Sunday, January 17, 2016

Tsingtau

On a bitterly cold final morning in Qingdao, we checked out the old German area, including neo-romanesque St. Michael's Catholic cathedral and the 栈桥 Zhanqiao pier at whose end now stands the pavilion which graces the label of Tsingtao beer (descended from the German brewery set up in 1903). Germany commandeered the area in 1897, losing it to a siege by opportunistic Japan when WW1 broke out. (The Republican government's acquiescence in Japan's continued rule after WW1 helped sparked the May 4th movement in 1919.) I have somewhat complicated
feelings about the German presence here, perhaps not so different from that of Germans who hoped to get their own Hong Kong at a time when the great powers had Concessions up and down the Chinese coast. They've no business being here at all, of course, but no less business than the French who still roam Shanghai, or the English and Americans whose bank buildings, duly nationalized and now commercialized, are the pride of the Bund! Qingdao prizes its distinctive architecture, and I enjoy my queasiness at this unexpectedly familiar landscape. (My generation's Germanness is queasiness!)

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