 2022 | No Comments »

The RAS Journal is now receiving submissions for the 2022 edition. Authors intending to submit an article must send an abstract or article outline to the editor before 31 March 2022, and completed articles will be due 15 June 2022.  The journal generally comprises original unpublished research and observations, essays, book reviews, and other items of interest to our readership. Translations from Chinese into English are also welcome. The scope of the journal is broad: we hope the journal will inform readers about life in China and Asia – past, present and future.
Although authors are welcome to write about any subject of interest to Asia scholars, please note that material contravening the guidelines established by the Chinese government for speech and publications will not be accepted.  For more information about the Royal Asiatic Society and the Journal, please visit our website.

You can view past examples of the RAS Journal at the Royal Asiatic Society China Library, located in The House of Roosevelt, Number 27 on The Bund, Shanghai (see library opening hours here). The library holds an almost complete set of journals going back to 1858, which document the earliest years of the expatriate community in Shanghai, and the Royal Asiatic Society’s history in China. Copies of recent journals can be viewed online.

You can see the guidelines for author submissions below. Please feel free to contact the Journal Editor, Melinda Liu, at for more information.

The Royal Asiatic Society China (RAS) publishes the RAS China Journal annually in Shanghai in print and online. The journal comprises original research articles, essays and book reviews on topics of Asian scholarship, with a focus on China.

  • All articles must be original and previously unpublished. Articles should be between 3,000 and 8,000 words, including notes and references. Book reviews should contain no more than 2,500 words.
  • Authors wishing to have their work considered for inclusion in this year’s journal should first submit, no later than 31 March 2022, an abstract or outline of the intended article to the journal editor, Melinda Liu at:
  • Authors should follow the Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA) Style Guide when preparing articles, to ensure consistency of style. The MHRA Style Guide is an easy to use and comprehensive guide, and is available as a free download here. Please ensure that British English spelling and grammar rules are used. Articles should be submitted as Word or Pages documents (.doc, .docx, .pages).
  • It is the responsibility of an author to obtain any necessary permission for quotation of copyrighted material and for image usage. The author should ensure that permission to reproduce material in all territories and all media (e.g. print and electronic) is granted.
  • The text of articles submitted for consideration should be formatted using double-spaced 12-point serif font. The title of the article and the author’s name should be printed in bold at the top of the document.
  • The document file name should include the author’s surname and brief reference to the article’s title.
  • Articles should include a reference list to acknowledge work cited, placed at the end of the article and titled “References”. The JRAS does not use bracketed references in the body of an essay. Instead, superscript numbers are used to indicate where other authors’ works are cited in the text, which appear at the end of the article in the Reference section, in the order that they were cited. The reference entries must contain the full reference for the work cited, following the comprehensive guidelines given in the MHRA.
  • In addition to numbered references indicating citations of other authors’ works within the text, authors may use footnotes to add brief explanatory notes that will be displayed at the bottom of the relevant page. Authors are requested to keep explanatory footnotes to an absolute minimum.
  • Authors submitting essays, which employ a more general tone, may prefer to include a bibliography of appropriate works to inform further reading, in lieu of a reference list.
  • All articles are to include an abstract of up to 180 words. The abstract should introduce the major aspects of the article and provide context.
  • Authors may include images in colour or black and white. In the printed edition, images will appear in black and white, but colour reproductions will be available in the online version. All images should be supplied in separate, well-labelled files in formats such as jpeg or tiff, and should have a resolution of at least 300 dpi (images should be as large as possible). Images should be labelled as “Figures”, and listed in numerical order. A text note in the body of the article should indicate the desired position of each image (eg: [Fig. 1 here]).
  • Authors should also include a brief introduction about themselves, including professional and/or academic background and any personal information that relates to their article. This should be no more than a couple of paragraphs (approximately 150 words), and may be edited by the editor to fit with the style of the journal. Authors should not include a CV or a self-portrait photograph.
  • Article submission final deadline: 15 June 2022. Please note that authors intending to submit must send an abstract or article outline to the editor before 31 March 2022.
  • For further information about the Royal Asiatic Society China Journal and submission of articles, please contact the journal editor at
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My Review of Liu Xinwu’s The Wedding Party

Posted: January 12th, 2022 | No Comments »

I reviewed Liu Xinwu’s The Wedding Party for the South China Morning Post (here)…

“Like a Dickens or Dostoevsky novel, tale of Beijing hutong life The Wedding Party, by Liu Xinwu, conceals drama and trauma beneath the seemingly inconsequential…

In a Beijing alleyway community Auntie Xue is preparing a wedding celebration for her son. Outside the hutong, China is changing in Deng Xiaoping’s reform era…

So begins Liu Xinwu’s newly translated 1984 novel, in which, as in tales by Dickens and Dostoevsky, jealousies and resentments swirl beneath a mundane surface.”

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SCMP Post Weekend Magazine – the true story of Seto Gin, dope smuggler & betrayed woman, 1939

Posted: January 10th, 2022 | No Comments »

This weekend the South China Morning Post weekend magazine published my story of the real life case of Seto Gin (one of her many aliases), a Hong Kong woman busted arriving at San Francisco in 1939 with rather a lot of opium. It’s a tale of dope and money, war and desperation, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shanghai and California, betrrayal and doomed love. I hope you can past the paywall (if not drop me a line and I might be able to help….

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Internationalist Aesthetics: China and Early Soviet Culture

Posted: January 10th, 2022 | No Comments »

Edward Tyerman’s International Aesthetics is out this month….

Following the failure of communist revolutions in Europe, in the 1920s the Soviet Union turned its attention to fostering anticolonial uprisings in Asia. China, divided politically between rival military factions and dominated economically by imperial powers, emerged as the Comintern’s prime target. At the same time, a host of prominent figures in Soviet literature, film, and theater traveled to China, met with Chinese students in Moscow, and placed contemporary China on the new Soviet stage. They sought to reimagine the relationship with China in the terms of socialist internationalism—and, in the process, determine how internationalism was supposed to look and feel in practice.

Internationalist Aesthetics offers a groundbreaking account of the crucial role that China played in the early Soviet cultural imagination. Edward Tyerman tracks how China became the key site for Soviet debates over how the political project of socialist internationalism should be mediated, represented, and produced. The central figure in this story, the avant-garde writer Sergei Tret’iakov, journeyed to Beijing in the 1920s and experimented with innovative documentary forms in an attempt to foster a new sense of connection between Chinese and Soviet citizens. Reading across genres and media from reportage and biography to ballet and documentary film, Tyerman shows how Soviet culture sought an aesthetics that could foster a sense of internationalist community. He reveals both the aspirations and the limitations of this project, illuminating a crucial chapter in Sino-Russian relations. Grounded in extensive sources in Russian and Chinese, this cultural history bridges Slavic and East Asian studies and offers new insight into the transnational dynamics that shaped socialist aesthetics and politics in both countries.

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