Piovano in China

A five-years long journey in China, 1900-1905

Monday, April 14, 2008

Steamship Services of the Nippon Yusen Kaisha

The Company maintains two lines between Kobe and North China: Kobe -Corea-North China Lines and Kobe North China Lines. The first class saloons are situated on the Promedade Deck amidships and are spacious, well ventiled and fitted with every modern convenience The suites are composed of a bedroom, sitting room and bath. The sitting rooms contain three berths and have a large wash stand. The bedrooms have double brass beds. the bathrooms have solid porcelain tub, wash stands and toilet. Each stateroom of both first and second-class has an electric fan and each berth has an electric lamp.
It's delightful life aboard ship. Early morning coffee and fruit served in your cabin. The dining saloons are on the Upper Deck. An excellent table in European style is kept. After dinner comes the concert or the dance.
The dining sallons, library, writing, smokings roos contain rich and wonderful Japanese tapestries, furniture of mahogany, teakwood, walnut and maple; artistic mural decorations and decorated wood panels.
The upper bridge deck with the exception of the capitais's cabin and the smoking room is devoted to promenading purpouses. A Surgeon will attend gratis to passangers in case of illness. Washermen are always at passengers' service. A complete laundry does an excellent work.
Nippon Yusen Kaisha or Japan Mail Steamship Company has 76 vessels and its Head Office in Tokio. Other branches in Kobe and Osaka. Agencies in all the principal ports of the World.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A horse called Falstaff

When I was in Peking I had a horse called Falstaff.
He was a superb Arabian horse. An elegant black stallion with a little white star on his forehead. I purchased him August the 31st 1901 for 52 Lire. A little investment for me. The Arabian black horses are very rare and Falstaff was very aware of his importance and uniqueness. He was an horse with a strong personality and really often stubborn. In the hippodrome of the Italian Barrack of Huang Tsun it was possible to make was possible make obstacles courses and competitions and his agility gave me an enormous advantage on jumper courses with obstacles that required a great power. In China was very difficult find a good horse. Yes, there were several horses markets but Chinese horses were very strong but ugly, stumpy, used for works perhaps Mongolian horses are a little better. Mongolian horses have great working ability and a great physical resistance. Less elegant than Arabian horses, but very clever. Falstaff had accompanied me in several trips and I took several photos of him. He was very happy to make me happy. A very good friend.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Public Hall Yokohama

A grand Evening Concert

The Japan Times
Saturday, Mai 9 , 1903

A grand Evening Concert will be given on Monday the 18 th May at the Public Hall by Miss Olga Kroostcheff, pianist. Gold Medal, Vienna Conservatoires. Assisted by local Amateurs.
Reserve Seats .....Three Yen
Admission ..........Two Yen
Plan of Hall may be seen and Seats booked at Mr C. Thwaites &Co, 61 , Main Street.
Yokohama, May, 9 th , 1903

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fathers among the ruins of Taiyuanfu

Ruins at Taiyuanfu

When we arrived to Taiyuanfu we found only ruins and we wandered with the Fathers among the rubble of the houses set on fire and destroyed. I photographed the remains of the Seminar, of the Mission, of the houses of Father Francesco Fogola and Monsignor Gregorio Grassi. Among the rubble of the destroyed houses were recovered dead bodies and objects of common use. Nothing sadder I ever saw in all my life.
July 9th, when we were still for sea, Yu-Hsien chinese viceroy of Province of Shansi ordered the execution, after a summary process, of the two pour bishops with three missionaries and seven Franciscans nuns of the order of the Servants of Maria, five seminarians and 9 serves of the mission. Were killed with them also European Protestants shepherds with their families. I admit that several news that the journals report are false or exaggerated but it's very sad to see with one's own eyes all these cruelties. I dont' know why kill women, children and old priests, it is not only cruel, it is useless.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Summer Palace

Fireworks on the Kunming's lake

Le general Voyron
Commandant en Chef le corps exp-re français
et le Ministre de France
vous prient de vouloir bien honorer de votre
presence la fete venitienne suivie d'une fete de
nuit qu'ils donneront Samedì 11 Mai 1901 a 9 h 1/2
du soir a la Rotonde (Lac Imperial)

The general Emile Voyron with his wife Marie and the Minister of France Stephan Pichon have set up a Venetian Party following a banquet by night on the Rotonde on the Imperial Lake. A Venetian masquerade on the Summer Palace at the end of spring. A party near the water by night in a wonderful park not far from the dusty and frantic Peking, an oasis of calm of which the three quarts are occupied by the artificial lake Kunming. Try to imagine hundreds and hundreds of little paper lanterns that shine in the night, the orchestra in the gazebo, music, dances, cosmopolitan environment, all the pavilions decorated with garlands, flowers and red lanterns and champagne all night long.
Then at midnight we could admire the magnificence of the fireworks on the lake. The dark surface of water will glimmer in its thousand lights and dazling reflexes. A fairyland of lights, a choreographic show of lights and sounds like only the French know how to do.
Yes, this is my hard life in China, today. Well I'll try to enjoy myself and I'll think of you.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Smoking Room

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Interior of the Mitsui Gofuku-ten

The Mitsui Gofukuten

The public is cordailly invited
to come and inspect
Our splendid display of dry goods
rich colours and artistic designs
The Mitsui Gofuku-ten

For over 200 years our store has been known as more reliable, more progressive, and more reasonamle in price than any other similar store in Japan.
We have in our stock a full and complete line of silk and cotton goods, including Crapes, Velvets, embroideries, Handekerchiefs, and Kimmons, and also materials for ladies foreign dresses.
As we have special contracts with the best known weaving establishments in this county and we have the best designers and workmen in our employment, we are able to give satisfaction to the most fastidious customer.
All mail orders will receive our prompt and careful attention; and goods will be forwarded to any part of the wolrd.
Our show Rooms are open daily from 8.30 AM till 5.00 PM.
The main store is Suruga-cho. Tokyo, branch Koraibashi, Osaka.

Dining Room

Tategami Maru Menu

Nippon Yusen Kaisha
24 April 1903

Soup: Custered soup
Fish: Boiled fish with Eggs Souce
Entrees: Milan Cultlet with Mash Potatos
Roll Beef with Peas
Boiled: York Boiled
Corned Beef with Carzal
Roast: Beef with Horseradish Souce
Turkey with Cranberry Souce
Curry Veal Currey and Rice
Vegetables: Boiled potatos
Salt of Onion
Pastry Bread
Gateau a la Cream

Tea & Cofee

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Kanaya Hotel at Nikko

Nikko, Japan the best place in the world!

Japan is for me a land of wonder! Nikko is a double wonder. It is easily reached in 5 hours from Tokyo by Northen Railway changing cars at Utsunomiya. Mountains, cascades, monumental forest trees, always stood here. Nikko is a delightful resort, lying 2000 feet above the sea. The hotel in which I spent several days is the Kanaya Hotel, situated at the head of the town of Nikko. From my windows I could see the great mountain of Nantai-zan and the beautiful river Daiya-gawa. The cuisine was excellent, the dinning room had a wood ceiling and windows open on the garden. Then there was a big verandah in which you could admire the garden under the rain.The principal short walks from the hotel were the Sacred Bridge, that is always closed to all person except the Imperial family, the Temple of Ieyasu, where visitors should remove their boots at the entrance. Lake Chuenji led at the foot of Nantai-zan, being surrounded on the other sides by low hills covered with trees to their summit. A Japanese proverb says " Don't use the word "Magnificent" till you have seen Nikko". Well like all proverbs is true.

The murder of Umberto I

Umberto I King of Italy is dead!

29th July 1900

Beloved brother,
The worse news that an Italian abroad could receive perhaps you’ll have by me.
The terrible news of the murder of the good and beloved our King.
You that probably are one of the last persons who saw him alive! You that talked with him! When he wished to you an happy return at home. That awful news my poor Luigi, that pain like to all us. It’s unbelievable a so terrifying murder. The worse murder of the century like our heartbroken Queen said. Instead it is all true! Painful truth, and all we can do is cry and blame. The demonstrations of pain of all the Italians were immense like the love toward Savoy House and our new King Vittorio Emanuele II. Chieri was not inferior to anyone. May God bless Italy!
Best regards,
Your brother Michele

Osaka's Aquarium

Souvenir of Osaka

When I went to Osaka, I visited the 5th National Industrial Exposition. A very interesting place. Full of crazy and strange things. Osaka was the center of the commerce and industry of the Empire and here in 1903 all the provinces of Japan held a great exhibition to display the best products of all their industries. All the strangers were received kindly and friendly and I think that Osaka is the wealthiest city of all the country. Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Arts are highly considered. The recent development of this country is unbelievable! There is electric light everywhere, and the modern progress has for the Japaneses an ethical value. The Land of the Rising Sun is really a land of prosperity and enchanting things. And this Exposition was a shining example of all this. His Royal Highness Prince Kotohito, better known as Kan-in-no-miya, had the honorary office of President and that gives a sign of the importance of this event. A great Aquarium is included in the Great Exhibition and in the garden all around it there were so many pleasant pavilions, used as tea houses, in which I could admire the nature around me, the cherry, maple, pine and other trees. It was really wonderful!

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Wedding dinner of Gustav Detring's daugther will be held in the Astor Hotel

Lucy Detring's marriage

Gustav Detring and Madame Detring announce the engagement of their daughter, Lucy Detring, to the Marquis Salvatore Denti di Pirayno, lieutenant of the Italian Royal Navy. He is the son of the Marquise Rosalia Denti di Pirayno, born Countess Amari of Sant Adriano from La spezia. On December the 14th wedding is planned at Saint Luis Church in Tientsin.

A winter marriage!
The most important social happening of all north China in 1901 .
All Tientsin journals are full of articles about this marriage and I'm a guest. The wedding invitation written in french says: "Monsieur et Madame Detring neé Bauer ont l'honour de vous faire part du mariage de leur fille Lucy avec le Marquis Denti di Pirayno, et vous prient d'assister a la benediction nuptiale qui aura bien a l'eglise de St Luois le 14 decembre a trois heures de l'apres midi. Tientsin 1901."
Lucy is very gracious and lives like a princess, I'm not surprised that she marries a Count. An italian count is more strange! However the secrets plans of her father are mysterious even for the Chinese!
Gustav Detring is a real Tycoon, the most rich man of all Asia, I think.
All Tientsin will be there.
A profusion of flowers, Ladies full of jewels, men in uniform, nobles, diplomats with their families, the most important Chinese authorities, and me, poor Luigi.
Well, I'll be in a very good company!
Then Madame Detring sends me even her personal calling card in which there is written that she receives guests " apres midi de 5 a 7 heures"... I dont' know what gift to give her! She owns everything!
Well, perhaps my presence will be sufficient!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Regulations for the visitors to the Imperial Palaces

A spring in Japan!

In the spring of 1903 I got a license of a month that allowed me, between April and May, to visit Japan and Korea. April 17th I left from Taku on board of the steamboat "Tategami Maru"  a cargo ship of 2703 tons of the Company of Navigation "Mitsubishi Kaisho" that followed the route Newchwang- Kobe and I arrived in Japan 23rd April, 6 days later. I visited numerous towns, traveling with boats and using the railroad. The spring was surely the best season to visit Japan for the foreigners that were able to admire besides the palaces and the historical monuments also the cherry trees in flower that in the month of April reached the greatest flowering. It is wonderful the profusion of flowers that grew in that country and I'm a farmer ...
Every year Europeization of Japan was more obvious and it shows in the architectural style of the residences, in the railroad net, in the spreading of the electric system. During this period I had to write a relation about Japan and understand what was happening. Japanese and Russians were quarreling too much and a new war was in the air!
But I tried however to be a tourist even if I should sign the consular register in every city in which I was. Even I should be always reperible! Like a doctor! Strange holidays!
During my visit in Japan I met Maru my Japanese wife, the most beautiful girl that I ever seen in all my life! My return to Taku was expected for may 28th and Maru cames back with me in China in another boat.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Mc Rae chinese message!!

Have a cup of tea Mc Rae!

My very best friend is M.H.St.G.M.Mc Rae of the 14 th Sikhs, Mooltan Punjab, India, who I met in Shanhaikwan in the international Club.
He is a very amusing man and now he's learning not italian language but Sicilian. Yes, in his last letter he wrote me "Statuo bono piciotto, A Rivederci". This is a shining example of his British humor!
Mac was in the British Contingent China Expeditionary Force and now he's returned in India but he continued to send me letters and strange messages. I hope one day of going in Britain to visit his country. He plays  polo, speaks to his horse, and he is very smart and clever.
Good boy, good example af a gentleman.

Gordon Hall Tientsin

Vocal Recital of Miss Winifred Currey

Saturday, February 6th, at 9,15 pm at the Gordon Hall of Tientsin will be held a vocal recital of Miss Winifred Currey assisted by local amateurs!
I'have received just now the program of the recital on a very nice pergamene paper with yellow flowers. All the social life of Tientsin will come around Mrs Detring and for her, having Miss Currey for a recital is a great success and for me is the occasion for enjoying a little of society's life!
Well, Winifred is not a great singer, but in Tientsin she is the girl of the day! The program is amusing and the Gordon Hall by night is very... suggestive. I' don't like very much opera and many friend of mine are usual sleeping during this song's performance, but this is the nocturnal life in our Concession.
Mrs Detring, the wife of the most important not Chinese in China, and Madame de Tretiakoff, a Russian lady with a past, have kindly consented to accompany Mr Cockell and Miss Currey in their songs. Highlight of the recital is the Ave Maria by Raff put strategically in the middle of the concert. Then Winifred will close the evening with Chansone de Route by Puget, Songs my mother taught me by Dvorak and dulcis in fundo Pertout by Chaminade.
Well, the winter is cold here in the north of China, but during Mrs Detring's evenings, born Bauer, they served always good whiskey.

Monday, July 31, 2006

My Ilford plates!

All my reign for an Ilford glass plate!

My device Goertz and my Ilfords glass plates with my maps are the most important things that I own!
Finding new Ilford glass plates many time it is a true adventure. They are more precious than gold! Like all photographers I have my resources that find plates in the port of Hong Kong and Canton then in a mysterious way those plates arrive at Tienstin and so I can get them.
I have a Chinese merchant very clever and a good friend but he knows how much I need those plates and and takes a patrimony with his smiles.
However, the major problem is that those plates in glass are more fragile. Preservation of photos in many cases is very difficult. Poor Luigi! Then to find silver. I spend all my time with acids and dark room... but the result is good! I hope...

Pyramids of apples!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

When I met Tzu-hsi

In 1902 Tzu-hsi returned to Peking with her court and for my fortune, or misfortune, I had the strange honor of meeting her. Tzu-hsi, the Current Holy Mother Empress Dowager Cixi Duanyou Kangyi Zhaoyu Zhuangcheng Shougong Qinxian Chongxi of the Empire of the Great Qing, the only "real man" of all the Empire like the Germans called her.
Yes, I met this woman, I took some pictures and I visited the Forbidden City. I was not the only stranger that did it, but I was the only that saw her as a human being and not like a God or an Empress.
She was an old woman gentle and curious , who studied English, had a great sympathy for Queen Victoria and was very... greedy. Yes like all old women she had strange tastes!!! In front of her Palace in the Forbidden City there were not flowers or trees, like in all the gardens, but a pyramid of... apples.
Set them in a very agreeable way, indeed, but the effect was very singular. Several shining apples in front of me. This made me smile but it is not educated and polite to smile in front of an Empress!!! I picked me to remain serious!!! Try to imagine it.
Then an educated and serious Chinese minister made me note that apples are an antidote for poisons and... I smiled less... This woman was really full of surprises and there was ever a reason in all that she did.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Here a richshaw !

Friday, July 28, 2006

From the Italy to China on the steamboat Java 1900

The evening of July 19th 1900 I embarked myself on board of the steamboat Java of the Italian Navigation that followed the line of Suez and that had to carry me in China.
China! This word alone evoked in me an exotic and mysterious world, a fantastic country in the most distant East. I was very young and full of enthusiasm, still shaken from news that came from those distant lands of missions burnt, Western people deceased, women and children besieged in the diplomatic Legations of Beijing.
Already, but what I'll have found in reality?
Me, poor boy of the peaceful Piedmontese lands, of the sweet hills of the Langhe, of the vintages, of the "Freisa". I did not know. The mysterious and terrible China what was in reality? What dangers, mysteries, opportunity represented for me?A mix of curiosity and fear put me in a weird state of mind. I was directed in China with my books, my maps mostly drawn by me and took bythe cards of the Geographic Society, my Goertz, my precious slabs of glass "Ilford", and who knows how would I find new or find the silver to develop them to make photographs.
I was perhaps sad having close in the memory the shouting of the my parents and friends and the recommendations of my brother Michele, of always boiling the water before drinking, of being always on my guard, of not giving in to drunkenness and avoid brawls and discords.
Dear, good so serious Michele with his grey eyes and his now grey beard, I seem to see him read every day the newspaper in search of news of mine, drinking the coffee with his napkin in his lap, he veterinarian appreciated and considered in the lands near Chieri. Then visiting the friends in the restaurant of Angelo, so proud of the "Bottiglieria" that has just open and to discuss of my journey with everyone those who know of my journey like if China was a little country a little farther away than Buttigliera or Asti. Serious and calm, perfectly master of himself, with his grey and calm eyes, but unyielding and insisted many times.
Poor Ministry when it will find itself bombarded by his telegrams, to know how I am and what I do, when will I return, all the things he does not dare to ask me directly in the letters.
The strange things you end up doing in the name of the affection and of the responsibility that tie the older brothers to the minor... While appeared on the bridge of the steamboat I observed the profile of the coasts of Naples to remove itself, besides the nostalgia, I felt really that I was in the beginning of a great adventure that would have changed all my life.
I was directed towards a land that, in the good and the bad, with its ancient civility ruled in Asia from immemorial times. Land for the most unknown, visited by the west voyagers very few times, land full of new itineraries to trace.
Above of me the stars glistened quiet, distant like China, and in the same indecipherable manner, and filled me with a weird one... solitude! Could I return home? I would have seen again my brothers, my mother, the friends, "Barba" (Uncle) Angelo. I did not know it. I was espected to stay in China months and instead I stayed here five years.
Five long years in which I saw things that with difficulty I could be believed if I told them.
But I have my photographs that document that it is all truth!!
The following relation is the story of my journey and of my adventures during these five years in China!
For my beloved daughter Anna, my grandchilds Eugenio and Laurel, that plays always between the "papaveri da oppium" of the garden and make frighten my poor wife Giorgina.
I will omit something, I'm so sorry, but I am old, and and it is inevitable when the time separates us from the memories, to forget but for how much I will do it will be very difficult for you not understanding how much I loved China and the people that I met here, above all my Japanese wife that I was not be able to bring in Italy with me. In some manner I will carry all always inside of me wherever find myself and for how much time it is me still granted to live.

This man is an artisan that repairs dishes! Really strange!

Letter to his mother

From boat "Giava"
Three days out of Hong Kong
17th August 1900
Dear beloved mother,
from Singapore I wrote you a letter that I'll send you in three days from Hong Kong.
How many new things I saw in attractive Singapore!
For the first time I saw the Chinese with their pigtails. They are really ugly, but then not much, large, big and good. They work a lot, they are quiet and curious for nothing. It is understood, however, because their town is so large and attended from travelers from all of the world. But one of the things more new and unusual that I see is the horse-men. Instead of tranvai and public cars there are much small drivers and to ride on one or two seats that are called "risciò" pulled by a man, and with only 50 cent you could go wherever you want.
And you should see how they run!
They endure for an incredible time and their force is unbelievable .
The large and right roads are full of these small cars. Like our carsthey are numbered and I saw of it with the number 10.000!!
The Chineses do all of the jobs, have shops like us, and work pretty well and they are honest.
I saw too a Chinese procession it seemed to be in the middle of Carnival with the masquerade people on foot on horseback, above oxen, that sang and played, carried banners with weird writing.
Really the more weird thing than I have ever seen.
There are many attractive palaces and English shops a lot richer than ours.
Singapore is an island surrounded by other small islands covered by vegetation very warm and damp. They are so much fruits and much vegetables !
How I see that all of the world is country but always our own country is the better!
In three days I hope to arrive in Hong Kong an English town, however, but the first really Chinese one. In 10 days I hope to be in place.
I embrace you.
Your Luigi.