Shanghai, China

Saturday, September 14, 1929

Up at eleven. Was five when I got to bed this morning. Went down into Chinatown again, only farther in than last time. From the fact that I was much stared at and that I saw no white man till I was back on the Bund, I would say the whites steer clear of these parts. It is all bally interesting and much cleaner than Canton. [Bally, a British minced oath meaning Bloody]

There is a curious mixture of the old with the new here. In offices you see the old slide machine [abacus] the Chinese use alongside of the modern adding machine. Autos and trams with and without tracks alongside of rickshaws and wheelbarrows. These latter are still in use as a means of transportation of one’s self though they are used chiefly in the city for hauling goods. The traffic of Shanghai is heavy, made worse by narrow streets and many alleyways, etc.

Pigtails are rarely seen. Those who do still have them wear them in a knot at the back of their head. You occasionally see a remnant of old China with all his hairs plucked except perhaps a half dozen which hang down some eighteen inches from his cheek, corners of his mouth, or his chin. Most all the coolies and lower classes have their hair cropped off close to their head or else all shaved off. Boys are shaved while young girls wear theirs slicked back and tied in a knot in the rear or bobbed. Women of the lower classes wear their hair long. It is thoroughly saturated with coconut oil and combed back and tied in a knot. Young women (and older) of the more Europeanized sets wear their hair bobbed long. It too is saturated with coconut oil and brushed tightly down in tricky styles that often make a woman appear years younger than she really is.

The moderns who wear Europeanized Chinese clothes are plenty attractive. The Chinese woman is rather small and well built. You very, very rarely see a fat one. Women of the lower classes wear the black blouse and pants.

Fat men are also conspicuous by their absence. However, those who have adopted European life are sometimes fat. Many have adopted a cross in dressing—the East and West mixed. White, big, loose trousers of a lightweight cloth and European shirt, coat, and hat. Coolies of Shanghai all wear blue and the get-up resembles overalls in a way, especially the wide loose trousers. Many do not wear anything above the waist while others wear a loose, black, thin jacket of cloth. You can always count the bones on a coolie.

The click-clack wooden sandals of Hongkong, Canton, Saigon and Bangkok have almost entirely been replaced by sandals of rattan and reeds. The clack of wood is replaced by the sound of rattan dragging along the streets—for so often the feet are never lifted, but dragged, slid along.

It is not uncommon to see the women with tiny feet as of old. They are really pitiful. Feet wrapped up in a cloth shoe—perhaps the foot is only five inches long—and they walk on their heels and stiff-legged with toes pointed out. They hobble along with difficulty. This is no longer permitted.

I finally came out in the narrow strip of French Concession that borders the river for a way south of the city. Here all was really packed with busy humanity. Thousands of coolies in the narrow streets or loading and unloading ships at the river wharves. There was the pungent odor of dried fish (dried and pressed) together with a thousand others. Coolies carrying boxes on their backs (perhaps 200 yards for 3 crackers (coppers) a load—often 200 lbs for less than nothing—1¢ gold. (Coolies of Amoy wear white and black. Those of Hongkong and Canton black.)

Walked to the other end of the Bund, up the craft-jammed river a few blocks, then way back to Nanking road to buy some photos. I have been experimenting with my camera empty. The timing is all off, which explains poor pictures. I set it one way and get three different exposures in three tries. The way you have it set means nothing. It is only luck is the time is correct.

Am staying in tonight and hope to get some sleep. Food at Y good and cheap as well. Song of the coolies—ah ho – ah ho – ho ah – ah ho – ho ah – etc. or I cum – I cum – I cum (phonetic spelling). Two or more men singing them. One coolie chants ah ho and the other ho ah in a different tone. Executed five bandits Thursday, one a woman, by shooting.

Comments are closed.