LOCATIONS

1

Shanghai

Straßenbild von Shanghai

2

Chongqing

Vor dem Stadttor

3

Chengdu

Hedwig Weiss in ihrer Sänfte in der Straße des Konsulats, März 1912

4

Yunnan-fu (Kunming)

Wahrscheinlich Einweihung des Konsulats

Source: Bacons Large Excelsior Atlas of the World, map: Asia and Europe (selection), London: Bacon, ca. 1920. Shelfmark of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin: IIIC 2° Kart. B 1858.

1 Shanghai

The City

“It was a tepid, still evening. We travelled along the brightly lit Bund, one behind the other, in nimble rickshaws. Everything appeared before me as if in a dream. The tooting of the cars, the ringing of electrical trams sounded to my ears just as if I was at home in Berlin. But alongside that an unusual view for me, that of wagons which were pulled by half-naked, breathless people; brown-skinned, Indian policemen with bright red turbans and shining black sideburns on the streets of the English concession; equipage harnessed by ponies and a coachman with a long flying queue, dressed in white and seated at the front seat.”

(Hedwig Weiss-Sonnenburg. „Tagebuchblätter aus Chinas Revolutionszeit“. Gerechtigkeit: Monatshefte für Auswärtige Politik (1919), 697-706, transl.)

2 Chongqing

Arrival

“Never shall I forget my first impression, as I was carried into the city in a litter. My carrier, whose hoarse voice shouted “Dsao kai” – Make room! – cried out and then in a singing tone of voice “Bangko”, when they exchanged the wooden rails which supported the litter. Before them scurried the two “security guards” of the consulate. They scattered here and there, small awkward fellows, with their chests thrust out and their heads cocked up. They wore something like a blue uniform, which was embroidered with “da doguo lingse” (Great German Consulate) on the front. But with the indescribable bustle in the streets it was not at all easy to clear the way. Vendors and labourers were thrown to the sides, stubborn mules dispelled, women and children were warned.

(Hedwig Weiss-Sonnenburg, Memoirs part II China, transl.)

The City

“This city, constructed from chiseled sandstone, displays neither beauty, nor loveliness. But she is completely and utterly interconnected with the landscape. Proud, a little sinister, she looks out on the two fast flowing rivers that pass through; of which one crystal clear, greenish river, mixes itself with the dirty yellow paths of its big brother, the Yangzi river, at the foot of the city walls. These are the veins, through which all the commerce of the wealthy province of Szetschuan flows, some of which remains behind in Chungking at her gates. The wall that encloses the city in a zigzag manner, crowned by defiant watchtowers and curved archways appears hardly capable of encircling the overflowing swarm of the large houses […]”

(Hedwig Weiss-Sonnenburg, Memoirs part II China, transl.)

The Consulate

“The German consulate building, a simple, half European construction, lay before us. It has not been inhabited for a long time; only a representative of the consulate service resided here shortly. Although Chungking is the trade centre of the province Szetschuan, Chengtu is the seat of the viceroy and the Governor-General and also the official seat of the foreign representative. The house is situated on high ground, and one can look over the western city walls till the mountains in the vicinity. Then green hilly land in front of it is a single burial ground, just like in Ichang. The house itself is spacious, and also cold.”

(Hedwig Weiss-Sonnenburg, Memoirs part II China, transl.)

Life

“We had become resigned to our fortune, to reside in Chungking for some time. The news from Chengtu stated with certainty that the foreigners would meet with a bad end, as it was complete anarchy over there. Our few Germans were also expected to arrive here, and so the place of my husband naturally remained in Chungking. In the mornings, my husband attempted to draft short situation reports with the help of the news that the Chinese Lettre brought, which I later recorded in shorthand from his dictations. In the afternoons however, the four empty walls urged us out of the house, and we attempted to orientate ourselves in the city on our own. For this reason we acquired two ponies, for being carried in litters was not very comfortable, especially since with that, one was always far separated from the other.”

(Hedwig Weiss-Sonnenburg, Memoirs part II China, transl.)

3 Chengdu

Arrival

“How happy was I, when the mighty walls of Chengtu-fu emerged before us on the second evening. Soon we would arrive at our destination. The path went over a beautiful bridge, the Marco-Polo bridge (for he had mentioned this already in his travel report), and then through the high eastern gate. A couple of streets further, we were greeted by the banging of a fireworks, which a laughing Chinese who was running beside us had set off. Doors and gates were yanked open, we passed through a courtyard filled with blooming flowers and we had arrived.”

(Hedwig Weiss-Sonnenburg, Memoirs part II China, transl.)

The City

“Chengtu has always been a very respectable and rich city, and during the time of Marco Polo it must have been of magical splendour. […] Even in our days Chengtu was still an affluent, clean and content city, storage and passage way of the fertile province and its delicious silks, as well as of the tributary Tibetan border lands. Its transport veins are wide and regularly plastered with clean sandstone tiling; the ancient famous “Tung ta kai” (東大街) was many kilometres long.

The shops in the shopping streets are very impressive and the shop owners understand how to pleasingly display their luxury items of furs, silverware and embroideries. Lacquer columns, paintings and paper lanterns decorate the interior in an artistic manner. Brisk traffic flows back and forth, but without the horrible crush of some Chinese cities, which can be so mind-blowing and frightening.”

(Hedwig Weiss-Sonnenburg, Memoirs part II China, transl.)

The Consulate and Garden

“Two stone lions guarded the entrance to our consulate. Through the great door, one reached the front yard, which housed the apartments of the servants and the stalls for the ponies under prominent tiled roofs. In a corner, semi-wild bushes that were blooming with white roses creeped up till the roof. A gold-painted door opened into the second courtyard, which was even more neatly and carefully plastered than the first. The abundance of the somewhat stiff, blooming pots of peonies and the dark green leafy plants in stone buckets gave an almost festive appearance.”

“The garden was a work of art and laid out in an entirely Chinese manner. Small artificial mountains were interwoven with romantic grottoes and passageways, which allowed for a walk in the garden even during rainy weather. These passageways often ended in the circular moon gates, through which one had the most charming views of lotus ponds and summer pavilions.”

(Hedwig Weiss-Sonnenburg, Memoirs part II China, transl.)

Life

“After we had visited all the important sights, the Confucian Temple, Silk Street and famous old teahouses in Chengtu, we rode out of the city gates on our brisk and untiring ponies each morning, followed by our dogs. Beautiful temples hidden in bamboo forests, lonely villages, rice fields and time and again, the river (with malaria-breeding river bends) soon became familiar to us, but these were the few changes that the life in Chengtu offered. The days were often still and long, only sometimes interrupted by occasional plunders and street fights, or by rumours that a strong division of Yunnan soldiers was approaching, who were hostile to Szechuan and allegedly had powerful artillery at their disposal.”

(Hedwig Weiss-Sonnenburg, Memoirs part II China, transl.)

4 Yünnan-fu (Kunming)

Arrival

“In the afternoon of the third day we arrived at the plateau of Yunnan, situated at 1800m, and we entered the last station of the French railway: Yunnanfu. “Hey!” wailed the fresh mountain wind around our ears, as we stepped out of the train. Dazzling, almost unbearable did the sunlight appear to me at first glance. Nevertheless, I breathed in deeply and up here I felt as if I was reborn. In the small train station of this foreign place, we were greeted by a little piece of home. Lump, Thora and Strick [the three dogs of the Weisses] greeted us cheerfully.”

(Hedwig Weiss-Sonnenburg, Memoirs part II China, transl.)

The City

“In that time, Yunnanfu was a small, unimportant place in the mountains, not comparable with the large and rich city Chengtu-fu. However, the train line from Tongking upwards has marked it as a trading centre of the future. The foreign community was very small, with as usual, a few missionaries, a French doctor, some Germans, representatives of large Chinese and Tongking companies. Ah yes, there was even a German lady with a four year-old child.”

(Hedwig Weiss-Sonnenburg, Memoirs part II China, transl.)

The Consulate

“In the middle of a large and almost completely overgrown piece of land, there stood a well-built house that was completely made of stone. There was one level above which had a balcony and a portico. An additional, Chinese building offered room for stalls and quarters for the servants. In front of the house, there were two small ponds, and in the back the garden, a river flowed through […]

From the balcony, one had a broad view over the highlands of Yunnan, which had a very different character from everything which up till now, I had known in China. How often have I stood on the balcony, drinking in the beauty of this land while the mountain wind raced across and tugged at my hair. In front of me were green pastures with horses and cows, embankments which stretched through this land and were overgrown with dark cypress trees, and the country road, on which mule-drawn caravans travelled along.”

(Hedwig Weiss-Sonnenburg, Memoirs part II China, transl.)

Life

“In the evening, the chain of mountains in the west would darken, the silhouette framing the lowlands, while the mountains situated in the east reflected the rosy light of the descending sun. And the sun! It almost always shone in Yunnan, even when the wind whistled about so fiercely. Sun and wind! How I loved them both. And I was happy, that my child should be born here in this bright land “south of the clouds”, which was what Yunnan was called when translated.

The city of Yunnan had its own attractions and was in many ways very un-Chinese. The mountain tribes had their own unique character. In the mornings, a brightly dressed foreign looking tribe would pass through in long rows and carrying baskets, on their way to the market. People of the Shan and Miotze countries and even the so-called “tame Lolos”, which reminded us of our savage friends, were amongst them.”

(Hedwig Weiss-Sonnenburg, Memoirs part II China, transl.)