The British had controlled
The Voyage East III - Alexandria
The Voyage East IV - Through the Canal
The Voyage East V - Suakim, Port Sudan
The Voyage East VII - Gibraltar
The Voyage East VIII - Suez- You Rather Hoped Not
The British had controlled
The Voyage East III - Alexandria
As I’m out of
Regular readers will know I have posted on Limehouse before (see post on Brilliant Chang). I used to visit the area regularly as a little kid in the mid-70s with my Dad who worked all over the
But all that’s gone now and to be honest pretty much everything was already gone long before. The London County Council (LCC) has slated the old
So I popped down to Pennyfields for a nostalgic look around.
Pennyfields, the old heart of
If you want to see some images from the BBC of the old Limehouse Chinatown and some Chinese-Cockneys talking about what the old Limehouse was like click here.
So thanks to those bastards in the Luftwaffe who really, really hated Cockneys be they English, Jewish, Chinese or anything else, only the names and the memories remain. Still, it was nice to spend Chinese New Year wandering among ghosts.
Martha Gellhorn’s 1941 trip to
Despite her fearless reporter reputation, it seems Gellhorn rather crumbled in
A few people have complained to me that they can't get a lot of
Hong Kong University Press is now selling its catalogue through the San Min Book Company (三民書局) in
Good new for book buyers in
I am editing a manuscript from 1939 at the moment that will hopefully be published later this year – it is the diary of someone that spent most of 1939 in
What I had forgotten till I transcribed this passage was that Lin was also an inventor who designed a Chinese typewriter – something I’ve always wanted to find in a flea market but never have…so far (Japanese ones pop up every now and again but rarely Chinese).
Lin worked hard on Gwoyeu Romatzyh, a new method of romanizing the Chinese language, and he created an indexing system for Chinese characters. Since obviously Chinese is a character-based rather than an alphabet-based language it had always been difficult to employ modern printing technologies. For many years it was doubted that a Chinese typewriter could be invented. Lin, however, eventually came up with a workable typewriter which he launched in the middle of the war with
As the picture shows the typewriter was the size of a normal one but the typefaces fit on a drum. A so-called “magic eye” was mounted in the centre of the keyboard and when the user pressed several keys, according to a system Lin devised for his dictionary of the Chinese language, a Chinese character appeared. To select a particular character, the typist then pressed a "master" key, similar to today's computer function key –if you use pinyin software on a computer you’ll recognise the basic process.
Sadly the typewriter was never produced commercially. According Lin's daughter, Lin Tai-Yi, the day Lin was to demonstrate the machine to executives of the Remington Typewriter Company, he couldn’t make it work. Lin ended up deeply in debt.
Others did make it into production - the first typewriter with Chinese characters was produced about 1911-14. The Japanese Nippon Typewriter Co. began producing typewriters with Chinese and Japanese characters in 1917 with a flat bed of 3,000 Japanese characters (which would effectively mean typing only shorthand).The picture left is a Japanese typewriter.
I was also thinking about the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 which was fought largely on Chinese Manchurian soil and had so much to do with later Japanese desires over the region. I’d always known there was a song the Russian soldiers sang (left - Cossacks fighting in 1905) called The Hills of Manchuria – bizarrely I once heard a Red Army choir sing it in a draughty, freezing cold Hall of the People in Vladimir in the “Golden Ring” outside Moscow one winter around 1988-89. I’d gone to see a vast outdoor museum where wooden churches had been brought to Suzdal from across the
However, Suzdal and nearby Vladimir town centres were still very Soviet - nothing in the shops, the main road badly repaired and so we accepted the invitation to see the show in the hope it would be warmer in the theatre than in our chilled hotel rooms – it wasn’t. But the show was good - a Red Army choir is right up there with a bunch of Volga Boatmen or some Welsh Miners. The programme was a series of revolutionary songs, then songs from the Second World War (“The Great Patriotic War” in Suzdal of course) and finally a few oddities thrown in for good measure and one was The Hills of Manchuria which struck a chord with me obviously being interested in China and also as it was the only pre-revolutionary song they sang that night – but I guess a Russian soldier is a Russian soldier and fighting for the Tsar or the General Secretary doesn’t make much difference in the end.
I also like to think that The Hills of Manchuria appeals to the Russian soul as it was a 1988, a depressing time of shortages and everyone knew the end of the USSR was coming (it was ‘when’ not ‘if’ by this point) and a grand failure, as the 1905 war was, for Russia probably appealed to some. Anyway I decided to dig out the words – remember this was a soldier’s song, sung by them as they retreated in defeat (left) and left Manchuria for the long walk back to Russia (the reference to ‘kaoliang’ by the way is to the tall grass found everywhere in Manchuria and that makes the local sorghum booze)
The Hills of
Music by I.A. Shatrov, lyrics by S. Petrov
Around us, it is calm. Hills are covered by darkness.
Suddenly, the moon shines through the clouds,
Graves hold their calm.
The white glow of the crosses — heroes are asleep.
The shadows of the past circle around,
Recall again and again the victims of battles.
Around us, it’s calm; the wind blew the fog away,
Warriors are asleep on the hills of
And Russian weeping cannot be heard.
Dear mother is shedding tears,
The young wife is weeping
All like one are crying,
Cursing fate, cursing destiny!
Rest in peace, heroes of the Russian land,
Dear Fatherland’s sons.
You fell for
Believe us, we shall avenge you
And celebrate a bloody wake
Coal mining in
The Winter issue of the Asia Literary Review has a series of remarkable and poignant portrait paintings of Chinese miners by Chen Guangming. They are extremely striking and, while I’m not sure I’d want one hanging on the wall reminding me of how tough life is for some compared to me, they do make you stop and think about work, struggle, life and the dignity of the working class. Again of course none of this is fashionable in the era of asset stripping hedge fund managers and Bernie Madoff but I’m old school about such things.
The artist, Chen Guangming, hails from Inner Mongolia and studied at the Central Institute of Fine Art in
In the Asia Literary Review he has also written a commentary to accompany his portraits of the miners which focuses on their working conditions, low incomes and sadly their meagre status in society where they are too often looked down on as unskilled while believe it or not people who work for McKinsey are considered highly skilled geniuses!! As they used to say about taxi drivers in