Friday, December 19, 2008

Chinese Labour Corps II - The French

I said earlier that before the end of the year I'd try and get a couple more posts up on the fascinating subject of the Chinese Labour Corps - the men from China hired to work for the British and French armies in World War 1 - this of course being the 90th anniversary of the Armistice.

Previously I noted that most worked for the British performing logistics and battlefield cleaning duties. They were mostly recruited from around Weihaiwei upon on the Bohai Bay (then the Gulf of Pechili). Actually the French were the first to form a Chinese Labour Corps and they recruited 140,000 Chinese mostly from Zhejiang province.

What was interesting was that in 1918/1919 most of these guys went back to China but about 3,000 decided to stay in France. They mostly settled in Paris and created the city's first real Chinatown at l'Ilot Chalon around the area that was later completely demolished for the Gare De Lyon railway station (pictured). No trace remains except a plaque remembering them erected in 1988 (not sure if it's still there - I remember seeing it in the late 1980s but it may have gone I guess).


The Chinese Labour Corps guys were joined in the early 1920s by other Chinese, particularly students coming from China to study in Paris. There were Chinese restaurants and shops but all seems to be gone and I haven't been ableto find any good photos of the area when it was Chinese. If anyone knows where there are any let me know.

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