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

Seagulls in Shanghai and Hong Kong

Posted: May 9th, 2019 | No Comments »

There is a tale, told by Ian Fleming in his 1963 book Thrilling Cities, that (in the early 1960s) there were no seagulls in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour due to the remaining number of sampans picking all the trash out of the water. Fleming says that he was told that this was also the case in Shanghai on the Huangpu River until 1949 when sampan families were largely forced to come ashore and settle. Seagulls then appeared in Shanghai where none had been seen for generations. Good story and told since at least the 1930s – but is it true?

I can’t find any photographs of seagulls in Shanghai before 1949, though Shi Zhecun, the inter-war modernist writer in Shanghai did pen a short story entitled Seagulls in 1932. He is imagining seagulls, but obviously knows what they are! However the story is not set in Shanghai but a seaside village just outside the city.

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