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).