ISSUE No. 9 – December 2003


By now most readers are already familiar with the Old China Hand Gazette, an annual publication of Old China Hand Press, published with the financial help of Orion Code. In it we discuss our books, our research, and what kind of assistance we are able to offer Old China Hands and others who seek to research their families or the Western presence in old Shanghai or China.

Can it really have been over fifty years since most Westerners finally departed China? As the years roll on, the ranks of the Old China Hands are thinning. Happily we are now hearing from a whole new generation who want to research the Westerners’ hundred-year sojourn here, and we continue to be contacted by those seeking our expertise or to use our archives. Whereas it used to be just Old China Hands, now they are increasingly young researchers from Europe, America, Australia, and now even from the Far East. They are writing university dissertations, researching for articles, documentaries and TV programs, and writing and editing books on this unique era of China’s history. So the story is, fortunately, far from dying out with the Old China Hands.


We now both publish the Gazette and dummy up our books in a new Shanghai branch of the Old China Hand Press, which has moved much of its operation from Hong Kong to the Deke Erh Art Center. This is an “industrial chic” old factory that also serves as an events and exhibition space. It is located in lane 210 Taikang Lu, an old street whose eastern half has now become upscale and trendy while the Western half remains still typically Old Shanghai – an interesting amalgamation.


Deke now spends over a third of the year traveling in China’s far west, photographing in black and white the border provinces with their soaring mountain ranges, deserts, and their half-buried old civilizations. This has already led to a stunning exhibition, with a book sure to follow. He also traveled this year to sixty cities in China to photograph China’s old banking institutions in preparation for a book that will come out in early 2004.
Sadly, the local government suddenly announced that a new villa compound will be built on the site of Deke’s Folk Art Museum in Qingpu County, so now he must find a new site for his large collection. Somehow Deke still found time to produce three new books, primarily for the Chinese market. (Tess and a translator did, however, manage to squeeze into the books some English-language captions and narratives for our Western readers.) The first pictorial volume is on Xujiahui (Siccawei), once the center in Shanghai for Catholic missionary activity and now for commercial activity. The second covers the heart of the former French Concession, the area surrounding Deke’s office and his Old China Hand Reading Room. Deke then did a splendid book on the old banking houses of Shanghai for the new Banking Museum in Pudong. As this one parallels a book we were planning on the same subject (ours featuring Western banks), we have now moved that volume farther back in the queue. Deke has gotten so fascinated by the old banking houses of China that he has now assembled a fabulous archive of old photos and material, not only of banks but also of customs houses and post offices. Thus, in addition to our books he will have two books on those subjects coming out in 2004.


Tess still works for the American Consulate General, handling their Congressional correspondence, and continues her research and lectures to clients from abroad, as well as to local clubs and school groups. She wrote a long chapter for Shanghai’s Foreign Affairs Office on foreigners in the city and lectured to a group of future diplomats on Shanghai’s old Western architecture—and its preservation. (We hope they took notes on the latter!)


In our Gazette No. 7, we featured THAT LAST GLORIOUS SUMMER, 1939, SHANGHAI <-.> JAPAN  by Rena Krasno and, in Gazette No. 8, SHANGHAI BOY SHANGHAI GIRL—LIVES IN PARALLEL by George Wang and Betty Barr. The latter book topped out our “Golden Dozen” of joint publications.
Still in the queue, however, are the other two books we mentioned. One isTHE SECOND SHANGHAI WAR—SHANGHAI 1937, by Malcolm Rosholt. Now in his 90’s, Malcolm is writing his autobiography and has had no time to approve our dummy of his book. We await his enriching it with further additions from his memory bank and his vast collection of old photographs and material.

We are also making progress on the first-person narrative by an Old China Hand, a lady with a lively story of a life of wealth and privilege in both Peking and Shanghai in the 1920’s-30’s. Our edited manuscript has also gone back to her for further work, so these two books are still there at the back of the queue.

Old China Hand Press just published its first book in German, by Dr. Steffi Schmitt of Shanghai. Entitled SHANGHAI PROMENADE, at over 600 pages it is certainly the most comprehensive book on Shanghai, in German, ever published here. It contains not only historical back­ground material but also contemporary information and photos, topped off with eleven suggested walking tours—the “Promenade” of the title. (For further and more detailed information on this book, contact Dr. Schmitt at: Unit 20A, Block 21 Yanlord Gardens, 99 Puming Road, Pudong, Shanghai 200120, or email her at:

Finally, just before we went to press George Wang and Betty Barr informed us that they have completed their second manuscript, a sequel to SHANGHAI BOY SHANGHAI GIRL. Their new book, to be called BETWEEN TWO WORLDS, will describe the life of this Shanghainese and Shanghailander from the end of their previous book, 1949, to their marriage here twenty years ago.


In the top slot is A LAST LOOK(and how prophetic that title turned out to be), our first volume about Western architecture in old Shanghai. A wealth of new material has emerged since it was originally published and Deke has taken some more stunning photos of many of the same buildings—now ten years on. As the book has sold out several times, we now want to update and expand it into a fresher and richer volume, to be called A LAST LOOK—REVISITED. It is again sold out, and as we still get a lot of calls for this book it remains our first priority.

Our second book, to follow shortly thereafter and incorporating some material from the first book, will be ART DECO IN SHANGHAL (We must hurry if we want to get the city’s Art Deco architecture documented before it is all gone.) Deke and I have long been collecting material for this book, but it was Tess’s visit to the Art Deco Exhibit at the V&A in London that finally got the project onto the front burner. As the museum’s elegant exhibition catalogue contains a photograph and quote from A LAST LOOK, we were re-inspired to move ahead on our own China-centric one. The book will cover not only Shanghai’s build­ings but also some of the Art Deco treasures we have collected here over the years.


So much for our lives here and our projected new books. To help you sort out all our previous ones, we review for you here our first five books, which we called our LOST EMPIRES series.

A LASTLOOK- WESTERN ARCHITECTURE IN OLD SHANGHAI provides an evocative overview of Western architecture and expatriate life-style in one of the world’s legendary cities. It also includes 1939 listings of Shanghai’s old apartment houses, banks and clubs. (Sold out, a revised edition to be published early in 2004.)

NEAR TOHEA VEN – WESTERN ARCH1TECTUREIN CHINA‘S OLD SUMMER RESORTS features Western buildings in the old hill resorts of Kuling/Lushan, Kuliang, Kikungshan and Mokanshan, and the seaside resort Peitaiho. (Sold out, not to be reprinted.)

GOD AND COUNTRY – WESTERN RELIGIOUS ARCHITECTURE IN OLD CHINAhas contemporary photos of China’s churches and synagogues plus old black and white ones of churches and church-related hospitals and schools. The “Jewish Legacy” chapter con­tains pictures of Jewish tombstones found in Shanghai. There is also a 77-page list of Catholic and Protestant missions and missionaries in China in 1934, both alphabetically and by name of the mission station.

covers Harbin, Dalny (Dalian), Tientsin, Chefoo, Tsingtao and Hankow north of the Yangtze, with a supplemental listing European and American business concerns and representatives who were operating in China and Hong Kong in 1928.

covers Shanghai, Ningpo, Foochow, Amoy, Swatow, Canton, and the former British Crown Colony of Hong Kong. Included as an annex is a 1936 Shanghai Trade Directory.

Not part of the series, but perhaps of interest to Old China Hands are three more volumes.

generously illustrated with both new and old photos and site plans, covers China’s thirteen top universities, all founded by Protestant missionaries over the past hundred years.

FRENCHTOWNSHANGHAI- WESTERN ARCHITECTURE IN SHANGHAI’S OLD FRENCH CONCESSION  again with both old and new photos, is the most comprehensive of our books, covering the best of the buildings—plus a look into the lifestyle of the residents of Shanghai’s most fashionable and fascinating foreign concession.

features Deke’s contemporary photos of both the interiors and exteriors of nine of Shanghai’s old mansions, all now converted into boutique hotels. Published for the local market in a slightly smaller hardcover version, the book’s captions and text are in both Chinese and English.

We also reissued in 1995 a very different sort of publication, the EMIGRANTEN ADRESSBUCH. Originally published in Shanghai in November 1939, this small replica con­tains the names, local addresses, cities of origin and previous occupations of thousands of German and Austrian Jews who fled to Shanghai before 1939.

In our edited series of first-person narratives, the two books we mentioned above are also still available:

During a summer spent in Japan, Rena’s sympathetic observations of the Japanese people, along with those of their government’s preparations for will yield some of the most perceptive insights ever published in the West on pre-war life in Japan.
by George Wang and Betty Barr. In the 1920’s and 1930’s two children grew up in Shanghai, but only the 1970’s did their paths finally cross. George was an impoverished Chinese boy and Betty a cosseted child of missionary parents in Shanghai. The story of their parallel lives in Shanghai is a revealing one.

We would be remiss if we did not describe three books published by Old China Hand Press in the past year, primarily for Chinese readers but with extensive English-language cap­tions and text.

GOLDEN XUJIAHUI covers Shanghai’s old “Siccawei” area, formerly the site of Catholic mission activities and now a center for major business and retail ventures. It is lavishly illustrated with contemporary photographs.

A TREASURE TROVE covers a selection of exhibits from the new Shanghai Banking Museum in the heart of Shanghai’s “Wall Street,” its financial district in Pudong. There are not only photos of current banks in Shanghai but also banking-related items of historic interest from the past.

IN THE HEART OF THE FRENCH CONCESSION parallels our earlier book on the Concession, but now as seen from a Chinese perspective. The captions are in Chinese and English and the volume features thumbnail sketches (in Chinese) of famous Shanghainese who once lived in Frenchtown, ranging from KMT and Communist officials to artists, writers and film stars.


For anyone who wants us to look up businesses, home addresses, families, friends, neighbors, schools, churches, clubs, etc., we have our informative Hong Books (for all China) and Shanghai Directories for most of the years 1925 to 1949. In German we have a 1937 Hong Book and a 1939 Shanghai Directory.

We also have English-language telephone directories for 1941 and 1949, and Deke has several Chinese-language ones. If you come to Shanghai we can also share with you our 200+ detailed strip maps of the French Concession and the International Settlement, and a listing of all the Western gravestones, both Jewish and Christian, that we could find here. We can upon request photograph grave stones or buildings and/or photocopy directory entries, and mail the copies to you.

We don’t charge for any of this but we do hope for something in return. We are constantly searching for material that we may use in research for our books and that can help us to answer queries. The more we have the more we are able to help our readers, our researchers, and ourselves. We especially treasure and use manuscripts, diaries and personal narratives, letters, newspaper clippings, old maps, photos, theatre and concert programs, anything that adds pieces to the mosaic of expatriate life in China over the past hundred years. With permission — and attribution — we also use the material to enrich our books.

We are totally dedicated to our subject matter and to leaving our own small historical treasure trove for future generations. And when Tess can no longer use it, the English-language material goes to the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, a fitting home, we think.

So in the future, look there for the “Johnston Collection” or visit Deke’s Chinese collection in Shanghai at:


The Old China Hand Press (Shanghai Office)

Lane 210, Building 2, Taikang Lu


The Old China Hand Reading Room


27 Shaoxing Lu

To Order Books:

Tess Johnston                                                    Deke Erh

Old China Hand Research Service       OR            Old China Hand Resources

Donghu Lu 70/3/201                                            210/2 Taikang Lu

Shanghai 200031, China                                       Shanghai 200025, China