I'm taking a short break from nightlife-related posts to post this article I found during my years of research on Old Shanghai. Everyone familiar with the apocryphal "No Dogs and Chinese" sign (that message didn't exist though many Shanghai parks did ban Chinese attendees into the 1920s) will understand the background to this article. Jessfield Park is now known as Zhongshan Park.
BY MARC T. GREENE
(The China Weekly Review May 18 1929; Republished In the Christian Science Monitor)
On the first Sunday of my return visit to Shanghai after a long absence I went out to Jessfield Park, as I had usually done on the warm summer Sundays in 1926. For Jessfield Park is Shanghai's great breathing-spot, its beautiful international playground, a gathering-place for twenty peoples, one of the fairest parks in the world. To those who have lived long in Shanghai, or to those who have visited here but briefly, it is a treasured possession or a delightful memory.
I have called Jessfield Park an international playground and for many years it has been that. There have mingled on its broad lawns, in its woody path beside its little streams and lakes and abundant flower gardens, and on summer evenings about its bandstand, Europeans of every nationality, far-come folk from the other side of the world. visitors from Australia and South America, Americans and British, Russians and Germans and Italians who have, for one reason or another, come to regard Shanghai as home.
The park has been an international pleasure ground in every sense, such a one as does not exist elsewhere, an unforgettable feature of the most extraordinary community in the world. But the time has come--and I record it with a deep feeling of gratification--when it is more, even, than international. The time has come when it is a greater thing than that, when its charm has become enhanced tenfold, and when the pleasure which it affords the Western visitor is vastly more than ever before. For to-day Jessfield Park is interracial, the possession alike of the mingled European folk of Shanghai and of the people upon whose soil these folk have taken up their abode. Jessfield Park to-day is open to the Chinese, though until the first of June of the current year no Chinese, however attired, of whatever social stratum or whether possessed of a Western education and its attendant cosmopolitanism was permitted to enter either the arbored gardens along the Shanghai Bund or Jessfield Park. That strange inhibition, one of the most amazing and most illogical in any land or age, is now forever set aside, and the fact that it is marks nothing less than the end of an epoch and the commencement of another, in the progress of humanity toward the great goal of all-inclusive human brotherhood.
Let me tell you briefly of one thing I saw in Jessfield Park. As I stood just inside the main entrance in the late golden afternoon when the people were streaming forth in such a wondrous and brightly-attired procession of every race and nation as you would find nowhere else on earth. I noted beside a little lake a Chinese boy, gayly clad, bright-eyed, happier, perhaps than he had ever been before. Presently a European child passing in the company of his parents saw this Chinese child by the side of the little lake. Impelled by the kinship of childhood which knows neither East nor West, the Western boy broke away from his parents and trotted across to the Oriental child. For an instant the two stood apart a little uncertainly, eyeing each other, these products of antipodal environments, in some wonder. Beyond a doubt neither had ever before encountered face to face a child like the other. But directly, as the simple good-will of childhood banished all doubt. these two gravely advanced and took one another by the hand ; and the delighted smile of the Chinese seemed to me somehow to symbolize the hopeful craving for sympathy and friendliness from the West which characterizes the whole Chinese people.
Presently the parents of the European child noted what was forward, and from somewhere beyond the Chinese father and mother saw too. Both couples then came up and for an instant I almost held my breath; for from previous experience I had reason to await somewhat apprehensively the attitude of the Europeans. But no! The friendliness of these children had had its effect even upon the parents, and I marked with immediate satisfaction the smiles which passed between them as they regarded the two children together and waited for some time as the boy of the East and the boy of the West cultivated, in their childish fashion, their childish acquaintance. And for myself, I was more deeply moved than I have been for a very long time.
Do you not see what this sort of thing means? It means that the advancement of the cause we are striving for; the interracial, as well as international, friendship which will bye and bye banish forever the menace of conflict and bring about the better day. By a curious association of ideas there occurred to me as, walking down town, I thought upon this incident in Jessfield Park, Kipling’s immortal MacAndrew, the sturdy Scotch engineer to whom all things were symbolized in ships and in the engines of ships. I thought of the abiding faith which was so great a light to him, holding, as it did, everything of hope for the future. Hear him!
“And by that light, now mark my words—
We'll build the Perfect Ship!”
And MacAndrew speaks for us all, whatever the terms in which we declare our faith and hopes. By the light of an abiding friendship between all nations and all races we will some day build the Perfect World. And such a trifling incident as this I have recorded is significant, nay, highly suggestive of the coming of that friendship. We need not be impatient at its long coming, remembering Whittier’s
“I have no seen—I may not see--
My hopes for men take form in fact.
But he who deems the future sure
The baffling present may endure!"
And so to stroll through Jessfield Park now that all men mingle happily there on a summer afternoon in summer, to mark an episode such as I have described--and there will be many like it now--is to find much ground for deeming the future sure.