"Hier In Het Oosten,
Rotterdam, March 1919. The 24-year-old Frans de Jongh from Amsterdam leaves for China, where he wants to build a new life. The cosmopolitan Shanghai is booming and tempting. Many young men perish. Frans lives like a man, "man of the world", but works hard and knows how to keep his place. He marries Willy Defoer, a descendant of a wealthy Amsterdam family. From 1929 onward, the young couple lead a protected life full of privileges in China, but for how long? Threatening clouds gather above the Chinese port cities.
Fascinating historiography about a Dutch family in the first half of the last century. Fascinating because in this small book a large historiography comes together: the safe, protected pre-war family life and the war with Japan, which changes everything. The part about life in the Japanese internment camp alone is worth a book.
- Nout Wellink
Why don't we write long letters to our loved ones? Where did that rest go? Frans de Jongh makes you long for a time when China and the moon were about the same distance from Amsterdam.
- Jeroen Smit, Journalist and author
This story will also generate interest outside the family lens. The fortunes of the Dutch in the China of the interbellum will come in no time.
- Jan Bank, historian
Mieke Melief shows that ego documents add a dimension to the historiography. Through the letters from Frans de Jongh, she opens a world that would otherwise remain closed.
- Rudolf Dekker, historian
Mieke Melief (1944) studied French Linguistics and Literature at the universities of Leiden and Nijmegen and specialized in narratology. She lived for one year in Paris, four years in Zambia and two years in Cologne. Her experiences as an expat wife in an ex-British colony made her interested in the English colonial era and the world outside of Europe.
Mieke Melief worked until her retirement as a French teacher at the Free School of IJssel in Zutphen. Nowadays she lives with her husband in Huissen in Gelderland, in the house where their two daughters grew up. She is related to the De Jongh family through the marriage of her uncle.
CONTENTFAMILY TREE 8
AN AMSTERDAM FAMILY IN CHINA, 1919-1946 14
FRANS' CHILDHOOD, A DIFFICULT TIME 16
To the Far East 24
With the S.S. Tjimanoek to Hong Kong and Shanghai 34
China in 1919 41
The Opium Wars 51
The Boxer Rebellion and the fall of the Qing Dynasty 54
The Republic of China 57
How did the treaty ports function? 59
Bachelors 1919-1929, SHANGHAI 64
Letters from Shanghai 68
The first leave 119
Shanghai and Tientsin 123
China 1926-1929 127
Despair letter from Frans 145
The last bachelor years in Tientsin 149
The second leave 151
A special father-in-law 153
THE JONGH FAMILY IN HONG KONG, SHANGHAI AND TIENTSIN, 1929-1943 156
The birth of Annie 167
A year in Shanghai 171
China in 1932 174
Tientsin and environment 176
The young family in Tientsin 187
The long summers in Peitaiho 203
Even more memories of Tientsin 205
The third leave 207
Letters between three continents 210
The fourth leave 225
China 1936-1943 228
Uncertain times in Tientsin 232
Pearl Harbor December 7-8, 1941 263
WEIHSIEN MARCH 1943 275
Surviving in Weihsien 283
The liberation on August 17, 1945 342
THE LAST DAYS IN CHINA 351
LIST OF CHINESE LOCATIONS 414