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Notes on the Geography of China: Shantou (Swatow): Photo 1

world pictures China: Shantou (Swatow)

A 1930s British Naval Intelligence handbook on China states that in the 18th century the East India Company had a station on Namao Island outside Shantou's harbour. The handbook continues: "Swatow (or Shantou) was little more than a fishing village on a mud-flat. The port was opened to trade in 1860 by the Treaty of Tientsin (1858), and in 1862 a grant of land was made to Great Britain about a mile outside Swatow, but the projected settlement fell thorough owing to the hostility of the populace. Foreign residences and offices were established, however, at Kakchio [in the distance here], and before 1870 foreigners were freely living and trading in Swatow itself [behind the camera]. Kakchio, an island with granite hills separated from the mainland to the west by Tathoupo (Tatapu) Creek, is still the chief place of residence for foreigners." The handbook goes on to state that in 1936 the Shantou port cleared 6.6 million tons of freight, 40 percent of it domestic. That wasn't counting the freight handled by some 15,000 junks. The port's total trade was valued at $146 million, of which two-thirds was domestic. That made it the second biggest port in South China, after Canton. Shantou's chief export to the United States was embroidery, for which Shantou was famous. (Almost all the silk handkerchiefs sold in the U.S. came from here.) Shantou was also a major port for emigrants heading to Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.

The Japanese army disrupted all that in June, 1939. One of the foreigners caught up in the action was Alice Wood, whose father was a port pilot in Shantou. Alice fell in love with a young American naval officer whose ship cruised these waters, and he managed to get her out, despite some tight moments. He was John Bulkeley, who later married her. He went on to win the Congressional Medal of Honor and rise to the rank of Vice Admiral. Alice's story is recounted in Twelve Handkerchiefs: The Global Journey of Alice Wood Bulkeley..., by Joan Bulkeley Stade.

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