28 April 2007

Something I learned today - The Chinese in Britain

Earlier on today I picked up a copy of the new BBC History magazine. Apart from marking down a few books for reading in the near future (Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign, the Hamburg firestorming, Cromwell as a military commander and the story of Eddie Chapman, a thief, turned double agent) I was particularly taken by an item on a forthcoming BBC radio series.


Radio 4 starts a series of programmes about the history of the Chinese community in Britain. Apparently the first known Chinese man to come to Britain was a young Jesuit convert from Nanking called Shen Fu Tsong who arrived at the court of James II in 1686, James II was so taken with him he had his portrait painted and hung in his bed chamber. Shen was the first person to catalogue the Chinese collection in the Bodleian Library, showing the librarian which way up to hold Chinese books as well as what they contained.

One of the first Chinese women to settle in Britain did so at the start of the 20th Century, Song Ling Whang, made the journey from China to Britain, on foot with a group of other young people. They followed the route of the trans-Siberian railway line, performing acrobatics and making paper flowers to earn their way. What must have made things particularly difficult for her was that she had bound feet.

I’ll have to try and catch this series (via the net as it is on while I am at work). One thing for sure I don’t think I’ll complain about sore feet any time soon....

5 comments:

Pete's Blog said...

Walking the length of the Trans-Siberian railway! They shoulda jumped train.

jams o donnell said...

You'd have thought so!

Steve Bates said...

She was truly bound and determined...

elasticwaistbandlady said...

I'm smirking at steve bates pun. Clever.

The real question is how long after the arrival of the Chinese before every neighborhood got their very own Chinese buffet and Chinese laundry?

Steve Bates knows. Houston is chock full of Chinese Buffets.........and missing dog posters. I'm not implying that those two facts are related. I'm just sayin.....

jams o donnell said...

Puns aside Steve, she surely was!

We used to have lots of chinese laundries ewbl but when people got washing machines they were converted into restaurants. As for buffets, central Romford has three now. and not bad they are