Categories
China Family ghosts Shanghai War

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 […]

Categories
Revolution Travel Vietnam War

The Last Emperor

Today is our last day in Vietnam. We started in the south in Saigon, traveled through central Vietnam, to end our 1 month stay in the capital of Hanoi. A month is hardly long enough to grasp the history of any country, let alone one with such a long and tortured past. I struggle to […]

Categories
Chinese-American Food War

Have You Eaten Rice Today?

It’s a ubiquitous phrase you’ll hear all over Hong Kong, Taiwan, and whenever the Cantonese side of my family gets together. Have you eaten rice today? Of course, that’s not a real question. It’s a greeting couched like a question that requires no answer. Just like in the United States where how are you is […]

Categories
China War

Fever & Famine

I knew Dad had enlisted as a soldier in the Chinese Army during the 2nd Sino-Japanese War. He told me how very lucky he had been to escape seeing any combat. On my last visit to Los Angeles, he told my kids much more about his war experience. That his unit in Kunming was somehow […]

Categories
Shanghai War

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 […]

Categories
Books Politics Revolution War

The Art of War

Sun Tzu is the name given to the author of the military treatise The Art of War. No one knows when the book was written or whether Sun Tzu is its true author. The name in the book is Sun Wu. He was a general and military advisor active during the Spring and Autumn period […]

Categories
Hong Kong Shanghai Taiwan War

Fish

One of the best things about being in California is loading up on food. Chinese food, of course: dim sum and xiaolongbao, Chengdu hot pot and Peking duck. Plus plenty of home-cooked steamed fish. Then there’s the food for thought that comes with being at home with Mom and Dad. All these years, I’ve been […]

Categories
Hong Kong Shanghai War

Amah

Nian is a servant in my novel, The Dancing Girl and the Turtle. She’s new to the Song household, the lowest in rank among the servants. Song Anyi arrives at the family home – more dead than alive following a vicious rape – and Nian becomes her amah. I never had an amah although both my […]

Categories
Family ghosts Shanghai War

War Without End

War in China. These soldiers are headed for the Japanese front. It’s 1944 in Luzhou, a river port in Sichuan province. In the back row from right to left are my father, my Uncle Charles and my Aunt Viola’s youngest brother. My father waited to enlist until he had graduated from university. By then, the war was […]

Categories
Family ghosts Shanghai War

The House on Avenue Haig

My father was born in 1923. His parents named him Shen Bo (申伯) which, in the local dialect means first son in Shanghai. He grew up in a house on Avenue Haig (now called Huashan Lu). This was the westernmost edge of the French Concession. foreign shanghai This is a map of Shanghai in 1929, […]