'History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme' - Mark Twain.
A gallimaufry of random China history and research interests
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Victoria Park - Tientsin
Came across this postcard of Victoria Park in the old British Concession of Tientsin (Tianjin) at a sale in London recently. Victoria Park must have been one of the best laid out treaty port parks in China at the time. It’s still there and quite nice though most of the structures were a bit shabby the last time I visited a while back and it was a bit deserted.
The large grey building behind the Park is Gordon Hall, named after General Charles Gordon (later Gordon of Khartoum) who as well as suppressing the Taiping Rebellion around Shanghai had laid out the design of the British Concession of Tientsin. Gordon Hall formed the focal point of the British Concession and the seat of government for the concession too. Close by was the Astor Hotel which is still a hotel and had what was called a ‘restoration’ a few years back – you could have fooled me, it still looked a classic example of shabby ‘communist’ hotel style though the interior hadn’t been mucked about too much with the exception of the foyer/lobby. They still had the old open lifts though they weren’t working. The cenotaph in the foreground is to the British Tientsin resident who died in World War One.
Any number of memoirs, notably Brian Powers’s great Ford of Heaven, recall Victoria Park, the uniformed Chinese park attendants and being taken their ad kids and then heading over after school. I can’t date this postcard exactly but it appears to be post-1918 at least.
As someone who divides their time pretty evenly writing about China now and China back then this seemed like a place to throw all the interesting bits that fall through the cracks somehow and never get used anywhere else.
It's basically the stuff that doesn't get used in my writing about modern China or in the books I do about old China - i.e. probably of little interest to anyone but me and therefore ideally suited to an obscure blog up a dark cul-de-sac of the Internet.