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

Lady Bredon on Chuan Pan Hutung, 1922

Posted: August 8th, 2019 | No Comments »

Readers of my books Midnight in Peking and Badlands will know that in the 1930s the hutongs of Chuan Pan and Hougou, just off Hatamen Street (Chongwenmen Dajie) became the epicentre of the foreign Badlands of Peking. However, in the 1920s, at least according to the Peking Who’s Who of 1922 no lesser personage than Lady Bredon lived on Chuan Pan Hutong.

Lady Bredon was Juliet Bredon, the author of a number of good books about Peking, particularly Peking: a historical and intimate description of its chief places of interest. – which Lady Bredon was Juliet Bredon, the author of a number of good books about Peking, particularly Peking: a Historical and Intimate Description of its Chief Places of Interest. – which was published in 1922, so we can assume she wrote while living on Chuan Pan Hutong. Bredon was the niece of Sir Robert Hart of the Chinese Customs (and write a rather indulgent biography of him).

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Made in Shanghai: Tropical Bungalow Kits

Posted: August 7th, 2019 | No Comments »

In the 1920s and 1930s as the colonisations of British Malaya, French Indo-China, the Dutch East Indies and the Philippines were underway the demand for tropical bungalows using corrugated sheets was booming. William Jacks & Co of 1 Hong Kong Road (Xianggang Lu) supplied demand straight from Shanghai in kit form – walls, floors, windows, verandahs, roofs and perimeter fencing, all in one handy easy-to-assemble kit. It’s puts IKEA to shame…

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August 25 – the Midnight in Peking Official Walking Tour is back on….

Posted: August 6th, 2019 | No Comments »

It’s only happening one this summer – August 25th – thanks to the good folk at Bespoke Beijing and Penguin China…

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Where to get the Hai-Alai gossip in Old Shanghai – The Barcelona…

Posted: August 5th, 2019 | No Comments »

The Barcelona restaurant was virtually opposite the hai-alai fronton at 305 Avenue Roi Albert (Shaanxi Road South)…it was very popular with both hai-alai fans and players….There was a small dance floor for anyone who wanted to dance with the notoriously handsome Basque hai-alai players…

This Barcelona is not to be confused with another joint called the Barcelona – a Jewish-run cafe-bar up in Hongkew that had a good amateur football team that hung out there and served excellent goulash and nockerl dumplings apparently.

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The Diaries of Evans F Carlson – Royal Asiatic Society, Shanghai

Posted: August 4th, 2019 | No Comments »

Fascinating – as I didn’t know such diaries existed!

Evans F. Carlson is one of the great forgotten figures of the Second World War. A soldier since the age of 16, he was a confidant of the Roosevelt family, the subject of a 1943 Hollywood blockbuster, and the man responsible for introducing the word Gung Ho into the English lexicon. Although he died in 1947, he has the unlikely distinction of being remembered as a hero by both the U.S. Marine Corp and the Communist Party of China.
In 1937–1938, Carlson travelled across China as an official observer for the U.S. Navy, including many months accompanying patrols of the Communist 8th Route Army in Japanese-occupied North China. He held extended discussions on military and political strategy with Mao Zedong and other future leaders of the PRC, as well as with Chiang Kai-shek. He consorted with radicals, diplomats, peasants and missionaries.
Carlson recorded these experiences in daily diary entries, which are now transcribed and edited for upcoming publication. In this talk, Evan Taylor will explore the fascinating life of Evans Carlson and forgotten moments of co-operation in China in the first years after Japanese invasion.
Evan Taylor is a writer and historian of 20th century Diplomatic History and U.S.–China relations. He was a researcher for the primary document book series 外国观察者眼中的中共抗战:美军观察组延安机密档案 (The Chinese Communist Party’s War of Resistance in the Eyes of Foreign Observers: The Secret Files of the U.S. Military Observer Group in Yan’an) and the editor of the book 美国与中共的心理战合作 (Psychological Warfare Collaboration between the U.S. and the Chinese Communist Party), published in 2019 by Shanghai Yuandong Publishing Company.

Entrance fee: Members: Free; Non-members: RMB100

Venue: Garden Books, 325 Changle Road, near Shaanxi South Road 长乐路325号,近陕西南路

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H.G.W. Woodhead – Opinionated and Prolific

Posted: August 3rd, 2019 | No Comments »

A blog post by me on the excellent Visualising China site run by Bristol University….on HGW Woodhead, a most particular old China Hand and newspaper editor who didn’t mind the odd controversy or feud and for many years edited the Peking and Tientsin Times – http://visualisingchina.net/blog/2019/08/01/h-g-w-woodhead-opinionated-and-prolific/….

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Philip Cracknell’s Battle for Hong Kong, December 1941

Posted: July 25th, 2019 | 1 Comment »

Out now is a new history of the fall of Hong Kong and the final battle from Philip Cracknell…

On the same day as the Pearl Harbor attack, forces of the Japanese Empire attacked the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong without warning. Philip Cracknell provides a research-driven narrative about the Battle for Hong Kong in 1941, which commenced on 8 December and lasted for three weeks until the surrender on Christmas Day 1941. Hong Kong had become a strategic liability, an isolated outpost. It would be sacrificed but not without a fight. The main priorities for the British in Asia were Malaya and Singapore. The Crown colony was gallantly defended but it was a battle against overwhelming odds.

Crucially, as a resident of Hong Kong for thirty years, the author knows every inch of the ground. He challenges some assumptions, for example the whereabouts of A Coy, Winnipeg Grenadiers on 19 December, when the company was destroyed during a fighting retreat.

What exactly happened and where were the actions fought? One can still see so much evidence, in the form of pillboxes, gun batteries and weapons pits. Bullets and other relics can still be picked up lying on the ground. The defending troops mainly consisted of British, Canadian, Indian and Hong Kong Chinese. Dozens were massacred, including over fifty St John s Ambulance personnel – a grim pointer to the hell of the Pacific war that followed. Over the following nearly four years of occupation, an estimated 10,000 Hong Kong civilians were executed. The battle for Hong Kong is a story that deserves to be better known.

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Feel Like a Brandy in old Shanghai? – Domecq on Jinkee Road…

Posted: July 23rd, 2019 | No Comments »

Spain’s Domecq brandy was having a marketing push in 1930s Shanghai….The brand was distributed by Sino Spanish Trading – who’se telegraph number was “Sinospan”, by the way.

Sino Spanish was on Jinkee Road (now Dianchi Lu) – that street is an oddity in Shanghai and remains a narrower street than most of the grander thoroughfares that run west from the Bund. The first streets laid out running off from the Bund were originally named in alphabetical order to make them easy to remember; among them Canton, Foochow, Hankow, Kiukiang, Nanking, Peking and Soochow Roads running from south to north. However, at a later date Jinkee, between Nanking and Peking Roads, was created by turning a formerly private lane that led to the offices of the British traders Gibb, Livingston & Company Ltd into a public street. Gibb, Livingston’s Hong, or trading, name was ‘Jin Kee’. It seems that the alphabetical order first used to lay out Shanghai’s road system had been forgotten and so the name was never changed.

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