A presentation of the collection of T’ou Sè Wè figurines in Chinese on RFI (Radio France International)
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.
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.
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 (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 (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.
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).
To download the original article (Chinese) in pdf format, click on the link below:
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.
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).
This is the argument that New York Times journalist Taras Grescoeoct makes in a recent paper on “The man who changed the face of Shanghai.” There is little that is not already known about the Peace Hotel/Sassoon House or Sir Victor Sassoon himself. The paper is part of an enduring fascination for Shanghai and the myths it still nurtures in Western imaginary. The paper unfolds a nice story about Grescoeoct’s visit of two major buildings Sir Victor Sassoon erected in the city, the Sassoon House (presently known as the Peace Hotel) and Embankment Building. To be honest, it took more than one man, however exceptional, to “change the face of Shanghai”. Yet, Shanghai afficionados will be intrigued by the idea that Sir Victor Sassoon left an indelible though discrete trace of his achievements in the city by leaving his initials VS carved in the urban landscape through the shape of these two buildings. Not convinced? Well, why not follow Grescoeoct’s steps (you will be able to enjoy a Conte Verde, courtesy of Grescoeoct to the bartender) and see for your self?