I just finished reading Nicole Mones’ new novel, Night in Shanghai, about the complex melding of cultures in jazzy 1930s Shanghai on the brink of World War II. With the opportunity for a nice segue from the previous postcards from Little Tokyo , I thought I’d do an all-things-Chinese postcard set.“The Great Wall of China at Jinshanling”
Doesn’t it look like a painting? It was a long time after I received this postcard that I realized it’s a photograph. It’s one of my favorite landscape cards. And it must be a favored stock image, because I recently noticed this exact photo in a geography textbook!
Jinshanling is the best preserved stretch of The Great Wall. The six mile long section was built around 1570 in the Ming Dynasty. The astoundingly steep and snaking five passes are dotted with 67 watchtowers!From my 15 year-old pen pal:
“…The Great Wall was so unreal in its great leng[t]h. It took so long to actually get up to the wall. There were so many stairs! Getting down was so much more worthwhile–there’s a big slide that winds its way down a mountain.”“The Canal of Suzhou”
As I’ve shared before, this postcard is from one of the blog’s biggest fans, an American friend who was living in Beijing and traveling throughout China (and elsewhere in Asia).
“Suzhou (pro. sue-joe) is known as the “Venice of the East” for its many canals. It is also known for its many gardens, most of which are World Heritage Sites. Buildings with names such as “The Pavilion for Watching Pines + Reading Scrolls” are scattered among the gardens. It is a magical place.”
I recognized Suzhou in Night in Shanghai because of this postcard!San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest Chinese community outside of Asia and the oldest in North America. Here’s someone who may have lived there a long time ago:“Portrait of a Chinese woman, western United States, c. 1890”
Los Angeles’ Chinatown, meanwhile, is from the Night in Shanghai period.
Chinese immigrants first settled in Los Angeles in the 1850s, and had established their own district by the 1870′s. This business community was then displaced by Union Station in the 1930s. But a mile away in Little Italy, second-generation Italian-Americans were relocating to other reaches of the city. As Italians moved out, Chinese moved in, establishing New Chinatown which the governor of California officially dedicated in 1938.
“Basketball is fun, more fun than “making ship models.” Can you see my shining face on the front of this postcard?”Lisa See’s latest Chinese emigre novel, brimming with ’30s nightlife at the dawn of war as in Nicole Mones’ Night in Shanghai, but in San Francisco. Can’t wait to read it!“First Rainy Day” by Trish GranthamDisneyland, California, 1979 Tseng Kwong Chi
Photographer Tseng Kwong Chi with his new-found friend Donald. As wrote when I first picked up this postcard, the photograph is part of his most famous body of work, the series East Meets West/Expeditionary Series. Playing upon tourist snapshots, Chi took on the persona of “ambiguous ambassador.” Dressed in what he called his “Mao suit” and sunglasses, he shot mostly neutral self-portraits at landmarks and with icons of the western world.Born in Hong Kong in 1950, Tseng Kwong Chi later moved to New York, becoming involved in the East Village art scene of the 1980′s. That was his decade. In 1990, he unfortunately died of AIDS at age 39.
Check out the Tseng Kwong Chi website to see more. I found the contrast of his architecture photos and his nature shots fascinating. With buildings, statues, etc. he too tends to look monumental, and false, like he’s pasted into the photo. In the landscape pieces, on the other hand, he tends to be smaller or obscured.
As is so often the case, I never would have learned about this if it wasn’t for a simple postcard.