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

Chinese Fish Fighting in 1950s Paris

Posted: December 31st, 2018 | 1 Comment »

Paris’s Chinatown was l’Ilot Chalon. It became home to various Chinese settling in the French capital – sailors, travellers, students as well as having its numbers boosted by the Chinese men who came to work for the French as labourers during the First World War. It apparently became quite thriving but was completely demolished for various extensions to the Gare de Lyon railway station. I read years ago that in 1988 a plaque was erected by city officials commemorating the former Chinatown but I’ve never found it – if it’s still there? However, one Chinese restaurant, the Village de Lyon, bravely soldiers on on what is left of the Rue de Chalon by the side of the station.

I was reminded of the area again recently in Paris and reading Jean-Paul Clebert’s Paris Vagabond (1954) where tramping around the post-war city he briefly notes the I’Ilot Chalon and the Chinese there – “…around the Gare de Lyon where the Chinese hold fish fights…’ Clebert, it has to be said, is not always the most reliable narrator, but interesting nonetheless…

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One Comment on “Chinese Fish Fighting in 1950s Paris”

  1. 1 Ulrich Elkmann said at 7:05 am on January 4th, 2019:

    It was still there in 2011, though the blog entry does not specify where it was mounted. Actually, there are two commemorations; the second one, in the Jardin Baudricourt, is dedicated to the 140,000 Chinese who worked in and on behalf of the French during WW I, 3,000 of whom remained in Paris after the war and forming the capital’s first Chinatown.


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