In 1793 the Chinese Emperor rebuffed the first formal British mission to attempt to open China to foreign trade. However, British merchants persisted, and the first treaty ports were opened in 1843. This is the story of treaty port life in China, detailing the lives of merchants and missionaries. One of the first treaty ports was Shanghai, soon a byword for luxury and squalor.
Later small enclaves were opened along the Yangtze, cities like Chongqing, and sub-tropical towns like Beihai. Despite typhoons, disease, banditry and riots, merchants and missionary families in the treaty ports enjoyed steeplechases on "China ponies" and shooting parties on Shanghai's mudflats; Chinese cooks learnt to make Christmas pudding and Chinese tailors copied Paris fashions. Many visitors were drawn to the treaty ports, including Noel Coward and Wallis Simpson, Arthur Ransome and W.H. Auden, Peter Fleming and Robert Fortune. Some stayed on, among them Harold Acton, Osbert Sitwell and Robert Byron, who made temporary home amongst Peking's diplomats.
Others sought in the treaty ports a refuge from bankruptcy, persecution or imprisonment. In 1943 the treaty ports were returned to China and most of their inhabitants were interned by the Japanese. yet the record of their residence remains in Shanghai's solid office buildings, in Tianjin's mock Tudor facades, and in the Edwardian villas of Beidahei and Xiamen. Through the reminiscences of the last inhabitants of the treaty ports, some of whom are still alive, this book recalls a foreign life lived in a foreign land.
Condition: Very Good
Goodreads rating: 3.5/5