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

Kalgan – A Smallish International Place

Posted: December 6th, 2009 | 1 Comment »

I was rereading CW Campbell’s Travels in Mongolia from 1902 the other day and it occurred to me that one of the places Campbell visited, Kalgan (now Zhangjiakou), was particularly interesting and, as far as I know, little written about.


Campbell, the former British Consul at Wuchow, spent some time in Kalgan and left a good description of the place – a key route on the trade lines running from Peking, through Mongolia, to Russia. It seems to have been a fairly small but surprisingly international place – the name Kalgan itself was a Russianised form of the Mongol word Khalga, or gate.

Apparently the Police in Kalgan (which had a population in 1902 of 70-80,000) wore white arm bands bearing the word ‘Police’ in both Chinese and English while Chinese, Mongol and Russian (and other European) business people spoke a sort of bastardised pidgeon Mongol to communicate. Russian tea agents had European style houses and there was a Russian Post Office with a Russian Post Master too, as well as what Campbell describes as a ‘Greek Church’, meaning probably a Russian Orthodox church. The American Board of Missionaries established a station in Kalgan as did both English and Swedish missionaries – the Methodist Missionary house at Kalgan is pictured below.  There was also a Russo-Chinese bank. Additionally a post of the Imperial Chinese Telegraph Administration was established connecting China to the telegraph lines in Siberia. Altogether it must have been a fairly international place in the middle of basically nowhere.


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One Comment on “Kalgan – A Smallish International Place”

  1. 1 GAO Erji said at 4:57 pm on July 18th, 2019:

    I am so happy to see this page of Kalgan, I am from Zhangjiakou. The picture is very great.

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