New upload: Hi-res aerial map of central Shanghai (1948)

For anyone who uses historic aerial maps of Shanghai at Tianditu 天地图, the restriction on zooming in to the maximum level is irritating. So I uploaded the central part of the 1948 aerial map at the maximum resolution to the Internet Archive (30 Mb). It shows the Central French Concession and the south of the Internationall Settlement. The difference between zoom Level 7 available at Tianditu and zoom Level 9 is self-explanatory (see it larger).

I've broken down the entire map into 12 zones; the zones 1A, 1B and 2B are uploaded; more to come.

Hong Kong and Far East Builder magazine online

This excellent online archive of the architecture magazine Hong Kong and Far East Builder (1941–1964) has a ton of interesting articles and images. For instance, there are articles featuring the works of Vladimir Dronnikoff, whose career has been possible to unravel with the help of the San Francisco Museum of Russian Culture, the contributors of and the architect's family.

During his seven years in Hong Kong, between 1947 and 1954, V. N. Dronnikoff worked for the Minutti and Partners. He designed more than a dozen of buildings, some of which featured in the Hong Kong and Far East Builder, such as this residence at 456 Barker Road. The detailed plans and elevation drawings of this building together with the magazine clippings are kept at the Museum of Russian Culture.

Building Russian Shanghai

No going home for the couple time forgot (1988)

This piercingly sad article appeared in South China Morning Post in 1988. It talks about the unrecognized American citizen Marjorie Fuller and her Polish mother Seraphine Fuller, who spent twenty years in Chinese labor camps and then languished in a retirement home for foreigners. (By the way, the chronicler of the Russian diaspora, Vladimir Jiganoff, personally knew Marjorie and her mother in Shanghai. In 1971, living in Sydney, he wrote about their unfair arrest and incarceration in his magazine Review of the Past.)

When interviewed in 1985, Marjorie, a staunch Christian, confirmed her resolve not to leave China and not to pursue US citizenship. But then the wheels started turning: in 1992, Seraphine Fuller died, Marjorie Fuller received her US citizenship, and in 1995 she repatriated to the United States. Aged 72 at the time of arrival, she lived in her new country for 11 years. She died in 2006 and is buried at Pecan Grove Cemetery, in Texas.

Lev Valentinovich Arnoldov (1894–1957), a Russian journalist

A sojourn in Berlin on the invitation of the Staatsbibliothek has opened some wonderful sources and led to exciting discoveries. One of them was the information about the final years of the Russian journalist Lev Arnoldov, whose obituary appeared in the South China Morning Post in November 1957. In spite of some persistent claims that Arnoldov left China and went to Brasil, as it turned out, he never left Shanghai...

Lev Valentinovich Arnoldov (Лев Валентинович Арнольдов)

Born on 23 June 1894 in Vologda, Arnoldov lived with his parents in Tomsk, Berlin (in 1912–1913) and later in Paris and Toulouse. Having returned to Russia, in 1916 he enrolled in a medical college in Tomsk and then switched to law. When the 1917 Revolution occurred, Arnoldov's open anti-Bolshevik stance forced him to move to Russia's east, where he worked in various Siberian newspapers (Omsk, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok) and collaborated with the White forces. Although he planned to emigrate to the USA together with his mother, he crossed the Chinese border and continued his career in Harbin.

In 1925, Arnoldov moved to Shanghai, where together with M. S. Lembich, the publisher of Harbin's Zaria, he founded the newspaper Shanghai Zaria. The office was on Broadway, and the first issue came out on 25 October, 1925. Shanghai Zaria was the largest Russian-language daily, and Arnoldov thrived as its editor. He became a member of Shanghai Rotary Club and a Trustee of the Foreign YMCA. His snappy and humorous essays on the pages of his newspaper were signed 'Victor Serbsky' and 'P. Solsky'. One of these stories, published in 1930, was entitled Five Years.

Staff of Shanghai Zaria in 1930, on the fifth anniversary of the newspaper; Arnoldov is seated in the center:

Office of Shanghai Zaria, on Avenue Joffre, where it was located since 1933:

This 1930s photo shows the Shanghai Zaria publisher Olga Lembich (who took the leadership after her husband's death in 1932) with three chief employees Petroff (alias Polichinelle), Kaufman and Arnoldov:

The environment at the Shanghai Zaria headquarters is described in the memoir of Natalia Ilyina, who joined the staff in 1936:

...His office is perpetually dark, and the only window faces the wall of the neighboring house. He sits at his desk, lit with a green lamp, balancing his cigar on the ashtray; papers, clippings and proofs are strewn on the desk...

Arnoldov leads me to the reporters' room, where five typewriters create an incessant cannonade. When he introduces me, the rattling stops for a few beats and five pairs of eyes shoot at me with venom – or so it appears. As we turn to leave, the "artillery fire" resumes, aiming at our backs. As a mere employee, Arnoldov is dependent on the publisher, but the staff makes no distinction and hates him as much as they hate Kaufman and the "Madam" (Olga Lembich). Perhaps, they don't like his high wages or his stories and editorials permanently on the front pages. Or maybe they don't like his aristocratic manners, his didactic soliloquies, his admiration for foreigners and his membersip in the French Club, where few Russian émigrés are admitted.

Arnoldov lives near the office, and he drops by several times a day, often at midnight. With his characteristic goose step he walks down the long corridor and checks the reporters' room. He is rather short, balding, blue-eyed, with a cute pouch, always waving a cigar in his delicate plump hand. Smooth and well-groomed, he dresses like a Westerner, in rust-colored tweed jackets, grey flannel pants and jersey vests. At night, he shows up in patent leather shoes and coat tails – straight from some banquet – looking like a creature from another world, full of expensive automobiles, hotels and cocktails, out of place in our smoke-filled room with stained walls. He glances at the reporters, crouching over their desks in their short jackets, mumbles something like "Well, keep working," and disappears, leaving traces of cigar smoke, perfume and good alcohol.

The staff immediately explodes with indignant gossip, and even the highborn lady-theatre critic fully agrees with the half-literate crime reporter, while normally they don't get along. Harted unites. I never pitch in, knowing that the moment I leave the room their attention turns to me: "Why did Lev have to hire this lame girl?" They would love a simple explanation that I paid with my body, but alas, everybody knows: Arnoldov is indifferent to women and lives with his mother. All the more, his patronizing attitude toward me mystifies everyone. Once, he invited me to a breakfast at his house, and I met his mother. She is a small, corpulent old lady with bushy eyebrows and animated eyes. She adores her "Levushka", and he reciprocates. They praised my writing. Mother: "Very, very sweet!" Lev: "I think she'll make a good comic writer." Mother: "Lev is never wrong!" He promised me to persuade the publisher to print my stories reguarly, but advised me to look for additional income anyway: you cannot live on newspaper wages.

Arnoldov's interest in history and ethnography resulted in the publication of three books: The Country of the White Sun: Sketches of China (1933), China As It Is: Kuomintang, Communism, War (1934), and Life and Revolution (1935).

[See the book covers]
Cover of Arnoldov's book China As It Is: Kuomintang, Communism, War (1933):

Title page from the The Country of the White Sun (1934), a popular history of China from the ancient times to modernity, spanning more than 460 pages:

Cover of Life and Revolution: The Thunderous 1905 & White Omsk (1935), the book on the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917:

After the end of the Pacific War in 1945, the Chinese authorities forced the Shanghai Zaria to close, suspecting the newspaper of collaboration with the enemy (because it stayed open under the occupation). Having lost his job, Arnoldov switched to teaching Russian. He never married; it was understood he was gay. Out of concern for his mother's failing health, he did not attempt to escape from China and ended up trapped in Communist Shanghai together with the remaining stateless Russians. Reduced to extreme poverty and unable to hire help, he cared for his disabled mother until her death at the age of 92. Several months later, Arnoldov had a heart attack. He died on 20 October 1957, aged 63. At the funeral service in the Orthodox Cathedral on Route Paul Henry, almost all the remaining Shanghai Russians – several hundred of them – were present.

Early Russian photographers in 1860s Peking

From the recent article History of Photography in China: New Discoveries and Research, by Terry Bennett:

"In the 29 September 1860 issue of the French periodical L’Illustration, a group of 11 engravings after photographs by Georges de Saint-Priest (1835-1898) were included. The accompanying article was short on detail. The aristocrat Saint-Priest had Russian family connections and travelled to Beijing on a visit to the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission established there since the 18th century. They were the only foreigners allowed to live in the capital, and presumably, Saint-Priest was posing as a Russian. Very little is known about Saint-Priest, and I was pleased to recently find a Disderi & Co. carte de visite portrait of the Frenchman, dated 1858.

Incidentally, I think it most likely that the Russians at the Ecclesiastical Mission, who included scientists and artists, took photographs perhaps some years before Saint-Priest used his camera. The bearded Russian artist, Lev Stepanovich Igorev (1822–1893), is [likely] the photographer of a group of forty-three photographs in the London Missionary Society archives (SOAS, Library, archives, CWM/LMS/15/10/5/079). I hope that evidence of this kind of early Russian photography in Beijing will surface from Russian archives."

The 43 photographs at the SOAS are here.

Lev Stepanovich Igorev // Лев Степанович Игорев, автопортрет около 1862 года.

The earliest photograph of Shanghai (1844)

This recently uncovered daguerrotype from around 1844 is the earliest known photographic image of Shanghai. It shows the Huanlong Bridge 环龙桥 and the pavilion to the north of it. To get this picturesque angle, photographers and artists would walk along the south bank of the square pond with the renowned teahouse in the center. During the 20th century, quite a lot has changed about the Yuyuan garden and its features. Although the bridge still spans a small artificial channel connected to the pond, it has changed its appearance and a tall wall now blocks the bridge from the pond.

This handy map (of forgotten origin) shows the connection of the square pond and the channel with the bridge:

Here is a selection of photographs of the brigde and the canal over the last 170 years. Click on any image to see its provenance and precise location on PastVu.

[See the images...]


Image: Historical Photographs of China.


1900s; a turn-of-the-twentieth-century colorized postcard:


Image: Espen Solheim collection.


Undated colorized postcard:


Modern view:


+1 for C. H. Gonda: Doumer Theatre

Charles Henry Gonda (wiki), who designed the largest number of movie houses in Shanghai, was also the author of the conversion of Jimmy James' old cabaret St. George, at 9 Route Doumer, into Doumer Theatre 杜美大戏院. This brings the total number of his known cinema venues in Shanghai to eleven.

C. H. Gonda's movie theatres in Shanghai

1927: Capitol Theatre 光陆大戏院 – now 146 Huqiu Road 虎丘路146号 (PastVu)
1928: Grand Theatre, on Bubbling Well Road near the Racecourse – demolished in 1931 (PastVu)
1930: Cosmopolitan Theatre 国光大戏院, on East Seward Road – 550 Dongchangzhi Road 东长治路550号; demolished in 2004 (PastVu)
1931: Cathay Theatre 国泰电影院, on Avenue Joffre – 870 Middle Huaihai Road 淮海中路870号 (PastVu)
1932: Ritz Theatre 融光大戏院 – 330 Haining Road 海宁路330号 (PastVu)
1934: another Cosmopolitan Theatre, on Boulevard des Deux Republiques – status unknown
1938: Uptown Theatre 平安电影院 – 991 West Nanjing Road 南京西路991号 (PastVu)
1939: Doumer Theatre 杜美大戏院, on Route Doumer – demolished (PastVu)
1939: Roxy Theatre 大华电影院, on Bubbling Well Road – demolished (PastVu)
1941: Queen's Theatre 皇后大戏院, on Yu Ya Ching (Tibet) Road – demolished (PastVu)
1941: Royal Theatre (Shanghai Theatre) 上海大戏院 – 1186 Middle Fuxing Road 复兴中路1186号 (PastVu)

To rebuild the cabaret into a movie theatre, Gonda used the old ballroom as a base, extended the premises away from the road and constructed an inclined floor. The use of modern stucco technology and wide spacing between the rows ensured superior aucoustic qualities, but a special point of pride was the powerful air-conditioning. There was seating for 800 persons. In a characteristic Gonda gesture, the minimalist design was done in contrasting colors and the lighting fixtures were hidden. The owners of Doumer Theatre were Karl Gumpert and Heinz Cohn.

Starting out as a second-run theatre, but aspiring to turn to first-run productions in the near future, the Doumer Theatre opened In June 1939 with the screening of Desire (1936), with Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper. During and after the occupation, the movie house showed many Soviet films, becoming a favorite venue for the local Russians.

Here is Rena Krasno, Strangers Always, writing about Doumer Theatre in 1943:

Here is a self-professed "Cinema-Addict" complaining about the ticket prices in 1948:

Bonus picture, from 1942: