Werner von Boltenstern Shanghai Photograph and Negative Collection

Just recently, an unexpected email message led me to discover a new collection of photographs on wartime Shanghai. The William H. Hannon Library at Loyola Marymount University has released a very rich series of photographs taken in the late 1930s and early 1940s, presumably by Werner von Boltenstern (1904-1978), the initial donator of a million postcard collection to the university.

The collection covers a wide variety of topics, including the everyday life of the refugee Jewish community, Western schools, street scenes, Chinese shops, etc. The collection is available on the web site of the library.

Although the librarians have already enriched the photographs with useful metadata, they are striving to further improve and correct the metadata through crowdsourcing. The whole collection is available on Flickr where readers can leave messages and add information. This is a very welcome initiative that will hopefully attract a lot of feedback.

151 Tong Fu Mi Hao rice store, Shanghai, China

151 Tong Fu Mi Hao rice store, Shanghai, China

Sad day

It is a sad day for all those who believe in the value of intellectual debate, the free flow of ideas, and human courage. Weapons can kill people, not the ideals they died for. Those who attacked Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine, and killed journalists are just plain cowards. Cowards will never win.

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French national TV station FR3 on the Lyon exhibition of the T’ou Sè Wè figurines

French national TV channel FR3 broadcasted a reportage during its prime time 7:00-8:00 news on the Lyon exhibition of the T’ou Sè Wè figurines. The exhibition takes place at the Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs from 5 December 2014 to 11 January 2015.

FR3 Reportage

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The exhibition is organized under a partenership between the Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs and Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (Institut d’Asie Orientale).

The People’s Daily at the T’ou Sè Wè wood figurines exhibition

The People’s Daily (人民日报) was present at the opening of the exhibition of the T’ou Sè Wè wood figurines (土山湾孤儿院) at the Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs in Lyon.

The People’s Daily published a report on its Chinese language web site with photographs of the people in attendance at the press conference.

The exhibition is organized under a partnership between the Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs and Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (Institut d’Asie orientale)

CCTV report on the T’ou Sè Wè wood figurines exhibition

CCTV (Central China Television), the main state television broadcaster in China, attended the press conference by Maximilien Durand (director of the Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs), Christian Henriot (Institut d’Asie orientale), and Ivan Macaux (Journalist, Canal+) on 4 December 2014 before the opening of the exhibition of the wood figurines produced at the Jesuit T’ou Sè Wè orphanage in Xujiahui, near Shanghai.

The exhibition is organized under a partnership between the Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs and Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (Institut d’Asie orientale).

This is a short report for an international audience, with original soundtrack and English translation. The video plays on IE, Safari and Chrome, but not Firefox.

Interview with Christian Henriot in the Shanghai Liberation Daily (解放日报) on the T’ou Sè Wè figurines

In its weekend edition of November 28, 2014, the Liberation Daily (解放日报), the most widely circulated newspaper in Shanghai (one million copies daily), published a long interview with Christian Henriot on the collection of wood figurines Ivan Macaux and Christian Henriot brought to light though a book and an exhibition due to open soon at the Musée des Tissus et Musée des Arts décoratifs).

The meeting, which resulted in this interview by Ms. Gu Xuewen, editor of the culture section of Jiefang Ribao, took place on the wake of the workshop “The ships of friendship between France and China” (中法 友谊 之 舟) co-organized by the Lyons Institute of East Asian Studies (IAO) and the Institute of History (SASS) on September 25, 2014 as part of the events held for the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between France and China. During the workshop, Christian Henriot presented a paper on “War, navy and wooden figures: Admiral Jules Bigot in Shanghai.” Several newspapers and TV stations were present at the event (see interview in English here).

Entitled “76 years ago, the mystery of 109 Chinese figurines awaiting explanation” (76年前, 109个中国木偶的待解之谜), the paper introduces to the story of the rediscovery of this unique collection of carved-wood figurines produced at the Jesuit T’ou Sè Wè Orphanage (土山湾孤儿院) during the Sino-Japanese war. The collection was offered to Admiral Jules le Bigot in acknowledgement for his decisive action to protect the Xujiahui (Zikawei) area against Japanese encroachment during and after the acute phase of fighting in August-November 1937.

The paper also mentions that the collection of figures will be on public display for the first time since their rediscovery at a special exhibition in Lyon (actually at the Musée des Tissus et Musée des Arts décoratifs).

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To download the original article (Chinese) in pdf format, click on the link below:
土山湾_解放日报

Exhibition: Daily life in China. The wood figurines of T’ou-Sè-Wè

From 5 December 2014 to 11 January 2015, the Musée des Tissus and Musée des Arts décoratifs in Lyon will host a special exhibition on a unique collection of wood figurines produced in 1938 at the Jesuit T’ou-Sè-Wè Orphanage in Shanghai [Tushanwan – 土山灣]. The exhibition is organized under a partnership between the Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs and Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (Institut d’Asie orientale).

This collection was offered to Admiral Jules Le Bigot (1883-1965) in acknowledgement for his support during the Sino-Japanese conflict in the city, especially for his decisive role in placing the whole Xujiahui (Zikawei) Jesuit complex under French military protection from the time of the war until June 1940.

This collection of exquisite figurines is, to our knowledge, absolutely unique. They constitute a compete set of 109 characters that depict daily life, mostly that of the common people, in China. The collection was kept intact in a family house for 70 years until Le Bigot’s great-grand-son Ivan Macaux brought it back to light and decided to make this heritage known more widely. The figures were still tied to their presentation trays with thin twine.

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New book: Scènes de la vie en Chine. Les figurines de bois de T’ou-Sè-Wè

Who has not ever dreamed of discovering a treasure chest?

During the winter of 2011, Ivan Macaux discovered a wooden trunk that belonged to his great-grandfather, Admiral Jules Le Bigot. The latter, commander of the French Naval Forces of the Far East, was stationed in Shanghai in 1937 on the eve of the Sino-Japanese conflict in the city. Admiral Le Bigot hardly had time to dock his ship, the Lamotte Picquet, in front of the French Concession, that the city was engulfed in war. After three months of fierce fighting the Chinese army withdrew from the city. Throughout the fighting, Jules Le Bigot opposed the demands of the Japanese commander and ordered the French Navy to ensure the security of the French Concession and the Xujiahui Catholic complex southwest of Shanghai.

In recognition for his support and protection, the Jesuit orphanage (T’ou-Sè-Wè or Tushanwan) offered him this chest. What does it contain? Exactly hand-carved wood 109 figurines, 8 to 10 cm tall, some exquisitely painted and decorated. Each of these figures has a particular facial expression and represents a scene of Chinese daily life. Officials, peasants, priests, peddlers and craftsmen, a father and son flying a kite, mahjong players but also Chinese tortures constitute this remarkable and unique social fresco.

The richly illustrated book (French-Chinese texts) was born of the encounter between Ivan Macaux (great-grand-son of the Admiral) and Christian Henriot (historian, specializing in the social history of China).

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