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

Best Car Hire in Shanghai, 1930?

Posted: August 10th, 2016 | No Comments »

Need a car in 1930 Shanghai – try Best Car Hire. how could you not manage to hire a car with three – yes three – phone lines open and representatives prowling the lobby at both the Palace (on the Bund/Nanking Road and now the stupidly named Swatch Art Peace Hotel whatever) and the Astor over in Hongkew (now the Pujiang).

Best Hire Car Service - 1930

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Chefoo, the Rev. McMillan & the town’s lace industry

Posted: August 9th, 2016 | No Comments »

Two adverts from 1936 for Chefoo-based lace firms. Chefoo (now Yantai) was famous as a lace production centre between the wars. The story goes that a certain Reverend James Mcmillan, a missionary, decided to create a lace industry to alleviate the poverty of Chefoo. It seems the workers of Chefoo took to a bit of needlepoint and an industry was born – with all its attendant sidelines including hair nets! At least that’s if the advert from the Sydney department store Hordern Brothers (below) is to be believed (by the way the marvellous Victorian Italiante-style Hordern Brothers store was demolished in 1986 to make way for the utterly disgusting World Square – you can see many pictures of the old store here).

From its nineteenth century origins the trade flourished, even up to early communist times. Here then are Franklin Trading and Hwa Ching Ho & Co. advertising their Chefoo lace to the world.

 

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J.L. George – Chinese Furniture in Old Shanghai

Posted: August 6th, 2016 | No Comments »

The J.L. George Chinese furniture shop does indeed sound worth a visit. George’s (the apostrophe slipped on the ad below) was up on Avenue Road, now Beijing West Road, that ran parallel to the Bubbling Well Road right to the western edge of the Settlement. Like many retailers of the 1930s looking to dodge sudden rent rises (nothing new there then) George appears to have moved around – at 1475-1477 in 1930 but also listed at No.805 at times. Their telephone number was 34732, by the way.

J.L. George appeared to be obviously foreign-owned though using Chinese craftsman – mostly originating from Dongyang in Zhejiang. In fact the company was owned by Shuang Hong Tai. We could speculate why Shuang used a western name of course – issues of trust and reliability were similar then as often today. Whatever the reason, Shanghailanders made the store popular.

Shuang hired low cost rural carpenters and craftsmen and brought them to Shanghai. This was a tradition begun in the early 1900s in Hangzhou before the furniture “factories” realised the potential size of the coastal Shanghai market and the spending power of Shanghailanders. Each one of their objects was stamped “Made in China” (which had a rather better reputation then than now!). The company moved to Hong Kong in 1949 to escape the communists and remained in business for some time after that as J.L. Georges. Interestingly, looking at various adverts from the 1930s – the company switched between J.L. George and J.L. Georges quite often. Items of furniture made by J.L. George come up for auction quite often, but due to the not completely great quality, the abundance of items they produced and their relative newness they don’t attract much money. However, they are of interest as being a staple brand found in Shanghailander homes.

 

 

JL Georges - Avenue Rd - 1930

Occasionally items do come up for auction with a J.L. George provenance, such as the carved wooden chest below (which sold for US$375 at auction in 2010!)….and below those a collection of three J.L. George tables that went for US$234.

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And some other J.L. George items….

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Voicemap’s China Routes

Posted: August 5th, 2016 | No Comments »

I’ve been meaning to write something about Voicemap for a while…so here we are. Walking tours that you can download on to your mobile telephone or “device”, some are free and some cost a small fee. My own walk retracing the locations of Midnight in Peking and the 1930s city of that book is available (free) – it’s here. I note there are some other China-based walks by people who know their stuff:

Alec Ash (author of the recently published Wish Lanterns) has a stroll through the old hutongs (those that are left anyway) around the Drum and Bell Tower (here);

There’s also a walk – that I can only imagine is excellent – with Katya Knyazeva through Shanghai’s old town (again, probably best to go out and do while it’s still there!)

Hong Kong, Bangkok, Seoul, Singapore, Yokohama and other Asian destinations are also available.

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Philip Freneau’s ‘On the First American Ship That Explored the Route to China and the East-Indies, After the Revolution’

Posted: August 4th, 2016 | No Comments »

I’m currently reading Hua Hsu’s A Floating Chinaman, which has a lot to say about China Watching and is rather interesting. I’ve blogged before about the American ship, The Empress of China, that left New York in 1784 for Canton to trade – an independent America’s first China bound ship. All very interesting of course, a new country, a new player in Canton, ginseng, silver and eventually a new player in the opium trade. However, I was not asware of the poem, mentioned by Hua Hsu, by Philip Freneau, On the First American Ship That Explored the Route to China and the East-Indies, After the Revolution, published in 1784 to mark the voyage of The Empress of China (pictured below after the poem). Freneau (below) was a proud American revolutionist and so equally proud of the voyage while never missing a chance to bash the Brits…

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On the First American Ship That Explored the Route to China and the east-Indies, After the Revolution

 

Philip Freneau (1784)

 

She spreads her wings to meet the Sun,

Those golden regions to explore

Where George forbade to sail before.

 

Thus, grown to strength, the bird of Jove,

Impatient, quits his native grove,

With eyes of fire, and lightning’s force

Through the blue aether holds his course.

No foreign tars are here allow’d.

 

To mingle with her chosen crowd,

Who, when return’d, might, boasting say

They show’d our native oak the way.

To that old track no more confin’d,

By Britain’s jealous court assign’d,

She round the stormy cape shall sail

And eastward, catch the odorous gale.

 

To countries plac’d in burning climes

And islands of remotest times

She now her eager course explores,

And soon shall greet Chinesian shores.

From thence their fragrant teas to bring

Without the leave of Britain’s king;

And porcelain ware, enchas’d in gold,

The product of that finer mould.

Thus commerce to our world conveys

All that the varying taste can please;

For us, the Indian looms are free,

And Java strips her spicy tree

Great pile proceed! – and o’er the brine

May every prosperous gale be thine,

’Till, freighted deep with eastern gems,

You reach again your native streams.

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Gaze Into the Street – Pictures of Hsinchu’s Beimen Street – Jiang Shan Yi Gai Cafe, Hsinchu – 30/7/16-28/8/16

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 | No Comments »

An interesting exhibition by photographer Michael Geier focussing on Hsinchu’s Beimen Street….

Austrian expat photographer Michael Geier has a new solo exhibition opening at Hsinchu’s Jiang Shan Yi Gai cafe on Saturday. Gaze Into the Street (溫柔的凝視) is a collection of photographs taken by Geier of the historic Beimen Street (北門街) near the City God Temple (城隍廟). Some of the street’s architecture has remained unchanged since the late Qing dynasty. Lately, there have been protests against construction on Beimen Street and student-led groups have been promoting its preservation as a heritage site. Geier captures this sentiment — the struggle between preserving tradition and wanting to modernize — in his photography in a way that’s pensive yet evocative.

■ Jiang Shan Yi Gai (江山藝改所), 17-4, Jiangshan St, Hsinchu City (新竹市江山街17-4號), tel: (03) 526-6456. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 2pm to 11pm

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Our Supreme Leader: The Making of Kim Jong-un – Now Available

Posted: August 2nd, 2016 | No Comments »

Apologies today for a slight deviation from the normal run of old Shanghai and China posts and, instead, a little obvious self-promotion. My new short e-book Our Supreme Leader: The Making of Kim Jong-un (published by Zed Books) is now available on amazon.co.uk and amazon.com for mere pennies….

Our Supreme Leader cover

Since his accession to power in 2012, Kim Jong-un has come to personify North Korea in the eyes of the outside world. An object of derision as much as fear, he has nevertheless succeeded in strengthening his grip on the country, purging potential rivals and strengthening the personality cult around himself and his predecessors. This process is set to culminate at the Seventh Congress of the Korean Workers’ Party, the first such congress in over thirty-five years, where Kim is widely expected to proclaim the dawn of a new era under his leadership.

In Our Supreme Leader, Paul French explores the ways in which the North Korean regime has evolved under Kim’s direction, with a detailed analysis of the history and development of its infamous cult of The Great Leader. Featuring the first in-depth assessment of the Seventh Congress and its significance within North Korea, French also offers fresh insights into the inner workings of this secretive regime, as well as looking ahead to its likely future direction.

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Useful Idiots, True Believers, Diplos & Traitors – Foreigners under Mao: Western Lives in China, 1949–1976

Posted: August 1st, 2016 | 4 Comments »

My apologies for my own subtitle to Beverley Hooper’s entertaining study of foreigners who lived in Mao’s China between 1949 and 1976, but most fell into one (or more) of those categories – useful idiots, true believers, diplos & traitors. Nobody much defects to China anymore, their spies are deep undercover, diplos used to be characters but rarely are these days in our more blanded world though of course the useful idiots still abound (see the recent nonsense video from Xinhua with foreigners lining up to support the Communist Party on their belligerent South China Seas stance post the Hague ruling. Then as now it’s a curious phenomenon – idiots, the easily duped, paid, tricked, coerced or just not that bright? Hard to tell). Still, before 1976 was the heyday of the traitors and useful idiots and they’re all here pretty much…

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Foreigners under Mao: Western Lives in China, 1949–1976 is a pioneering study of the Western community during the turbulent Mao era. Based largely on personal interviews, memoirs, private letters, and archives, this book ‘gives a voice’ to the Westerners who lived under Mao. It shows that China was not as closed to Western residents as has often been portrayed.

The book examines the lives of six different groups of Westerners: ‘foreign comrades’ who made their home in Mao’s China, twenty-two former Korean War POWs who controversially chose China ahead of repatriation, diplomats of Western countries that recognized the People’s Republic, the few foreign correspondents permitted to work in China, ‘foreign experts’, and language students. Each of these groups led distinct lives under Mao, while sharing the experience of a highly politicized society and of official measures to isolate them from everyday China.

Beverley Hooper is emeritus professor of Chinese studies at the University of Sheffield in the UK. She is the author of Inside Peking: A Personal Report, Youth in China and China Stands Up: Ending the Western Presence 1948–1950.

‘This book is enjoyable and engaging. The author introduces a small but dynamic collection of enthusiastic international participants in post-1949 China showing unquestioned loyalty to Mao’s ideals. Equally intriguing are the alternate stories of diplomats and reporters existing far outside the mainstream of Chinese life and trusted by neither the Chinese nor the international supporters.’
—Edgar A. Porter, Professor Emeritus, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University; author of The People’s Doctor: George Hatem and China’s Revolution

‘A well-written survey about the variety of Westerners who lived and worked in the People’s Republic of China between 1949 and 1976. This is a welcome addition to the “sojourner” literature about foreigners who lived in twentieth-century socialist countries. The scholarship, which includes the review of memoirs, archival materials, and secondary works, is impressive and comprehensive.’
—Stephen R. MacKinnon, Arizona State University; co-author of China Reporting: An Oral History of American Journalism in the 1930s and 1940s

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