China Books

Tales of Old Shanghai by Graham Earnshaw


Edited and written by Graham Earnshaw, another old China book from Earnshaw Books Tales of Old Shanghai is "a scrapbook of words and images bringing to life the glorious past of China's greatest city" (says the jacket).

A scan from the book, and you can see the kind of thing that Earnshaw is trying to document. The image on the upper left wants to show "the vitality of 1930s Shanghai. See the pride and confidence of the Shanghainese stride".

In juxtaposition though, below the image is an extract from The Cathay Hotel magazine 1932 entitled "Pidgin phrases for tourists".

A selected few are:

I want some tea at once / Catchee tea chop chop

I want a bath / My wanchee bath

Is that the lowest price? / No can cuttee?

Do you mean it? / Talkee true?

Pidgin English referred to the shortened phrases that foreigners who didn't speak Chinese used, reflecting the sounds that Chinese people made when they spoke English.


The book is an impressive historical record of a range of phenomena such as opium addiction and foreigners in the city, and uses a large selection of fragments from books, photos, maps, cartoons, bills and more.

There are currently 7 Comments for Tales of Old Shanghai by Graham Earnshaw.

Comments on Tales of Old Shanghai by Graham Earnshaw

"Hello socks!"

Graham Earnshaw is cool.

"Catchee bookee chop chop!" - That's what I'll say to my Amah.

What's the deal with "Amah" anyway? I thought that was Cantonese for "Ayi", no talkee true?

Never realized how awful pidgin English is...though I'm oddly interested in reading more of it. Where can I pick up a whole phrase book of it?

Thank goodness Shanghai is forever in a 1930s time vacuum and will always have lao wai yearning for girlees in qi paos, opium dens, living in "French Concession" fixer uppers and coolies everywhere.

Only inconvenience in the fantasy is all them pesky Chinee everywhere...

Hey, is Jeremy Goldkorn still around? I haven't seen him post in a while...

This book looks and sounds very useful and would I think make a great companion to Jeffrey Wasserstrom's new book on today's global Shanghai, which I reviewed for the George Mason University's History News Network website, at:

Earnshaw's book is another one I must now add to my shopping list. Thanks for alerting me to it.

Yes, Earnshaw's book is great. As is Jeff Wasserstrom's. And we're glad someone else is crowing about them now, too. Check out our reviews of each at: link, link

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