The Consulate General of Switzerland in Shanghai - Commercial Section
  Logo Shanghai Flash

ISSUE N° 5 June, 2002

Shanghai - Yesterday and Today

Remarks about the photo exposition Adolf Krayer, shown during the opening of the new Consulate General in Shanghai on June 13th, 2002.

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.

Shanghai, June 2002
Hans J. Roth
Consul General




Consulate General of Switzerland
for business related matters, please reply:


 Back to the top of the page


Page created and hosted by SinOptic