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The Grand Hotel des Wagons Lits Somewhat Disreputable Guests

Posted: June 6th, 2022 | No Comments »

Talking of the Grand Hotel des Wagons Lits in the Legation Quarter the other dayI then came across another interesting tit-bit of hotel life in the late 1930s.

Readers of my work will know I’m always keen to find evidence of the foreign underbelly of China in the first half of the twentieth century. Also, given the infamous role of Shanghai being well established, I’m keen to find examples of the underbelly of Peking, which is far less well researched.

Francis Rose is, admittedly, not always a reliable narrator, but he did visit Peking around the time of the Japanese occupation in 1937 and he did record his visit quite extensively in his memoir Saying Life (1961). After the Japanese attack on the city in the summer of 1937 many foreigners checked into Peking’s major hotels, including a rather run bunch (if Rose can be believed) in the Wagons Lits…

‘The hotel was full of that rabble of wealthy men who only appear in neutral places during a war. dishonest Chinese politicians, Japanese spies, gangsters, and beautiful Russian women mixed with army deserters who hoped to get money and work when the Japanese entered (Peking), together with elderly former diplomats from countries that no longer existed. Millions and millions of dollars were discussed over drinks, and a lot of hard cash was spent.’

Sir Francis Rose by Cecil Beaton

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