Tales of Old China
Welcome. This website stores words and images from Old China, mostly the era between 1840 to 1950 when China and the West were struggling to come to terms with each other. It is the contrasts and cultural clashes between the two worlds that are at the heart of this website, and we hope you enjoy what we have collected. The links on the left, under the Oriental damsel, will lead you through the site. The buttons on the right suggest some of the content we like best. The library contains the full texts of books from and about Old China. The Postcard archive has hundreds of images, fully searchable. Also, please look at the Money page.
This site will never be finished. We add to it when we have time. If you would like to contribute material, or help in the maintenance of the site, please contact us.
The tired or lustful business man will find here everything to gratify his desires. You can buy an electric razor, or a French dinner, or a well-cut suit. You can dance at the Tower Restaurant on the roof of the Cathay Hotel, and gossip with Freddy Kaufmann, its charming manager, about the European aristocracy, or pre-Hitler Berlin. You can attend race-meetings baseball games football matches. You can see the latest American films. If you want girls or boys, you can have them, at all prices, in the bath-houses and the brothels. If you want opium you can smoke it in the best company, served on a tray, like afternoon tea. Good wine is difficult in this climate, but there is whisky and gin to float a fleet of battleships. The jeweller and the antique dealer await your orders, and their charges will make you imagine yourself back on Fifth Avenue or in Bond Street. Finally, if you ever repent, there are churches and chapels of all denominations.
Christopher Isherwood in "Journey to a War", 1939 with W.H. Auden on Shanghai