Saturday, 19 July 2008

Footprints of the Dragon: Dad's archive launched

Samuel Chinque in 1951 — handsome dude!

Chloe Chinque introduces our father's archive, donated by his widow, Kin Yung (seated)

David Yip and Anna Chen, a chip off the old block

Anna, Chloe and Kin Yung

Today saw the launch of my father's archives at the London Metropolitan Archives as part of the Footprints of the Dragon project which documents the Chinese community in the capital. His is the "largest and richest" collection, including poems, political writing and diaries spanning 30 years of active political life, the earliest dating from 1936.

Samuel Chinque — Chen Tian Sheng — came over here as a seaman in the 1920s. His direct experience of the miserable conditions of his fellow Chinese sailors led to his radicalisation during a time of political upheaval and renewal. In 1936, when Japanese imperialism was devastating China, he formed the Anti-Japan Salvation Front in the UK, an organisation gathering overseas support for the Chinese in struggle against fascism, and which is now the Kung Ho Mutual Aid Association. He also helped form the Chinese Seamen's Union, studied Marx and became a communist.

In 1947 the Chinese CP asked him to set up the first overseas branch of the Xinhua News Agency which he ran until his retirement in 1981. He died in 2004 aged 96.

Samuel Chinque's Guardian obituary

Later, actor David "Chinese Detective" Yip gave a talk on his life in film and TV, and Dr John Seed took us through the history of Limehouse, the earliest Chinese community in London.

The food was fab.


harpymarx said...

That's really impressive reading about your dad's life (and the Guardian obituary). What a rich and fascinating life. Archives are so important not just for historical records but for political education.

Madam Miaow said...

Thanks, Harpy. He was a strong character who fought for what he believed was right.

Mick Hall said...


I hope all is well, just read your blog about your Dad's archive and his Guardian obit. I remember reading it when it was published but had no idea he was you pa, although Charles by line should have been a clue.

He seems to have lived an extremely long and interesting life, I would have loved to have heard what he felt about recent developments in China, as there seems to be a dearth of info [that I feel I can trust] on that subject.

Take care


Madam Miaow said...

Hi Mick,

We had some interesting disagreements as you can imagine. He was proud of China's achievements in throwing off colonialism and imperialism and gaining strength.

But, of course, there were contradictions he was having to come to terms with.Interestingly, Wikipedia's Xinhua entry says that there was some dissent within the news agency over coverage of Tien An men Square.

I'm wary of projecting my own thoughts and putting words into a dead person's mouth but, while he supported the govt against what was perceived by many as foreign influence and interference in the protests, he did take it seriously when one of my siblings said, "I thought you said the People's Liberation Army would never turn on its own people!"

Interesting times, as we say.

I will say that he despised corruption, being frugal and low-paid all his life in service to the revolution, so some of the fat-cats must have made him despair.

splinteredsunrise said...

I'm just struck by what a fascinating character he must have been, and what a wealth of experience he had. And a real window into aspects of the community that deserve to be better known.

Madam Miaow said...

Thank you, Splinty.

Indeed, we are not all "petit bourgeoisie" because we "all work in catering" and own restaurants, as some on the Left would have it.

Infantile and Disorderly said...

What an amazing life your father lived. I love the tale in the Guardian of him flooring a racist skinhead while in his late 70s.