From Urban Press
I was staying on a houseboat with friends. We had gone on a walk carrying a gun in the hopes of getting a pheasant or a duck. Colonel Hayley Bell, the grandfather of Hayley Mills, was one of the party. He had lagged behind to examine an old shrine. Suddenly the rest of us were charged by a water buffalo. They were very dangerous and hated foreigners, I suppose we smelled different, but any Chinese child could control them. They let their animal loose on the foreign devil then demanded a dollar to drive the brute off. I was up a tree and my two friends in a shed. The buffalo was snorting and flicking his tail. A Chinese boy arrived and asked for his dollar. I was eager to pay when Hayley Bell appeared on the scene. The beast stamped its foot and lowered its head. Hayley Bell walked straight up to it and kicked it hard on the nose. The astonished animal turned tail and lumbered off followed by the urchin. 'Shock tactics is what its about,' said Hayley Bell as I climbed out of the tree, 'I am not going to be blackmailed by some snotty-nosed Chinese infant. Just go up to the animal and show it who's master.(Lord Bangor quoted in Sergeant 1991, p 1)
For the new arrival Shanghai surpassed its reputation. The city stands on the Wangpoo, a tributary of the Yangtze. Passenger liners would moor off the the Bund, Shanghai's most eminent street and the hub of the city. As you stepped ashore Shanghai's inimitable odour of expensive scent and garlic overwhelmed you. A dozen different languages assailed your ear. Beggar children tugged at your clothes. American cars hooted at your rickshaw puller. Trams hurtled past. Above your head the foreign buildings of the Bund thrust into the sky. At your feet Chinese beggars picked at their sores. Down a side street a middle-aged Russian woman and a pubescent Chinese girl fought over a sailor. On the pavement Chinese dragging wheelbarrows of silver swore at immaculately dressed Englishmen stepping from their club. In the road a Sikh policeman in a red turban blew his whistle as two Chinese girls ran through the traffic on very high heals, their cheong-sams flipping open to the hip.(p 3)
A Simple Equation: The Rise of a Great City
[Congressman Caleb Cushing] signed a treaty with the Chinese at Wangxia in July 1844 which included a clause placing Americans in China under consular jurisdiction. It meant that Chinese had no power over foreigners of the 'most-favoured-nation' variety, whatever the crime they committed... Shanghai's traders took up the clause as the basis for a curious peice of law known as extraterritoriality. For the next hundred years it ensured the safety of the foreigner, his property and his business. China and its troubles could not touch him... It established Shanghai as a state within a state... They refused to pay Chinese taxes except land tax and maritime dues which they themselves collected while imposing taxes on all Chinese who came to live in the Settlements. They claimed the right to land troops while excluding Chinese troops from the concessions. Finally in 1854 they drew up the Land Regulations which laid down elementary principles for local self-government. It removed the Settlement from the control of the Chinese and the Consuls stipulated in the original treaties, and put authority in the hands of every tax paying foreigner... Furious foreign offices warned the traders that they had no right to administrative independence from China. They had no rights at all and certainly no precedent. All they had, as Rhoads Murphey has put it, was "bluff, maneuver, and force majeure'.(ibid, p 17)
China and Japan concluded a peace treaty in Shimonoseki on April 17th, 1895. Two clauses gaurenteed recognition of Japan on the same level as the Western powers and freedom for the Japanese to manufacture in the Treaty Ports. The treaty transformed Shanghai from a trading port into an industrial city. Foreign traders soon copied the Japanese and built their own factories along the Wangpoo. Electricity and coal were cheaper and interest rates lower than the rest of China while the inflated price of land allowed foreign and Chinese landlords to raise credit with ease . Continual unrest in the interior provided a labour force willing to work long hours for a small wage.(p 23)
Shanghai briefly revived in 1945 with the defeat of the Japanese only to fall to the communists in 1949 when Mao Zedong, in the ancient Chinese tradition of the peasant leader, restored central authority to China... When his peasant generals marched into Shanghai they were disgusted by its squalor and sophistication and appalled by it's independence. They soon showed that they preferred a dead city in their control to a prosperous one out of it. One can imagine a similar reaction from Chinese communists to Hong Kong today.(p 27)
The interior, so long despised for its backwardness, nevertheless proved to be the true China. Shanghai was not and never could be. Without foreign protection, it was powerless to withstand the Chinese peasant. In the end, neither dollars nor a well aimed kick could hold off the water buffalo.(p 28))
The White Russians
If you are living as long in China as me you can tell a gangster by the small things... Maybe he tilts his hat, a little to one side, so; or he has turned the wide sleeves of his Chinese gown back and folded his white, silk underwear over the cuff; or maybe he is walking towards you exercising his fingers with two metal balls; or perhaps he has stopped at the corner and is using his fan, that is all right but, as he moves off, he tucks his fan down the back of his collar which is a bad sign; or his cigarette sticks to his bottom lip and he lets it hang there while he speaks to a girl...' I found Boris's description so vivid that a year later, when a former Red Guard approached my on a Shanghai street, I instinctively drew back. Here was Boris's gangster in modern disguise.(p 50)
Innate to Shanghai's glamour was poverty and corruption. In the peaceful year of 1935 the Shanghai Municipal Council collected 5,590 dead men, women and children from the streets of the international Settlement. Crime and corruption were endemic. The head of the French Police controlled the city's opium trade. Gangsters, politicians and foreign businessmen ran Shanghai to their mutual advantage. Shanghai's reputation as a city where anything was possible depended on this paradox.(p 66)
The Order of the Brilliant Jade - 1927: The First Battle
On an early morning stroll in Jessfield Park, [Dr. McDonnal] recalled encountering a British officer of the Volunteer Corps arguing with a Chinese commander. The commander and his troops wanted to cross the bridge into the Settlement. The lone British officer showed equal determination to stop them. 'He knew not a word of Chinese so he tried some Arabic. Finally he said, "Fuck Off" and they turned and walked away. The officer epitomized the British attitude in Shanghai. They did not want change. They wanted time and their city to stand still. The pact with (crime boss) Du Yuesheng had been an attempt to do just that.(p 94)
The Spoiling Life
Young men hired in Britain and sent out to China for a four-year stint received the plum jobs in Shanghai's trading firms and institutions. Those who combined ability and upbringing...moved easily up the Long Bar of the Shanghai Club where a man's job dictated at which spot on the polished wood he took his drink... For them Shanghai was merely a posting. They lacked financial and emotional investment in the city... Their interlude in the Far East remained a bizarre, sometimes dangerous but, most of all, carefree time. Lady Jellicoe who grew up in Shanghai summed up the attraction: "It wasn't China really. It was the new world. It was vibrant, it was alive, there were people doing things and making a lot of money. It was a marvelous mixture of people all the time and then of course it was a spoiling life, let's face it, it was idiotically spoiling."(p 98)
The Shanghai Club, at Number 3 the Bund, was notorious for its snobbishness, its martinis and the hundred-foot Long Bar - the longest, it said, in the world. Lord Bangor, forced to undergo a grilling from members of the committee, told me he found it 'quite a business to join'. The Shanghai Club banned Chinese and women from membership. Its members even blackballed a Chinese prime-minister. I found an old Shanghai cartoon pasted into one man's album which summed up the the attitude to women. Beneath the title of 'Club Regulation' a Chinese servant is one the telephone in the Shanghai Club. The female voice at the other end asks in pidgin English: "That belong Hall Porter? Well, my wantie savvy s'pose my husband have not, no got?" (Is that the Hall Porter, I want to know if my husband is there?). The Hall Porter replies: "No missy, husband no got". The wife says angrily: "How fashion you savvy no go, s'pose my no talkee name?" (How do you know he's not there when I haven't told you his name?). To which the Porter says, "Maskee name, missy any husband no got this side anytime." (The name doesn't matter, madam, nobody's husband is ever here, at any time.)(p 102)
Lord Bangor had imagined it 'a raffish place' and 'a haunt of sailors and international drug traffickers, white slavers, beautiful women and all that'. His first visit proved a terrible disappointment. The place looked as sedate as anything in St James's. The Long Bar impressed him, especially before lunch on Saturdays when business flowed for the weeked. He recalled Chinese barmen in white jackets elbow to elbow as they served members standing eight deep down its length. At one end the bar turned a corner and ran for a short distance parallel to the Bund. The heads of the big banks and firms reserved this section fro themselves. Nobody too a drink there unless invited. Today the club is the Dongfeng Hotel where Chinese in blue overalls enjoy lemonade and noodles. The series of partitions dissecting the bar ... appeared an act of revenge by the Chinese on a place which saw them serve but never order a drink. One regulation remained unchanged. When I asked for a lemonade, the attendant turned leisurely to one side, spat, faced me again and jerked his thumb in a universal gesture. Women, it seems, are still unwelcome(p 102-103)
If it were possible to attend a gathering and listen to the talk of those adventurous spirits who, in days gone by, left their homes for the Far East to carve out a career, make a fortune, lay the foundations and build this great cosmopolitan city, we should probably find that a great deal of that talk was about the Shanghai Paper Hunt Club.(History of the Shanghai Paper Hunt Club quoted in ibid, p 108)
George Steward found he could barely fit everything in. Shanghai had dubbed him eligible. Men with marriageable daughters invited him to endless dinner parties. After dinner sleepy parents delegated one person to take the young out to a nightclub saying: "It's our party, send the bill to me.' George Steward recalled, 'Once it was established I could behave properly it was surprising how many girls I did know.'(p 114)
Clubs, wild parties, clean tails and all the paraphernalia of the spoiling life was made possible by the Chinese servant. Cheap, ingenious and good-natured they offered a world of total service and a way of life 'which is, I am sure, what many people most remember when the think of Shanghai', explained Enid Saunders Candlin. They were also 'our friends'. Certainly the majority of British made few other Chinese friends. Their servants became their only contact with the country in which they lived... You talked to your servants in pidgin, a combination of Chinese grammar and English vocabulary. Irene Kuhn remembered her introduction to its 'sublime elasticity' at a cocktail party. The hostess called her Number One Boy to her and said, '"Boy, go topside; catchee one-peice blow rag, puttee stink water, bring my side,"' which meant, '"Boy, go upstairs, fetch a handkerchief, put some perfume on it and bring it to me."' Most foreigners employed more servants than they needed. The Chinese had a saying, 'Never break another man's rice bowl', never take away another man's chance to make a living.(p 119)
A young man drinking in a bar could telephone his Number One Boy and announce ten for dinner in an hour. A dinner, which in Europe took days of preparation would promptly appear... Lord Bangor, determined to discover how his cook achieved this miracle, paid his first visit to the kitchen, a ramshackle building at the back of the house. He saw no other cooking equipment but baked mud stoves fired with charcoal and a large number of Chinese boys. Who were they, he asked? His cook looked evasive and said they had come to help the party that evening. Later on, Lord Bangor discovered that the man run a cookery school at his masters expense. The boys helped as pupils... The cook lost the cost of the school in the household accounts... Low wages [often] forced Chinese servants to become creative accountants. Cook and Number One Boy usually took 15 percent 'squeeze' from every delivery to the house.
Jack Compton...kept no cat but every month the same item appeared on the accounts, 'cat chow five dollars'. After a few months he sent for his Number One Boy. "What thing every month belong five dollar cat chow?" he asked. "You savee plenty well laota no belong cat this boat side. I no wantchee see any more cat chow five dollar."... The Number One Boy nodded. Next month Jack read on the accounts: "Cat chow five dollars. One peice cat ten dollars"... The houseboat still lacked a cat. Lord Bangor said that Jack gave up after that. He knew when he was beaten.
Hilary wadlow and Rosemary Dale grew up in Shanghai and recalled the effect of Chinese servants on foreign children. Hilary admitted that she had never dressed herself until she returned to England. Once when ill in bed on a cold day, she rang for her amah and said, 'I want to do pee pee. Please sit on the lavatory seat and warm it for me.' Rosemary Dale explained that Chinese servants rarely took holidays as they were afraid to lose their jobs. Sometimes they pretended a cousin had died and asked to attend the funereal because they felt guilty admitting they wanted a day off.
[Marble House] was the first house in the city to have air conditioning... The General Electric Company of America made the light fittings including the 18-foot chandeliers in the ballroom. To change a light-bulb, servants lowered the chandeliers to the floor by a winch... "Eighteen feet, each chandelier! Well it was quite a house, I must say," [recalled Lord Kadoorie]... I wondered how such a fabulous establishment with forty-three servants and visiting Indian philosophers had survived the Cultural Revolution... [and] it has survived well. Renamed the Children's Palace and transformed into a school for gifted children, it still looks as Lord Kadoorie remembered it: a white, two storied house with a covered veranda and steps down to a lawn. Even its transformation seems appropriate. Marble Hall is like a child's fantasy.(p 125-126)
[Victor Sassoon's] parties were not for everyone. You had to be someone or somebody's child to receive one. Rosemary Dale, whose father worked for the Shanghai Municipal Council, said she was not "smart enough" to be invited... Many of the grown-ups who did merit an invitation sneered at Sassoon [who was an Iraqi Jew] for trying too hard. [One] woman remembered discussing at dinner the best route Home [to England]. Victor started to say something when her friend cut it. "Don't you go by camel?" he said. "Well perhaps it was unkind but how could he talk of England as home. It was too absurd."(p 134)
The Abattoir of All Human Joys
The happy memories of Lord Bangor and George Stewart tell only half the story. In pursuit of profit, the British created a corrupt, unlovely and pitiless city. That city is now expunged from memory. They talked to me of colonial virtue, of honest institutions 'and sound administration. But the British in Shanghai were not colonials, they were businessmen. They might have borrowed the 'plumage of colonial power and dignity but rarely did they fulfil its obligations. Business had given, the, city its, character and its reason for existing. In their eyes business came, first and Shanghai, second. British businessmen were a much-labelled species. Known: as 'Old China Hands' and suffering from a defect called the 'Shatighai Mind' people remembered' them .as a group rather than as individuals. One American found it daunting to walk into.a room full of them. They knew immediately if you did not think like them and felt it their duty to make sure you did.(p 137)
I took the opportunity to ask if he had visited the French Club, the place Princess Lyuba had declared the centre of Shanghai Social life. Mr. Arbuthnot frowned. 'I went there once for a New Year's-Eve party. Everyone got drunk and made a frightful exhibition of themselves. I never went back again." Had he travelled around China? '1 took my friends on a couple of motor-car trips but frankly after you've seen one pagoda, you've seen them all.' Had he liked Chinese food? 'I only once had Chinese feed, I was invited away for the weekend and was forced to eat it. I don't think I have yet recovered from the experience. If I felt like going native, I went to a Hungarian place near me which served solid, manly stuff.' Did he speak Chinese? Mr Arbuthnot looked surprised. 'Chinese was not really in my line of business. If I came up against a Chinese. he could speak English.' He did not have any Chinese friends. then? 'Certainly not. The compradore in our firm asked us out to an annual bash in a restaurant. I never visited his home or met his wife. He was a decent enough chap. He told me the Chinese characters for my name, "Illustrious Pearl", or some such rot, but I had it made up into a name-card. None of the Chinese I gave it to understood its meaning, something to do with the Chinese language, I should say. I am told it's an effeminate and illogical tongue, rather similar to the Chinese character.' He looked me straight,in the eye. 'You couldn't trust them. The coolies and my Number One Boy were all right in their place, often very amusing, like children really, but a Chinese official had no decency or sense of honour. He was only interested in using his.post to enrich himself. When the Yangtsze flooded and funds were collected in Shanghai to help the victims I refused to contribute. "Can you guarantee the money will go where it's needed?" I asked. Of course they could not. The refugees never saw a penny. That was China for you.'
The Shanghai businessman understood one equation. In the weakness of China lay the strength of Shanghai. As long as the Chinese were unable to rule themselves, the foreigner could rule Shanghai.(p 137-138)
Shanqhai's history had left the British with a contempt for Chinese and a fear of their numbers. The emotions that had made it satisfying for British sailors to kill unarmed Chinese during the First Opium War remained strong. Many British businessmen, if not wishing to massacre the Chinese like snipe, agreed with Palmerston that 'These half-civilized governments such as those in China ... required a Dressing every eight or ten yean to keep them in order... they care little for words and they must not only see the Stick but actually feel it on their shoulders before they yield.'(p 138-139)
Before 1926 Chinese could not vote in Municipal elections nor stand for the Council even though the Chinese paid the greater part of the Municipal income. Chinese had to register their property in the name of a foreign friend. A Chinese attempting to enter a foreign hotel, however smartly dressed, found himself directed round to the tradesmen's entrance. The open-air swimming pool in Kiangwan Road only allowed Chinese to bathe if they produced a card of approval from the Shanghai Municipal CounC11 Health Department. The Cathedral Boys' School, Shanghai's foremost British public school, did not offer Chinese as a subject until 1937. A Belgian socialist, visiting Shanghai in 1930, remembered the experience of one European diplomat who held a dinner in honour of the members of the Nationalist government, many of whom had attended American universities. The next day the diplomat ran into a British businessman. 'I heard you invited those so called members of the govermment to dinner yesterday,' he said, "Tell me, in Peking do you also dine with coolies?'(p 139)
The North China Daily News took particular exception to those Chinese who had studied abroad and now called for an end to extraterritoriality, no 'Taxation without Representation', admittance to the city's parks (from which Chinese were banned) and the return of Mixed Courts to China. One returned student, stung by the paper's attacks, wrote to it in June 1927,If foreign education has merely aimed at making the Chinese students always grateful and submissive towards the countries in which they have been educated, no matter how oppressed politically, militarily or economically their brethren are by these same countries, then it is indeed an utter failure on the part of our dear foreign friends, for they have miscalculated the quality of Chinamen, who, after all, differ radically from the dumb driven cattle, easily made thankful with a scanty ration.
To which the Editor' replied:We take pleasure' in publishing this letter since it shows more convincingly than anything we could write how radically the modern Occidental system of education has to be revised before it can be of any genuine service to the Chinese student.(p 139-140)
An ex-member of the Shanghai police force... recalled how provoking he found the Chinese. On his beat in Kiangsi Road, a Chinese refugee hawked on to the toe of his boot. Instinctively, he hit the man in the stomach. The refugee suffered from an enlarged spleen and dropped dead at his feet. Had he found himself in court, I wondered. The policeman looked amazed. 'Good Lord, no! I didn't even report it. People were dying all the time on Shanghai's streets.'(p 145)
The Sikhs who directed traffic in red turbans, from raised islands at Shanghai's crossroads, looked particularly striking and proved fearsome in a crisis. Basil Duke wrote to his mother,We had to keep them more than fully occupied so that they were tired out at the end of each day. If they were given half a chance they would involve themselves in an intrigue of any kind which usually ended up with a fight and both men in court. They had an incurable propensity for lending money out at exorbitant rates and having sex with goats and small boys - or even the more accommodating of their adult Chinese fellow policemen.(146)
Basil Duke noted that the Chinese knew more about DIRT and STINKS a thousand years ago than the Indians will ever learn in the next five hundred.(p 150)
Foreign children remembered their mothers' obsession with cleanliness. They were forbidden to play with Chinese children or to eat food from Chinese stalls. Rosemary Dale recalled that her mother washed every coin brought into the house before she allowed her children to touch them. When Rosemary won a teddy bear at a party, her mother insisted on sterilizing it.
A moments thoughtlessness meant a disaster... Sir William Hayer recalled one bad typhoon season when Shanghai's streets flooded. A friend of his insisted on walking home through the floods. He caught something from the water and died shortly there after. Even the healthy rarely felt so. Every summer found Hallet Abend's chest and armpits raw from prickly heat, athletes foot between his toes and fingers and his chin and forehead infested with ringworm.(p 151)
British businesses and the Council reserved their best jobs for men from Home. Low paid work with no hope of promotion went to the locals... I wonder why the locals considered an upbringing in Shanghai so dangerous. Was it eating to much Chinese food? Or speaking pidgin? Or some other more nebulous contagion, perhaps China itself? The answer was more prosaic, Only an English public school could produce an English gentleman, and only an English gentleman could be trusted.(p 156)
A Wonderful Old Racket
Businessmen ran the International Settlement for businessmen. Business permeated Shanghai life. In factories, children worked fourteen hours a day because the Municipal Council, factory owners themselves refused to pass a Factory Act. For many years you could not catch a taxi in Shanghai for they might have offered competition to the rickshaw, tramways and omnibus companies run by Council members. It was quite all right, however, to buy an opium pipe or to go dog racing because members held shares in both. Goodness had nothing to do with Shanghai's business life. Energy, ingenuity and graft had. Like New York and Tokyo today, the only immorality was failure. "In spite of dark shadows," wrote Isabella Bird in 1899, Shanghai, 'is a splendid example of what British energy, wealth and organising power can accomplish.'
The flavor of British business life is summed up by one institution. Any view of the Bund shows how its curve hangs like a necklace between two buildings, the Cathay Hotel near Soochow Creek built br Sir Victor Sassoon and, at its other point, the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank(p 166)
The next morning I paid a final visit to the Bund. Gone are the peanut-sellers, the beggars with their sores and the refuse of dead babies. Chinese officials now step from Shanghai's most eminent buildings into large, chauffeur driven cars. Chinese girls in shorts and lipstick giggle at the foreign businessmen standing in clusters outside the former Cathay Hotel. As I made for Garden Bridge a man with long hair, shabby clothes and Central Asian features sidled up to me, hissed something from the corner of his mouth then moved off... I was amazed, nothing like this had happened to me in China before. It was only by the third corner and an encounter with a more audacious type that I discovered my foreign currency to be the object of their attentions. They offered tempting rates. One told me that they were Uigars and that for thousands of years the Uigars had made the long journey from the north-western province of Xinjiang, known as Chinese Turkistan, down the Yangtze to trade in Shanghai. The Communist Revolution caused a brief interruption but now, forty years on, trade had resumed... They spent the money they made on illegal currency exchange on televisions sets and radios which they took back to their villages and sold for extraordinary amounts. The Uigars said proudly, just as a Shanghai businessman did to Sir Rutherford Alcock, Shanghai's second British consol 140 years before, "Our business is to make as much money as quickly as we can then go home. We earn enormous sums. We are the richest men in our villages."(p 176)
The War Across The Bridge - 1932: The Second Battle
The War Memorial dedicated to the men from Shanghai on the Allied side was the only monument raised by the Shanghailanders. Appositely it commemorates an event on the other side of the world rather than one from Shanghai's history as an international city. Unable to inspire a sense of community stronger that national or financial interests, the city had little chance of survival.(p 177)
A five-storey building on a triangular plot of land and open on all three sides, Hongkew Market was said to be the largest in Asia... It was a real international affair. A polyglot of sounds, smells and sights assailed you as you strolled among its stalls... One the ground and first floor countrymen sold vegetables, fish and meat from booths. At different seasons you found mountains of artichokes, peas, cabbages and new potatoes alongside bamboo shoots water chestnuts and lotus roots. Javanese mangoes, lichees, pomegranates and persimmons lay in piles with lemons, bananas and in bamboo cages and hung on hooks every sort of game, including pheasants, snipe and bustards. Tanks of seawater for those who liked their seafood fresh, contained squid, shrimp, mandarin and yellowish as well as shad and mackerel... Foreigners recalled different things about Hongkew market. Kyoto Hakayshi, an eminent Japanese writer...grew up in Shanghai. She described its vast appearance to a huge child: "Standing at the entrance was like standing in the mouth of a huge tunnel: far away in the distance I could just barely see the dim light of the exit." She accompanied her mother to buy German sausage, Hershey's cocoa and French bread from a White Russian bakery... Enid Saunders Candlin, on the other hand, recalled the Japanese aspect of the market; the reek of radishes in pickle and prawns fried in batter; the flower market where, amoung the pails of daffodils, roses, sweet peas, gladioli and chrysanthemums, a Japanese gardener sold dwarf trees...laid out in glazed oblong pots.(p 180)
By 11.30 the noise [of battle] had attracted onlookers from the International Settlement. Cars crowded along the lighted portion of North Szechuen Road. Chattering and laughing groups of Westerners arrived from hotels, theatres, and dinner parties to see the fun... '"Hope the Japs will teach the cocky Chinese a good lesson" they said and, "Yeah, Japan is saving the white man the job of bringing the Chinese to reason."' As they talked the Japanese threw up sandbag shelters on the other side of the road. It was the last battle which the West watched in Evening dress.(p 187)
One of their own had used the Settlement to attach the Chinese. Suddenly the world press wrote up the Chinese, not as cruel and rapacious warlords but as celestials in every sense of the word. The transformation baffled the Shanghailander... He, for one, was not hoodwinked. Sooner or later the hooligan would break out... For years the Shanghailander had regarded the Chinese as the enemy and the Japanese as an admired friend. In the 'twenties Japan was a success story. In the dome of the Shanghai and Hong Kong Bank, the British architect had personified Tokyo by the figures of "Learning", "Progress" and "Science"... The pleasure of the North China Daily News' at [Japan's] 'wonderful pluck' after the 1923 Tokyo earthquake is expressed in the tone of a happy parent.(p 200)
[The British business community in Shanghai] viewed the Japanese as allies who, on behalf of all foreigners in Shanghai were '"pulling the chestnuts out of the fire"' even if 'in somewhat a crude manner.' One telegram [to the Joint Committee of the British Chamber of Commerce and China Association] ends with this pleas:We strongly urge you to do all can by representations to Foreign Office Member of Parliament and Editors leading Papers to impress upon them vital importance inducing stronger more positive and less unreal policy so that Japan will not be lost when upholding principals of justice, good government and civilization in this all important region China.(p 201)
Nanking Road running at right angles from the Bund past the former racecourse, is still Shanghai's most spectacular shopping street. Fifty years ago, it offered a frenetic, dazzling aberration of East and West. You could buy anything on Nanking Road, from jeweled opium pipes to hot chocolate sundaes, from coolies to Texus chorus girls. International and up-to-date it epitomised what the Shanghainese...admired and wanted... Shops-signs crowded in Russian cyrillic and Western script while Chinese characters hung in panels over the pavement. Up and down the road small, open fronted Chinese shops slipped between the foreign department stores of Whiteaway Laidlaw, Weeks, Kelly and Walsh (the booksellers and publishers), the Chocolate Shop (famous for its milkshakes, ice-cream and chicken salad), Bianchi the Italian resturant, Sam Lazero the music shop and piano importer and Sun Ya a Chinese restaurant frequented by foreigners. Halfway down Nanking Road, the Chinese-owned department stores of Wing On, Sincere and Sun Sun towered like cliffs on either side of the street. Here customers could ride the elevators, but duck tongues, skate, look at exhibitions of calligraphy, play billiards or just admire the palm trees growing in the brown and yellow tubs outside Sinceres.
On the street itself East and West met in noise and confusion. American cars skirted barefoot rickshaw pullers. Bicycles jostled against carts loaded with fruit and vegetables, earthenware jars, coal, machinery or bamboo furniture all pulled by men, women and children who survived only because they cost less to use than an animal. Thin sweating coolies, naked to the waist, pushed wheelbarrows carrying anything from apples to silver bars, or balanced baskets of squawking chickens and geese from long shoulder-poles while fighting for room with women wearing Paris dresses. School children in pressed uniforms picked their way over beggars sprawled like spider monkeys across the sidewalk. The street resounded with car horns, bicycle bells, peddlers calling out their wares, people yelling at each other in half a dozen languages to get out of the way, brass bands advertising a shops, dwarfs in top hats crying out "Fantastic value! Fantastic Value!', the clop, clop of ponies hooves and, always, in the background, the loud, firm click-click from the Chinese shops of the abacus adding everything up.(pp 207-208)
The Most Repellent Kind of Slavery
In 1932 the foreigners watched in awe as a flood of people swept across Garden Bridge. Few had any idea of the conditions in which the majority of Shanghai's population lived or worked.(p 210)
The foreigner had introduced the rickshaw to Shanghai from Japan in the 1860s. As soon as a foreigner stepped from his office or club the Rickshaw men gathered around, jostling to place the shafts of their vehicles as close toe customer as possible. "He could no help striking a few of them is he had a stick," wrote Mr. W. MacFarlane in the 1880s. 'They will then go off, and the ones that are chastised are laughed at by all the others." The rickshaw man was the only contact most foreigners had with Shanghai's poverty. The ensuing guilt produced either a fit of temper (the foreigner never paid the full fare if he had a 'cane handy') or a collective blindness... To the concerned they epitomized, as Enid Saunders Candlin put it, the great insistent need of the country.'
...Most rickshaw men were farmers driven off their land. Bachelors slept in a loft or shed owned by the rickshaw contractor with five to eight other pullars. Men with families lived in huts built of bamboo, wood, broken mats and scraps of iron on waste ground. The most popular place was the south bank of Soochow Creek known as Yao Shi Lane where four thousand people squatted without electricity or running water except for the polluted creek.(pp 211-212)
In Shanghai, as Isherwood put it, "If you tire of inspecting one kind of misery there are plenty of others." The city was the biggest center of industry in the Far East, most of it situated in Hongkew, Yangzepoo, and Chapei. The wretchedness of the Chinese factory-worker was as much a Western creation as the department stores on Nanking Road. The majority of Shanhainese spent their days in factories of Victorian grimness and their nights in rows of back to back houses more reminiscent of something out of Glasgow or Pittsburgh than the Far East.(p 217)
[In Chinese labor reform New Zealander] Rewi Alley had found a cause and a job. He taught himself Mandarin, studied Marx and became one of the Municipal Council's most unusual employees. [As a factory inspector with the Municipal Fire-Brigade] he enjoyed limited powers. Chinese and Foreign factory owners resented interference. An attempt in 1925 by the Council to pass a bylaw forbidding children under 10 from worked failed twice for lack of a quorum. Factory owners viewed with similar suspicion a series of labour laws passed by the Nationalist government between 1927 and 1932. The Japanese members of the Municipal Council summed up the general attitude when they declared the 'real purpose' of the new laws was 'to encroach upon extraterritoriality rights through enforcement of this inspection."(p 223)
The rickshaw man, the woman in the silk mill and the enslaved apprentice found Shanghai a desperate and indifferent place. Individually they could die on the street without a single passer-by breaking step. In numbers they inspired the cultural and political ferment that overtook Shanghai during the pre-war period.(p 224)
The Iron House
Chinese artists and students with their wild, often bizarre experiments, their originality, their political arguments and their courage epitomized something of Shanghai itself between the two world wars. On any tour of the city, they were impossible to miss. They filled tea-houses and coffee shops along North Szechuen Road with noisy debates on the latest literary magazine or the possibility of romantic love. They attended progressive plays at the Golden Theatre and raved over Ibsen's Doll's House, starring the future Madam Mao Zedong as Nora. They joined political rallies at the Shanghai College notorious for its communist students and professors. The better connected took tea with Song Qingling, widow of Sun Yat-sen, in her house in the French Concession and strolled in her garden which appeared transported from an English suburb. The more daring marched in demonstrations alongside Agnes Smedley, an American columnist, and were hit over the head by Sikh policemen... At evening classes in the YMCA building opposite the racecourse, the more committed taught factory workers. Film studios expected them to gatecrash parties for their latest star (sometimes left wing herself). Even in the Russian restaurants on Avenue Joffer you would have found the taking advantage of the twenty-cent menu of soup, a main dish and all the tea they could drink. They infested the dark swampy nightclub on the fourth floor of the Sincere Department Store (not the top floor which belonged to the Prostitutes); and danced in the dives along Bubbling Well Road where the taxi girls sat in rows around the room and charged one yuan for three dances. They lectured the prettier factory girls on women's rights, finishing with the inevitable invitation of 'free' love. As dawn broke they handed out leaflets to factory workers stumbling to the morning shift.(pp 226-227)
Lu Xun walked [to Uchiyama's bookshop at least once a day, turning right at the end of his row, past 'The Continental Terrace', its name carved in stone over the entrance to the lane, and down Shanyin Road to it's junction with North Szechuen Road. Now Chinese live in 'The Continental Terrace' and the only foreigner in sight was myself. Plane trees lined the road. Between each tree hung a washing line, with pink and red eiderdowns, blue cotton trousers and nappies drying in the breeze... Above my head wooden balconies sagged with their load of pigeon coops and pots of dead plants. A queue of people waited patiently outside a rice store famous for its quality. In the butchers, carcasses of meat lay piled on the floor. Fifty years ago Lu Xun would have passed to buy dumplings for his wife from the vendor on the corner, being careful to avoid Westerners who "do not use their hands, but stride forward on long legs as if there were no one there; and unless you step out of the way, they will trample on your stomach or your shoulders." The street vendor is no more and I was quick to step into the gutter when four Chinese students pushed past me.(p 235)
In China in the past a prisoner condemned to death was usually led through the busy thoroughfare, where he was permitted to shout Yuanweng, to protest his innocence, abuse the judge, relate his own brave deeds, and show he had no fear of death. At the moment of execution bystanders would applaud, and the news of his courage would spread. In my youth I thought that practice barbarous and cruel. Now it seems to me that rulers of past ages were courageous and confident of their power when they permitted this... Today when I am told of the death of a friend or a student, and learn that no one knows the details of how he died, I find that I grieve more deeply than when I learn the details of the killing. I can imagine the awful loneliness that overtakes one who is killed by butchers in a small dark room.(Lu Xan quoted in ibid, p 240)
The House of Multiple Joys
n the mid-thirties, Josef Von Strenberg, in search of locations for his film Shanghai Express, joined the factory workers and rickshaw men crowding into the Great World.When I had entered the hot stream of humanity there was no turning back even had I wanted to. On the first floor were gaming tables, singsong girls, magicians, pickpockets, slot machines, fireworks, birdcages, fans, stick incense, acrobats and ginger. One flight up there were the restaurants, a dozen different groups of actors, crickets in cages, pimps, midwives, barbers, and earwax extractors. The third floor had jugglers, herb medicines, ice cream parlours, photographers, a new bevy of girls, their high collared gowns slit to reveal their hips, in case one had passed up the more modest ones below who merely flashed their thighs; and, under the heading of novelty, several rows of exposed toilets their impresarios instructing the amused patrons not to squat but to assume a position more in keeping with the imported plumbing. The fourth floor was crowded with shooting galleries, fan-tan tables, revolving wheels, massage benches, acupuncture and moxa cabinets, hot-towel counters, dried fish and intestines, and dance platforms serviced by a horde of music makers competing with each other to who could drown out the others. The fifth floor featured girls whose dresses were slit open to their armpits, a stuffed whale, story-tellers, balloons, peep shows, masks, a mirror maze, two love letter booths, with scribed who guaranteed results, rubber goods, and a temple filled with ferocious gods and joss sticks. On the top floor and roof of that house of multiple joys a jumble of tightrope walkers slithered back and forth, and there were see-saws, Chinese checkers, mahjong, strings of firecrackers going off, lottery tickets, and marriage brokers. And as I tried to find my way down again an open space was pointed out to me where hundreds of Chinese, so I was told, after spending their coppers had speeded the return to the street below by jumping from the roof. When I guilelessly asked why a protective rail had not been placed around an exit so final, the retort was, "How can you stop a man from killing himself?"(p 248-249)
Gossip is a Fearful Thing
Shanghai was famous for its brothels. As early as 1869 the Duke of Somerset referred to it in the House of Lords as "a sink of iniquity". In 1934 a Chinese newspaper claimed that Shanghai led the world in prostitution and produced some interesting statistics to support its assertion. In London, one person in 960 was a prostitute; in Berlin, one in 560; in Paris one in 481; in Chicago one in 430, while in Shanghai as many as one in 130.(p 280)
In Shanghai a young woman could acquire an education at a Western school and college, pursue a career or a make a name for herself as a writer or an actress... The battle against the old order took place around her. Love and marriage had become the issue of contention between the generations. The rejection of an arranged marriage signaled the first revolt for many Chinese. Those who did so played with the novel concept of romantic love and cohabitation... A Chinese girl might wear Western clothes and high-heeled shoes, go to foreign movies, play the part of Nora in Ibsen, smoke cigarettes and take lovers, yet never visit Europe or America, have a single foreign friend or learn a foreign language. The emphasis was all on style or, as Cheng Sumei described it, being 'in the role'.(p 285)
A Bit Like the End of Things: The Fall of Shanghei
A German involved in a joint venture with the Shanghai Municipality asked his manager if he might promote a young Chinese. The manager turned the idea down. He explained that the Cultural Revolution had produced two sorts of Chinese; those who pushed people out of windows and those who decided who should be pushed. The government imprisoned the and kept the second in low-grade jobs. The German's protege came from the second group. At eighteen he had sent two hundred people to their death. The table shook their heads in horror. An American helicopter pilot said, "They eat bear paws, you know. They keep the bear in a cage until the last moment. Then they cut off the paws and scoop out the pad. It's meant to be delicious..." The band was playing "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes". Over his cymbals Cheng inked at me. If China has not changed, neither has the foreigner in China.(p 338)