History

Chinese and American air force pilots talk, after a mission against the Japanese, March 1943. Both sides forged a deep friendship from fighting against the Japanese.

Soong Mei-ling and the flying tigers: When China and the US fought shoulder to shoulder

No one would deny that the US and China are not the best of friends at the moment. But there was a time ⁠— and not so long ago at that ⁠— when these two countries came together in goodwill and support. Historical photo collector Hsu Chung-mao brings us back to the WWII period, when this seemingly improbable state of affairs was a reality.
Can the Covid-19 pandemic let us rethink how we treat foreigners, and whether and how our attitude toward foreigners reflects our character and our values as a person, a community, or a nation? A look at the attitude toward foreigners in an earlier time may give us some perspective on our current situation. This is an old map of Asia created by Willem Bleau and published in Amsterdam, ca. 1650. (iStock)

Us and them: Lessons from ancient China about demonising 'enemies'

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the notion of ethnic groups and accentuated the distinction between "us" and "them". What was it like in ancient China? How did the Chinese people look at the world around them and were the "outsiders" friends or enemies? While admitting that human society does not always act in its best interest, historian Prof Poo reminds us to differentiate between rhetoric and reality, to value good neighbourliness, and to be aware that groups are vulnerable to political manipulation.
In 1904, The Judge magazine ran this cartoon titled The New Square-Deal Deck, with Theodore Roosevelt saying, "Come, now, gentlemen; it is time to throw aside that worn-out deck and try one which will give both of you a square deal." The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was repeatedly extended, sparking anger from the Chinese government and overseas Chinese. In the picture, a Chinese and Uncle Sam take turns to play their political cards, neither side willing to give in.

[Photo story] China-US relations in the late 19th century: Is history repeating itself?

Were China-US relations always as they are now? Or was there something that changed the situation? Historical photo collector Hsu Chung-mao presents powerful images from US magazines in the late 19th century, which depict sinophobia in US society and difficulties in China-US relations more than a century ago. Are these images proof that history repeats itself?
The plague outbreak in late 1910 spread with the use of railways. There were many cases and deaths in northeast China, and the Qing dynasty government pumped in plenty of medical resources. In this photo, medical staff gather in front of an inn. At the time, there were many confirmed and suspected cases, and there was a serious lack of medical spaces, leading to the use of inns as medical facilities.

[Photo story] The Manchurian plague outbreak and the Malayan doctor Wu Lien-teh

The current coronavirus outbreak is not the first epidemic in China. Photo collector and Taiwanese writer Hsu Chung-mao, looks at a plague outbreak in Manchuria over a century ago and the role played by a Malaya-born doctor and Nobel Prize nominee.
This Christmas tree in the home of early US immigrant Seid Back in the 1890s is full of decorative lights, with lots of presents below. But the children are not dressed as Santa Claus, or the three wise men visiting baby Jesus in the manger as written in the Bible, which are Western observances. Instead, we see the children quaintly dressed in Chinese-style Han clothing, reminiscent of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai in the classic Chinese story of The Butterfly Lovers.

Early Chinese immigrants: Embracing the American way of life

America has long been known as the land of opportunity for people from all over the world, not least China. As 2019 draws to a close, photo historian Hsu Chung-mao retells the stories of the first wave of Chinese immigrants to America in the 19th century, capturing how they quickly embraced the American way of life, some even accepting Christianity and celebrating Christmas.
Centenarian Ho Weng Toh is not only a WWII veteran, SIA pioneer pilot, but also a published author of his autobiography. A picture of him taken in 1945, hangs on the wall. (Long Kwok Hong/SPH)

War, love, and passion: The life of a WWII Flying Tiger (Video and text)

He was a student studying in Hong Kong in the 1940s. He flew the B-25 bomber during WWII. He was a pioneer pilot of SIA, and at the age of 90, returned to the US to seek closure on his love. Centenarian Ho Weng Toh chats with Chow Yian Ping, editor of ThinkChina, about life, loss and love, at the launch of his book, Memoirs of a Flying Tiger: The Story of a WWII Veteran and SIA Pioneer Pilot.
Edgar Snow (left) and John Stuart were two Westerners in China who did their part to improve the country. (Internet)

John Stuart and Edgar Snow: Two Americans in China

As the PRC celebrates its 70th anniversary, and amid the China-US trade war, Prof Tian Fangmeng remembers two Americans who left their marks on China in the first half of the 20th century. One became the face of American imperialism and the enemy of communism, while the other became a familiar face in the Chinese government’s official propaganda. But are they so different?
2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Jimei School. The photo shows Tan Kah Kee interacting with the students at the school he founded. (The Information Office of Xiamen Municipal People's Government)

Tan Kah Kee: The Confucian merchant's relevance in contemporary societies

Professor Wang Gungwu gave a keynote address at the Hwa Chong Centennial Insights Series 5 detailing his memories about prominent Chinese community leader, Tan Kah Kee. He shares from his personal experiences before elaborating on Tan's huge influence on the Chinese community, and what we can continue to learn from him.
Sun Yat-sen is widely regarded as the foremost revolutionary of his time.

Sun Yat-sen and the Xinhai Revolution: A pictorial journey

Between October and December 1911, fierce fighting broke out between the revolutionaries and the Qing troops. And by early 1912, China's 2,000 years of imperial rule was history. The Xinhai Revolution led by Sun Yat-sen had successfully united the Chinese people against the imperial system, and built the first Republic in Asia, changing the fate of China and East Asia. Hsu Chung-mao takes us on a visual journey through that period of chaos and upheaval.