Category: Shanghai

  • School days

    Today is Dad’s 97th birthday. He’s not around anymore to tell us his stories but I find new ones every day. About his school days in China, for example. China in the late 19th century didn’t have an established higher education system, but rather scattered private academies that helped train scholars to pass the imperial…

  • Church

    When Dad was a kid in Shanghai, he listened to music all the time. A British marching band used to practice up on Jessfield Road. Downstairs were his sister and her piano teacher, a White Russian princess who smelled like cats. Dad sprawled on the floor of his father’s study to listen to records on…

  • Emily Hahn

    Emily Hahn is what you might call an adventuress. She liked to be called Mickey. She had a deep-seated desire for opium and a pet gibbon named Mr. Mills. Hahn held a degree in mining engineering and a lot of street smarts. Her first book was a satirical look at the way men court women,…

  • The Street Where You Live

    Now that the dust has settled from our trip around the world, it’s time to revisit my novel-in-progress, Peace Court. To be honest, I’m a little scared to venture down that street. What if my trip has caused a reality shift due to time or distance or both? What if I have to rewrite the…

  • Lady Bankers

    As a former lady lawyer, I’m sympathetic to professional women trying to make it in this day and age. Imagine, then, what that must have been like in 1920s Shanghai. The Shanghai Women’s Bank opened its doors in 1924. A woman founded that bank. She staffed it exclusively with women to cater to the specific…

  • Shanghai Mind

    To shanghai is to Force (someone) to join a ship lacking a full crew by drugging them or using other underhand means. The word dates back to late 19th century Shanghai and, indeed, all the tropes are there. The drugs, the crime, the indentured service. When we think of the residents of Shanghai, we see…

  • Father Jacquinot

    Robert Jacquinot de Besange is the stuff of legends. He was born in 1878 into the French aristocracy. The young Jacquinot lost his right arm in a chemistry explosion. Undeterred, he went on to become a Jesuit. At the age of 25, he arrived in Shanghai. His assignment was to serve the Portuguese congregation at…

  • Propaganda

    The Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre is a tourist attraction. TimeOut calls it one of Shanghai’s best museums and a “must-see”. This is the description from my dog-eared 2008 guide: a stunning collection of original posters from 1949 to 1979 [with] images of ruddy-cheeked Chinese peasants crushing imperialist Uncle Sam underfoot. The museum sits in…

  • Migrant Writing

    migrant ˈmʌɪɡr(ə)nt/ noun a person who moves from one place to another in order to find work or better living conditions I am a migrant. I moved from the United States to the Netherlands because my husband got the job of his dreams in Amsterdam. My parents are migrants, too, leaving China for America for…

  • Socialism Is Great!

    When I started work on my novel Peace Court, I looked for sources to feed my imagination. I found plenty of history books but almost no fiction that dwelt on Shanghai in the early 1950s. Certainly none that originated from inside China. I wondered why that was the case. This is what I learned. revolutionary…