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

Royal Geographical Society Hong Kong – Destination Peking – Revisiting the City – 2/3/21

Posted: February 25th, 2021 | No Comments »

Destination Peking – Revisiting the City

Paul French Tuesday, 2 Mar 2021 – 7pm-8pm – Webtalk – The event is free of charge for members. For guests or non members, the registration fee is $50. Please click here .

In this talk, well-known Chinese historian, raconteur and author Paul French talks of the Chinese capital telling numerous true stories of fascinating people who visited the city in the first half of the 20th century.

From Bolsheviks and Nazis, to artists and bank robbers, to English aesthetes, to transplanted New York Bowery Balladeers, he describes that extraordinary era. He asks the major question behind so many of these sojourners’ decisions to remain in the ancient capital – why Peking?

If Shanghai was for those who craved the modern and the novel, then Peking was for those who craved tradition and timeless beauty. Most who journeyed to Peking would have agreed with Emily Hahn, the New Yorker’s correspondent in 1930s China, that the city was a ‘dream world for the aesthete.’

Well-known visitors to the city included the ultra-wealthy Woolworths heiress Barbara Hutton and her husband the Prince Mdivani and the poor “American girl” Mona Monteith, who worked in the city as a prostitute. There were socialite and yet-to-be notorious Wallis Simpson and novelist JP Marquand, who held court on the rooftop of the Grand Hôtel de Pékin, and Shanghai Express screenwriter Harry Hervey, who sought inspiration walking atop the Tartar Wall. Also in town were Edgar and Helen Foster Snow – Peking’s ‘It’ couple of 1935 – to Martha Sawyers, who did so much to aid China against Japan in World War II.

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