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

Nobukazu Yosai’s images of the First Sino-Japanese War

Posted: December 6th, 2022 | No Comments »

A triptych by Japanese artist Nobukazu Yosai (1872-1944) entitled ‘Attacking Beijing’ from 1894 and the First Sino-Japanese War. Published in Japan by Hasegawa Tsunejiro.

A quick bio of Nobuzaku: He worked in a variety of genres from pictures of beautiful women (bijinga) to famous views of modernizing Tokyo (kaika-e), including depictions of domestic industrial exhibitions, depictions of the emperor and empress, and war and rebellion prints (senso-e).


A Few Images from Qi Baishi’s collected woodblock prints, 1952

Posted: December 5th, 2022 | No Comments »

Some images from Qi Baishi (1864-1957), a concertina book of woodblock prints of a collection of paintings by Qi Baishi, published in Beijing, May 1952


Chinese school “Macau Harbour” gouache

Posted: December 5th, 2022 | No Comments »

I saw this pop up at auction recently with very little information. So no date, no artist or anything i’m afraid. I suspect the painting was done by an artist unfamiliar with Macao and based on the many nineteenth century images of the harbour by everyone from Chinnery to the Chinese artists of the Anglo-Chinese School, Tingqua etc who specialized in gouache. What I find interesting about it is that it shows (in highly heightened, basically Alpine or reminiscent of Japanese mountain scene, form) the hills of Lapa Island that have since gone. For anyone interested I wrote about these for the South China Morning Post weekend magazine a few months ago (click here).


Cultures Colliding: American Missionaries, Chinese Resistance, and the Rise of Modern Institutions in China

Posted: December 4th, 2022 | No Comments »

John R Haddad’s Cultures Colliding from Temple University Press…

As incredible as it may seem, the American missionaries who journeyed to China in 1860 planning solely to spread the Gospel ultimately reinvented their entire enterprise. By 1900, they were modernizing China with schools, colleges, hospitals, museums, and even YMCA chapters. In Cultures Colliding, John R. Haddad nimbly recounts this transformative institution-building-how and why it happened-and its consequences.

When missionaries first traveled to rural towns atop mules, they confronted populations with entrenched systems of belief that embraced Confucius and rejected Christ. Conflict ensued as these Chinese viewed missionaries as unwanted disruptors. So how did this failing movement eventually change minds and win hearts? Many missionaries chose to innovate. They built hospitals and established educational institutions offering science and math. A second wave of missionaries opened YMCA chapters, coached sports, and taught college. Crucially, missionaries also started listening to Chinese citizens, who exerted surprising influence over the preaching, teaching, and caregiving, eventually running some organizations themselves. They embraced new American ideals while remaining thoroughly Chinese.

In Cultures Colliding, Haddad recounts the unexpected origins and rapid rise of American institutions in China by telling the stories of the Americans who established these institutions and the Chinese who changed them from within. Today, the impact of this untold history continues to resonate in China.


The Chinese “Junk” Dollar, 1934

Posted: December 3rd, 2022 | No Comments »

China, “Junk” Dollar, Year 23 (1934). Shanghai Mint. There were a variety of “Junk” dollars with other sides including Sun Yat-sen (below) but also Yuan Shih-kai. There is also a variation the ‘birds and junk’ dollars with a pattern of several flying birds above the junk.


General Albert C. Wedemeyer: The Strategist Behind America’s Victory in World War II

Posted: December 2nd, 2022 | No Comments »

John J McLaughlin’s new biography of General Albert C Wedemeyer covers both Wedemeyer’s time in China (1943-1948) and US-China relations in WW2 in some depth….

Like many heroes of World War II, General Albert C. Wedemeyer’s career has been largely overshadowed by such well-known figures as Marshall, Patton, Montgomery and Bradley. Wedemeyer’s legacy as the main planner of the D-Day invasion is almost completely forgotten today, eclipsed by politics and the capriciousness of human nature.

In the late 1930s Wedemeyer had the unique experience of being an exchange student at the German Kriegsakademia, the Nazis’equivalent of Fort Leavenworth’s Command and General Staff School. As the only American to attend, he was thus the only ranking officer in the US who recognised the revolutionary tactics of Blitzkrieg once they were unleashed, and he knew how to respond.

As US involvement in the European conflagration approached, Wedemeyer was taken under the wing of George C. Marshall in Washington, but although he conceived the plans for US mobilisation, to his great disappointment he was not appointed to field command once the invasion commenced; further, he had run afoul of Winston Churchill due to the latter’s insistence on emphasising the Mediterranean theatre in 1943.Perhaps because of Churchill’s animosity, Wedemeyer was transferred to the Burma-China theatre, where a year later he would replace General Stilwell. Ultimately, Wedemeyer’s service in the Asian theatre became far more significant, though less known. Had the US political establishment listened to Wedemeyer on China during the years 1943-48, it is possible China would not have been lost to the Communists and would have been a functioning US ally from the start, thus eliminating the likelihood of both the Korean and Vietnam Wars.


Shanghai Express (1932)….When Harry Hervey Got a Look-in….

Posted: December 1st, 2022 | No Comments »

Everyone of course (at least everyone who reads this blog I assume) knows Shanghai Express (1932). I’m keen to always stress the role of Harry Hervey in the conception and making of the movie. Indeed I wrote an essay on Hervey and his original 33 page treatment (essentially a short story) for Shanghai Express that Hervey wrote and sold to Josef von Sternberg (who gave it to the scriptwriter Jules Furthman to adapt). I’ve always argued that (including by von Sternberg) Hervey was rather sidelined from any public input into the movie, which was a massive success. But this advert from 1932 that appeared in Film Daily that year does indeed mention Hervey as the originator of the story.

My piece on Hervey and Shanghai Express is in my collerction Destination Shanghai.

Harry Hervey…and a cat…at home in LA (i think) in 1933 – though Hervey is more associated with the South and Savannah in particular

4 Posts from the Chinese & British Exhibition at the British Library – British-Chinese Cookbooks #4

Posted: November 30th, 2022 | No Comments »

The new Chinese and British Exhibition is now on at the British Library (entrance free) till next April 2023. So a few posts on things that relate to previous posts of mine here…Fourth cookbooks…

Other posts include Chiang Yee, Dymia Hsiung and Xi Zhimo….