Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Why Old Shanghai's Tunsin Road was Called Tunsin Road



For years now I’ve come across the odd reference to businesses on Tunsin Road in the old International Settlement of Shanghai – up in Hongkou. Not a very long or prestigious road but intriguing, as I was never sure why it was called Tunsin.

I think I now know the answer. The likeliest answer seems to be that when John Swire (left), the Yorkshire-born tycoon who had founded Taikoo Sugar, came to Shanghai, he saw the potential for steam shipping on the Yangtze River - then the West's only key to trade with China's interior. With the backing of Alfred Holt, and the latter's Clyde shipbuilder back in Glasgow, Scotts’ Shipbuilding & Engineering Company, Swire formed The China Navigation Company (CNCo) - registered in London and with Butterfield & Swire appointed managers in Shanghai.

Swire immediately ordered three Mississippi-style paddle steamers for the new company. But even before these vessels - Peking, Shanghai and Ichang - had arrived in China, he had snapped up the assets of a newly bankrupted line, Union Steam Navigation, which provided valuable waterfront properties along the Yangtze, as well as two steamers. USNCo’s veteran Tunsin (pictured above) was thus destined to become the first vessel to sail under the Swire flag in 1873.

Seems to fit.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

My Ancestor DAVID MAIN sailed on the maiden voyage of the "PEKIN" arriving Shanghai 1873 to join his brother JAMES MAIN. Their brother THOMAS BURGESS MAIN, Master, Lorcha Mandarin, was presumed to have lost his life earlier in the year on February 28, 1873. He believed to have been murdered by his Chinese Crew. David and James were involved in the establishment of the Shanghai Water Works and this particular branch was known as the "Waterworks Mains". Another relative in the 1930s, I think, D. Duncan Main, Hangchow, was known as Dr Apricot of Heaven below.
1873 was one of the hottest years on Record at Shanghai.
Ross Main
Luxembourg/Sydney, Australia

Anonymous said...

According to Chinese sources and old Shanghai maps, I was always under the impression that Tunsin Road was the current Wuyi lu- in Changning district, not Hongkou. Could you clarify? When I google it, the Chinese sources all cite it as the current Wuyi lu (武夷路)

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David and James were involved in the creation of the aqueduct of Shanghai and this particular branch was known as "water pipes".

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