Shanghai - Yesterday
Remarks about the photo exposition Adolf Krayer, shown during
the opening of the new Consulate General in Shanghai on June 13th,
By pure coincidence
the Consulate General learnt of a photo album in the hands of
Mrs Reinau-Krayer in Basel, composed of pictures of Shanghai,
which her great grandfather had taken during his stay in the city
from 1860 to 1868. Fortunately enough he had also kept a detailed
diary of his years in the harbour city, published in 1995 under
the title "Als der Osten noch fern war" ("When
the East was Still Far Away": ISBN 3-908122-64-3, Schweiz.
Gesellschaft für Volkskunde, Basel 1995).
Jakob Adolf Krayer-Foerster, born in Basel in 1834, was probably
the first Swiss to have lived for a longer time in Shanghai in
the middle of the 19th century. Adolf Krayer came from a well-respected
family of artisans in the city of Basel. Very early on he started
to travel as a merchant, passing through Lyon, Marseille, St.
Etienne and London. Working in the silk business he was offered
an assignment to China by the English firm Bowes Hanbury and Co.
He took the chance and left for the Middle Kingdom in 1860. Leaving
Southampton on 20th February 1860 he arrived in Shanghae (Krayer
consistently uses the local pronunciation of Shanghai in his diary)
after 58 days of travelling on 19th April. After four years in
Shanghai he went back to London, soon leaving again for Shanghai
with another four year contract in his pocket. In October 1868
he left Shanghai definitely, passing through Nagasaki and Yokohama,
then going to San Francisco and crossing the North American continent
during winter time, spending New Year's Eve in Sacramento, then
passing Salt Lake City and Chicago and arriving in New York on
27th January 1869. He left the US in New Orleans, passing through
Havanna and reaching Plymouth on 28th March 1869.
The bulk of the 120 photographs consists of pictures about Shanghai
and the surrounding landscapes and cities in the lower Yangtse
region. But his travel back to Switzerland is documented by several
fascinating photos as well. To be mentioned in particular is a
set of three photographs composing a panoramic view of Salt Lake
city and a similar set showing the Havanna Harbour.
Krayer's photos are interesting because they belong to the earliest
documents on Shanghai and show a city where foreign influence
had only taken hold some twenty years earlier. The photos show
a Bund with very few Western-style mansions,
nothing to be compared to the grandiose scenery presented by Shanghai
in 1925 - not to speak of the actual development of the city on
the Huangpu river.
The pictures are interesting historical documents because they
show not only temples and pagodas still extent today but very
often document sites which do no longer exist. Among them is e.g.
an outstanding Chinese tea house in Wuxi. Another photo vividly
catches the destruction of a temple interior after the Taiping
Rebels had sacked the place some years earlier.
Very interesting are some pictures of Amoy or Fuzhou Harbour
in the middle of the 19th century.
Many photos of the surroundings of Shanghai document times and
moments foregone. The Consulate General thought that the opening
of the new consulate in 319 Xian Xia Lu was an excellent opportunity
to document Swiss presence in Shanghai in earlier times and includes
some of the most impressive photos in the annex below.
To give the reader a real impression of the developments of Shanghai
we shall join a few modern photos as well, together with a view
of Shanghai seen by artist Pu Jie.
Pu Jie was one of the modern artists presented to a Swiss public
when the premises of the old Consulate were vacated and could
be used for a representative art exposition of modern Chinese
works, in a very satisfying co-operation with the ShangArt Gallery,
headed by the well-known Swiss galerist Lorenz Helbling.