All things old China - books, anecdotes, stories, podcasts, factoids & ramblings from the author Paul French

Bertha Lum’s Gods, Goblins and Ghosts, 1922

Posted: April 10th, 2024 | No Comments »

I’ve written about the American artist resident in Peking for many years, Bertha Lum, before (in my book Destination Peking). She is one of a number of fascinating western women artists who settled in interwar Peking and made a living from their art including Anna Hotchkis and her fellow Scot Elizabeth Keith, Katharine Jowett from England (see my South China Morning Post magazine article here), Mary Mullikin and her fellow Americans Helen Wells Seymour, and the Austrian Emma Bormann, among others.

So I’m always interested when a work by Lum comes up for sale. And here is one that recently popped up – a print from Lum’s 1922 book Gods, Goblins and Ghosts: The Weird Legends of the Far East, signed in pencil and dated 1921. The book is a series of stories about Japanese legends that Lum discovered reading Lafcadio Hearn, who she greatly admired. You can see many more illustrations from the book here.


Not Your China Doll – The Shimmering Life of Anna May Wong – April 4

Posted: April 9th, 2024 | No Comments »

Katie Gee Salisbury’s bio of Anna May Wong, Not Your China Doll (Faber) has been out in the US a while and is now available in the UK…

Set against the glittering backdrop of Los Angeles in the gin-soaked Jazz Age and the rise of Hollywood, this debut book celebrates Anna May Wong, the first Asian American movie star, to bring an unsung heroine to light and reclaim her place in cinema history.

In her time, Anna May was a legendary beauty, witty conversationalist, and fashion icon. Plucked from her family’s laundry business in Los Angeles, she rose to stardom in Douglas Fairbanks’s blockbuster The Thief of Bagdad. Fans and the press clamored to see more of this unlikely actress, but when Hollywood repeatedly cast her in stereotypical roles, she headed abroad in protest.

Anna May starred in acclaimed films in Berlin, Paris, and London; she dazzled royalty and heads of state across several nations, leaving trails of suitors in her wake. She returned to challenge Hollywood at its own game by speaking out about the industry’s blatant racism. She used her new stature to move away from her typecasting as the China doll or dragon lady, and worked to reshape Asian American representation in film.

Along with unprecedented access to Anna May’s personal effects courtesy of the Wong family, in Not Your China Doll, Katie Gee Salisbury also draws on her own experiences as an Asian American woman to showcase the vibrant, radical life of a groundbreaking artist.


#47 The Sinica Ultimate China Bookshelf – Kang Zhengguo’s Confessions (2007)

Posted: April 8th, 2024 | No Comments »

An intimate memoir (translated by Susan Wilf) of everyday life and Communist power from the first days following the establishment of the PRC in 1949 through the Tiananmen Square protests and after. Kang Zhengguo, born into a professional family, grows up a free spirit finding himself drawn to literature. But in Mao’s China, his background and interests are enough to condemn him at a young age to a fierce struggle session, expulsion from university, and a four-year term of hard labor in Xian’s Number Two Brickyard. Kang then catalogs his extended internment in the Maoist prison camp system. At twenty-eight he is adopted by an aging bachelor in a peasant village, which enables him to start a new life. Rehabilitated after Mao’s death, Kang finds himself still subject to the recurring nightmare of Party authority.

Click here


Blaxploitation Arrives at Praia Grande – Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975) – Paragrafo #83 – in Portuguese

Posted: April 7th, 2024 | No Comments »

My bi-monthly column on Macao and pop-culture for Macao’s Ponto Final and its monthly literary supplement Paragrafo in Portuguese (will be in English later) – Blaxploitation Arrives at Praia Grande – Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975)… if you can read Portuguese here it is…

Illustration by Rui Rasquinho

US-China Telephone Services Commence – 1937

Posted: April 6th, 2024 | No Comments »

US-China telephone services began on May 19 1937. at the time China had about 170,000 telephones installed nationwide. This is a telephone booth and information office built at Hangchow (Hangzhou) and photographed in 1937 for National Geographic magazine by William Robert Moore, a photographer and the chief of the foreign editorial staff at National Geographic during four decades.


Carl Crow on NPR…

Posted: April 5th, 2024 | No Comments »

The great Carl Crow getting a few mentions on NPR this week…click here


Temple of Heaven English Language Signage, 1937

Posted: April 5th, 2024 | No Comments »

The Temple of Heaven around the mid-1930s (phootgraphed by the National Geographic’s Gilbert Grosvenor who was on an extended reporting and photographing trip to Cina at the time) – attracting a variety of Chinese and foreign visitors, as you can see. But what’s that sign…. see below….

Nicely bilingual – ‘WALK ON SIDESTEPS IN ORDER TO PROTECT THE ENGRAVED STONE’


Trevor Lawrence’s Shanghai Waterfront

Posted: April 4th, 2024 | No Comments »

Trevor Lawrence was a British post-war & contemporary artist born in 1944. He worked as an actor, was a good friend of David Bowie’s and commercial artist (advertising art and publishing, magazine illustration to film posters). Born in Watford he was late based in Weymouth. He died in 2012. His work was mostly urban sea/cityscape scene oils on canvas and very distinctive. I don’t think he ever visited Shanghai, but I may be wrong? Anyway here is his painting Shanghai Waterfront.