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

The Titanic’s Unknown Chinese Passengers – Meet the Makers of The Six – RAS Beijing 7/4/21

Posted: March 29th, 2021 | No Comments »

The Titanic’s Unknown Chinese Passengers:
Arthur Jones and Steven Schwankert Talk about their Film “The Six”

WHAT: Meet the Makers of The Six: How Arthur Jones and Steven Schwankert traced Titanic’s Unknown Chinese passengers
WHEN: Wednesday, April 7, 2021, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM Beijing Standard Time. (In-person attendees may arrive at 6:30 PM
WHERE: The Courtyard Institute, #28 Zhonglao Hutong, Beijing

MORE ABOUT THE EVENT: The night before their documentary debuts in cinemas across China, co-creators Arthur Jones and Steven Schwankert talk in person about solving the history of Titanic’s least-known passengers, tracking down their descendants, and how they got James Cameron on board their Titanic story. Q&A to follow.
 
MORE ABOUT THE SPEAKERS:  
Steven Schwankert is co-creator and lead researcher on “The Six,” a book and documentary project about the Titanic’s Chinese survivors. His book, Poseidon: China’s Secret Salvage of Britain’s Lost Submarine was published in 2013 by Hong Kong University Press. Steven is the Asia Chapter Chair of The Explorers Club and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Arthur Jones is an award-winning director and writer, known for “The Six” (2020), “The Poseidon Project” (2013), and “A Farewell Song” (2006). A 25-year resident of Shanghai, Arthur has directed feature programming for global broadcasters including BBC and Discovery Channel.
 
HOW MUCH: This event is free and exclusively for members of the RASBJ. If you know someone who wants to join the RASBJ, please ask them to sign up at least 48 hours before the event via our website at: https://rasbj.org/membership/  

HOW TO JOIN THIS EVENT IN PERSON
Please email events@rasbj.org. Seating will be limited.
After registering you’ll receive a confirmation email (If you don’t seem to have received a confirmation email, please check your spam folder).

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ChungCheng Road, Shanghai, late 1940s

Posted: March 29th, 2021 | No Comments »

A couple of days ago i posted on the Shanghai Senior Vacuum Flask Company who’s HQ in the late 1940s was on ChungCheng Raod. Today here’s an advert for Marco’s Restaurant and Nighclub, also from the late 1940s and also on Chungcheng Road. Chungcheng Road was a short-lived road name in old Shanghai and therein lies a tale….There has not just been one major change of road names in Shanghai – after 1949 from the old concession names, but rather several changes….During the Japanese occupation Wang Jing-wei’s puppet collaborationist regime changed the names of nearly 400 roads in the Settlement and Frenchtown. Then in 1946 with the foreigners, the Japanese and Wang gone, Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government set about changing names again.

You’ll note that the address for Marco’s is “Chungcheng Road (Edw. VII)”. What was Chungcheng Road is now Yanan’ Lu. As is well known this road, now mostly raised expressway, was the boundary line between the International Settlement and Frenctown. From the Bund to Chengtu (Chengdu) Road the street was named Avenue Edward VII (aka the Avenue Eddy). West from Chengdu Lu it was in the French Concession and known as Avenue Foch. The Nationalist authorities in Shanghai canged the entire street name to Chungcheng Road. Higher numbers on the street, such as The Shanghai Senior Vacuum Flask Company at No.315, were on the former Avenue Foch. Others, like Marco’s, to the eastern end of the street were on the former Avenue Edward VII. Obviously someone at Marco’s thought all this name changing might be a bit confusing and so hedged their bets and included the (Edw. VII).

Of course Chungcheng was the name chosen for a major thoroughfare in the now entirely Nationalist-controlled Shanghai, and many other Chinese towns and cities, as they were named after Chiang Chung-cheng, the preferred given name of Chiang Kai-shek at the time.

So now you know….

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How Cairo Became a Cosmopolitan Destination in the 1920s

Posted: March 28th, 2021 | No Comments »

A while back i was sent a proof copy of Raphael Cormack’s Midnight in Cairo. A fascinating book that looks at the cosmopolitan nightlife scene of interwar Cairo. There are a lot of obvious parallels to other somewhat international and cosmopolitan cities of the era – Istanbul, Tangier and, of course, Shanghai. I was certainly more than happy to blurb it and recommend it to everyone interested in this period and world. Cormack talk a little bit about Cairo and its demi-monde here to get a flavour.

One of the world’s most multicultural cities, twentieth-century Cairo was a magnet for the ambitious and talented. During the 1920s and ’30s, a vibrant music, theater, film, and cabaret scene flourished, defining what it meant to be a “modern” Egyptian. Women came to dominate the Egyptian entertainment industry―as stars of the stage and screen but also as impresarias, entrepreneurs, owners, and promoters of a new and strikingly modern entertainment industry.

Raphael Cormack unveils the rich histories of independent, enterprising women like vaudeville star Rose al-Youssef (who launched one of Cairo’s most important newspapers); nightclub singer Mounira al-Mahdiyya (the first woman to lead an Egyptian theater company) and her great rival, Oum Kalthoum (still venerated for her soulful lyrics); and other fabulous female stars of the interwar period, a time marked by excess and unheard-of freedom of expression. Buffeted by crosswinds of colonialism and nationalism, conservatism and liberalism, “religious” and “secular” values, patriarchy and feminism, this new generation of celebrities offered a new vision for women in Egypt and throughout the Middle East.

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Those Much Prized Thermos Flasks…from Shanghai’s China Senior Vacuum Flask Company…

Posted: March 27th, 2021 | No Comments »

Rarely does an expat return from China without an old style thermos flask, hopefully ornately decorated, slightly bashed and authentic (in recent decades there has been a sizeable market in replicas). They become flower pots, vases, table decorations…but rarely is their provenance sought. Many came from the Senior, Shuang-Hsi and the ABC brands manufactured by the China Senior Vacuum Flask Company based on Chung Cheng Road in the late 1940s (Chung Cheng Road had been Avenue Foch (where the numbers where that high – and Avenue Edward VIII for the lower numbers, and is now Yan’an Xi Lu). Below their advertising and below that one of their now much prized flasks.

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Penguin China & WW1 series out soon in Chinese….

Posted: March 26th, 2021 | No Comments »

The excellent collection of short books on China and World War One published by Penguin China back in the centenery of armsitice has finally, it seems, been translated into Chinese and will be published next month. Pieces by me (on China’s betrayal at Versailles), Mark O’Neill (on the Chinese Labour Corps), Frances Wood (on the wartime dioplomats in Peking), Robert Bickers (on the rush to join up for the Front in Shanghai), Jonathan Fenby (on the Japanese defeat of Germany at Tsingtao) and Anne Witchard (on the uses of the ‘Yellow Peril’ during the war in England).

Available here on Douban…

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Andrew Bull’s Hong Kong Disco Years

Posted: March 24th, 2021 | No Comments »

For those interested in disco, Hong Kong and the 1970s/1980s the two Hong Kong Heritage podcast interviews with the legendary DJ Andrew Bull are great listening. The early years of modern rock music radio in Hong Kong, the first discos, the music, the divas…in two parts click here

Andrew Bull with David Cassidy!
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Crossing Continents: A History of Standard Chartered Bank

Posted: March 23rd, 2021 | No Comments »

Duncan Campbell-Smith’s new history of Standard Chartered Bank.

For almost a hundred years from the 1860s, the City of London’s overseas banks financed the global trade that lay at the core of the British Empire. Foremost among them from the beginning were two start-up ventures: the Standard Bank of South Africa, which soon developed a powerful domestic franchise at the Cape, and the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China. This book traces their stories in the nineteenth century, their glory days before 1914 – and their remarkable survival in the face of global wars and the collapse of world trade in the first half of the twentieth century.

The unravelling of the Empire after 1945 eventually forced Britain’s overseas banks to confront a different future. The Standard and the Chartered, alarmed at the expansion of American banking, determined in 1969 on a merger as a way of sustaining the best of the City’s overseas traditions. But from the start, Standard Chartered had to grapple with the fading fortunes of its own inherited franchise – badly dented in both Asia and Africa – and with radical changes in the nature of banking. Its British managers, steeped in the past, proved ill-suited to the challenge. By the late 1980s, efforts to expand in Europe and the USA had brought the merged Group to the brink of collapse.

Yet it survived – and then pulled off a dramatic recovery. Standard Chartered realigned itself, just in time, with the phenomenal growth of Asia’s ’emerging markets’, many of them in countries where the Chartered had flourished a century earlier. In the process, the Group was transformed. Trebling its workforce, it brushed aside the global financial crisis of 2008 and by 2012 could look back on a decade of astonishing growth. Recent times have added an eventful postscript to a long and absorbing history.

Crossing Continents recounts Standard Chartered’s story with a wealth of detail from one of the richest archives available to any commercial bank. The book also affords a rare and compelling perspective on the evolution of international trade and finance, showing how Britain’s commercial influence has actually worked in practice around the world over one hundred and fifty years.

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Those Jack Riley Slot Machines in Old Shanghai – What Were They?

Posted: March 22nd, 2021 | No Comments »

My thanks to George Godula of Shanghai who is an enthusiast of both old slot machines and old slot machine tokens. I sent him a picture of a Jack Riley leased slot machine (for more on all that see my book City of Devils which features the great “Slots King” of Shanghai) – this one from the Astoria Cafe, just over the Garden Bridge close to the Astor House Hotel.

Here it is….

George reckons it’s a Mills 5 Cent Liberty Bell slot machine from the 1920s. Riley shipped his machines in from wherever he could get them – America via Manila and Japan as well as, later, machines sourced through Macao. Here are two examples of the type of machines he imported into Shanghai…

This is a Mills 5 Cent Operators Bell Art Deco Gooseneck slot machine from c.1925
And here is a Mills 5 Cent Libert Bell slot similar to the one in the Astoria in Hongkew.

George believes that Riley shipped in whatever machines he could find as Shanghai’s hunger for slots grew (and his bank account!)…In this ad from the Fourth Marines Club magazine Walla Walla the artists rendition is a different type of machine again…

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