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

Royal Asiatic Society Shanghai History Club – Segregation, violence and prosperity in Chinatown New York – 13/2/19

Posted: February 11th, 2019 | No Comments »

Few places in the world have represent the Chinese diaspora like New York’s Chinatown. From it’s early period in the Nineteenth Century as a neighborhood for migrant Chinese workers, Chinatown grew to symbolize a future home for workers and families enthralled by the American Dream. But, for most Chinese migrants, immigration to the United States meant exploitation, racial segregation, and systemic exclusion from the dominant culture.

This talk with Peter Hagan will cover the early history of New York’s Chinatown, the effects of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Tong Wars, and immigration in the post World War II Era that has given rise to the image of one of Manhattan’s most famous and recognized neighborhoods.

The Chinese History Study Group meets monthly – generally the second Wednesday of each month, October through July. Our members select and research topics of personal interest within the themes, make brief oral presentations, and then engage in discussion with those attending the talk. Each month one or two members discuss their topics.

Entrance fee: Members: Free  Non-Members: 50 RMB
Venue: Garden Books325 Changle Rd(长乐路325号)

to register – https://ras-china.eventbank.cn/event/20665/register/?pk_campaign=All%20RAS&pk_cid=23208&pk_kwd=23208&pk_medium=event-campaign

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M Literary Residency – Shanghai – 2019-2020

Posted: February 10th, 2019 | No Comments »
A Call to Writers for the 2019-20 M Literary Residency

Applications for the Residency open on January 1, 2019
and will close on March 31, 2019 midnight GMT.
The winner will be announced on May 31st, 2019.
https://mliteraryresidency.submittable.com/submitThe M Residency allows writers with an interest in China
to deepen their understanding of this vital and fascinating place.
Established in 2009 and fully funded by the M Restaurant Group,
the residency has its roots in M’s Shanghai and Beijing Literary Festivals,
and aims to foster artistic, cultural and intellectual links between individuals and communities. For 6-8 weeks in 2019, one writer will have the opportunity  to write undisturbed in the heart of this bustling city.
The residency is open to writers of prose or poetry, fiction or nonfiction and screenwriting.Some Of  Our Past Recipients…To apply, please use our Submittable page https://mliteraryresidency.submittable.com/submit.
For more information regarding the M Literary Residency programme, please visit our official website.All submissions are due by March 31, 2019 midnight
and must be in English or include an English translation.

   We’re thrilled to announce the official dates
of the Shanghai International Literary Festival.

From March 14-27, 2019, the M Restaurant Group
will be bringing you the brightest stars of the literary world.
  The full programme will be released on February 4th
and tickets will be exclusively sold on our official website. Our headliner sessions move fast so make sure
to bookmark the ones you’re dying to see and act quickly once tickets go on sale.
Stay tuned for more information in January…and always check our WeChat for the latest! 

 For more upcoming events, please follow our official WeChat or visit our website.

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Chinese Paper Lanterns For Sale in Cloth Fair, London, 1912

Posted: February 7th, 2019 | No Comments »

The picture below is of Mrs. Flora Jackson, who was the listed proprietor of Jackson’s Newsagents (& Provisions Store) at no.22 Cloth Fair (just by the junction to Red Lion Passage – now sadly demolished) in Smithfield, City of London. It is March 1912 and she has, as you can see, a display of Chinese lanterns in her window…

Now, this image comes from a wonderful book of old London photographs – Panorama’s of Lost London, by Philip Davies (Transatlantic Press, 2011). The images are mostly from the London Metropolitan Archive. The caption to the photo (provided, I assume, by Davies, reads: ’20 Cloth Fair and entrance to Red Lion Passage looking west, 26 March 1912 – Note the patriotic paper lanterns for sale in the shop window…’ Incidentally it is the Kelly’s Post Office London Directory of 1911 that tells me Flora Jackson was at no.22 – but no matter. It’s the lanterns we’re interested in….

Now this reference to ‘patriotic lanterns’ intrigued me. Chinese paper lanterns were imported into England in quite large numbers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The vogue for them had really got going in 1887 at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations as towns and villages across the land hung Chinese lanterns out to celebrate (see my post of that – http://www.chinarhyming.com/2013/11/25/the-1887-jubilee-perhaps-a-highpoint-in-chinese-lanterns/

By the turn of the century and after World War One garden parties, tea dances, street parties and decorated homes all often featured these Chinese paper lanterns which were, I believe, quite inexpensive, decorative and pleasingly exotic. (see here for Chinese lanterns at the dances at the Metropole Hotel in London in 1926 – http://www.chinarhyming.com/2013/10/20/chinese-lanterns-dancing-all-night-at-the-metropole-in-1926/

1912 though has no particular patriotic connotation in England. Nor do the lanterns appear to be particularly aimed at any sort of British patriotism. Of course it is the first year of the establishment of the Chinese Republic, but do we really think that Jackson’s Newsagents of Cloth Fair was celebrating the end of the Qing Dynasty and the creation of Dr Sun’s Republic? Possibly?

I might venture that it appears as if a makeshift Chinese-style shrine has been created in the display too. I checked the records in case that window wasn’t Mrs Jackson’s, but a Chinese curio store next door – it was her window. And so I have a few possibles:

  1. Mrs Jackson simply sold Chinese paper lanterns and either she, or the sales rep, created the window display?…
  2. Mrs Jackson had a Chinese husband? If anyone has access to ancestry.com they might like to check that out…
  3. Mrs Jackson saw a sales opportunity around Chinese New Year – however, that was late January in 1922 (year of the Dog, by the way) so (if the book’s label of March is correct) she’s carrying on the theme a bit long…
  4. Mrs Jackson really did want to celebrate the establishment of the Chinese Republic and created a window display to mark that momentous event.

I would, of course, welcome any thoughts or ideas?

Finally, looking through the archives I found this shot of Mrs. Jackson’s shop that shows you her front window that is cut off in the picture above…this one was taken by Edward Yates, two years earlier in 1910 and shows the provisions part of her store and clearly that her shop was no.22 .

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Tsundoku #1 – my new Asia books column at Asian Books Blog

Posted: February 6th, 2019 | No Comments »

Rosie Milne, the force behind www.asianbooksblog.com, asked me if i wanted to do a monthly column on Asian-themed books. Of course I said yes…

I’ve opted to call my monthly missive on forthcoming books, tsundoku, the Japanese word for all those books that pile up by your bedside just begging you to get on and read them. It seemed fitting for a column that aims squarely at encouraging you to build that pile a little higher each month…

Tsundoku will assemble a random assortment of Asia-related books – novels, non-fiction, photography, graphic art – that comes across my own desk. Being a writer on various matters Asian, as well as a regular reviewer, I often get an early peek at forthcoming books. So tsundoku is essentially me passing on a few recommendations…

Here’s the first one….http://www.asianbooksblog.com/2019/01/tsundoku-1-february-2019-new-year-new.html

And readers are welcome to send me their own (uncurated!) tsundoku piles for inclusion (paul@chinarhyming.com)

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A Follow Up on the Shanghai Restaurant in Paris…And the Lotus

Posted: February 5th, 2019 | 1 Comment »

Last week I blogged about the Shanghai Restaurant on rue Cujas in Paris that was regularly visited by the Japanese painter Tsuguharu Foujita and the surrealist poet Robert Desnos. It is long gone but I appealed for anyone with good French search skills. (you can see that post here -http://www.chinarhyming.com/2019/02/01/the-shanghai-restaurant-rue-cujas-paris-5arr-1930/

Well, many thanks to Andrew Park, a Phd student at Hong Kong University who knows a thing or three about French online sources…Here’s an ad he dug up for the Shanghai Restaurant from La Semaine a Paris…

And while I still don’t have a photograph of the Shanghai Restaurant, I do have one of the Lotus Chinese restaurant from the 1930s that was at no.2 rue de L’ecole-de-Medicine…I’m sure you’ll agree it looks wonderful…

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Talking China Research with Jonathan Chatwin….

Posted: February 4th, 2019 | No Comments »

Here’s a Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel interview by the author and journalist Jonathan Chatwin, with me, about researching China. I think this series is usually more academic writers so perhaps this one is useful for those looking to write about China more commercially…https://chinachannel.org/2019/01/29/paul-french/

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The Shanghai Restaurant, Rue Cujas, Paris 5arr, 1930…

Posted: February 1st, 2019 | 2 Comments »

I’m currently reading Phyllis Birnbaum’s biography of the Japanese painter Tsuguharu Foujita (below) who lived in Paris for many years – Glory in a Line. And this intriguing snippet pops up…

In the summer of 1930 the surrealist poet Robert Desnos, Foujita, Foujita’s wife Youki (actually a French woman) and his nephew Tomonobu, headed out of Paris to tour the Burgundy region. A confirmed Parisian Desnos listed the many things he would miss about the city while away for the summer including the Shanghai Restaurant on rue Cujas. It was a rather fraught summer holiday as Foujita and Youki’s relationship was in a state of collapse and she would end up married to Desnos (with Youki below) soon after.

Rue Cujas is a smallish street in the 5th arr, close to the Sorbonne, and was apparently popular with Chinese students in the city and French students looking for cheap, and apparently quite authentic, Chinese food before the war. I’m afraid I can’t find a photo of it, or any details of its ownership, menu, prices etc. Apologies, my Paris history researching skills are a bit basic! A French restaurant in Shanghai in 1930 and I’m your man; a Chinese restaurant in 1930s Paris and….well….

I do however know that the restaurant was still there in 1965 as it gets a brief mention in the (and anyone who ever Inter-railed back in the day will remember this book) Let’s Go Student Guide to Europe – ‘one of the best straight Chinese restaurants on the left bank’. Sadly no street number is given, but a slightly earlier French guide to Paris says it was at No.9. Street numbers do sometimes gets changed though. Dr Google tells me there is a Chinese restaurant at No.18 today – The Mandarin Sorbonne – could this be the inheritor of the Shanghai’s premises?

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City of Devils in the Times Literary Supplement – “A Strange Urban Aberration”

Posted: February 1st, 2019 | No Comments »

Marcel Theroux reviewed City of Devils for the (22 January) TLS – perceptively and with some good criticisms. It’s pay-walled I’m afraid, but i was interested that someone chose the painting Shanghai Footbridge (from the early 1930s) to accompany the review – the painting is by the Taiwanese painter Tan Ting-pho, who taught at the Xinhua Art College in Shanghai from 1929 till about 1933….if you don’t know his work it’s worth a google search….

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