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Shanghai - Pearl of the Orient

Western filmmakers captured the first moving images of one of the world's great cities. These remarkable films preserve a metropolis whose streets and waterways teem with life.

When cinema first came to China's shores, Shanghai was one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. The new technology was exhibited at the city's Xu Gardens in August 1896 (just months after the Lumière Brothers' first demonstration in Paris), and the earliest ever filmed images of the city were captured - by Western filmmakers - soon after. Some of the oldest surviving footage of Shanghai was shot by a British war correspondent, dispatched to China to cover the 1900 Boxer Rebellion. It captures the teeming multi-national traffic on the central Nanjing Lu thoroughfare, from gliding bicycles and rattling rickshaws, to a Sikh police detachment and German soldiers enjoying a cigarette. Shanghai's famous waterfront, the Bund, captivated numerous filmmakers in the 20s and 30s, and several films here show a remarkable thronging harbour life, with sampans clustering beneath the Bund's baroque temples of commerce and leisure. Also featuring in this collection of newsreels, travelogues and home movies are scenes of the Japanese occupation of the city in 1937, and the death and destruction that followed. These are sombre, even harrowing scenes, but a crucial chapter in Shanghai's history.

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Nankin Road, ShanghaiNankin Road, Shanghai

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent Location: Nanjing Lu (Nanking Road)

An extraordinary window on to the cosmopolitan heart of Shanghai - Nanjing Road - over a hundred years ago.

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High JinksHigh Jinks

Non-Fiction19291 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

All the fun of the fair: lovely, lively record of 'Shanghai's Coney Island'.

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A City of ChaosA City of Chaos

Non-Fiction19271 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

Scenes of panic on the streets of Shanghai as Chinese citizens seek protection from Communist and Kuomintang violence behind Allied barricades.

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Riverside Scenes ChinaRiverside Scenes China

Amateur film19222 minsSilent Location: Bund

Four exquisite panoramic views of the Bund in Shanghai show life on the Huangpu River.

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The Bradford Dyers Association's Offices in Shanghai and Messing About in the CourtyardThe Bradford Dyers Association's Offices in Shanghai and Messing About in the Courtyard

Amateur film19292 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

Work and play definitely mix in this short film featuring the staff of the Bradford Dyers Association's Shanghai office.

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A Chinese Boat Trip and Views of ShanghaiA Chinese Boat Trip and Views of Shanghai

Amateur film19349 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

The famous waterfront of 1930s Shanghai is the star of this tantalising film which captures the bustling street life of China's most cosmopolitain city.

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Shanghai: Water TransportShanghai: Water Transport

Travelogue19332 minsSilent Location: Guangzhou

A beautifully photographed trip back to the Shanghai of the 1930s, with views of the Bund's busy harbourside.

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Outward Bound through the Suez Canal and on to ShanghaiOutward Bound through the Suez Canal and on to Shanghai

Amateur film193810 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

Travel in luxury on the 'slow boat to China' in this remarkable film from 1938, passing through the Suez Canal to Hong Kong, Shanghai and beyond.

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Street Scenes - Peking and ShanghaiStreet Scenes - Peking and Shanghai

Amateur film19335 minsSilent Location: Beijing

Join the hustle and bustle of Peking and Shanghai city life with this richly detailed 1930s home movie.

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In China - A Trip on the Imperial CanalIn China - A Trip on the Imperial Canal

Documentary19089 mins Location: Shanghai

Take a cruise through imperial China on the world's longest man-made waterway, the Grand Canal.

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Shanghai China - Personal Film 1 - C. 1937Shanghai China - Personal Film 1 - C. 1937

Amateur film193716 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

Gruesome home movie scenes of metropolitan Shanghai brought to its knees in the first major battle of the Second Sino-Japanese War.

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Chinese SceneChinese Scene

Travelogue19204 minsSilent Location: Suzhou

Take a serene tour of the canals, bridges and pagodas of Suzhou in Eastern China.

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At Home in Shanghai and a Trip to Hong KongAt Home in Shanghai and a Trip to Hong Kong

Amateur film19284 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

Chinese junks and British battleships appear together in this film depicting the 1928 Armistice Day in Hong Kong.

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Shanghai, China c.1937Shanghai, China c.1937

Amateur film193718 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

Ordinary life in extraordinary times - these ex-pats' home-movie snapshots of Shanghai capture the city on the brink of Japanese invasion.

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Refugees in Shanghai: Their Life and Their EducationRefugees in Shanghai: Their Life and Their Education

War194528 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

Fascinating, sometimes harrowing record of life in camps run by international aid agencies following the bombing of Shanghai by the Japanese.

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Marines Arrive in ShanghaiMarines Arrive in Shanghai

Non-Fiction19271 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

Battalions of the Royal Marines and the Coldstream Guards parade through Shanghai as the Chinese Civil War looms.

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Street scenes in ShanghaiStreet scenes in Shanghai

Amateur film193326 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

A Dragon Festival tops the bill in this atmospheric look at life in the streets, parks and harbourside of 1930s Shanghai.

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Wedding Procession - China c.1932/33Wedding Procession - China c.1932/33

Amateur film19324 minsSilent

A sumptuous city wedding, captured on film by a retired British teacher and amateur filmmaker, during a trip to China.

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This Is ChinaThis Is China

Documentary19469 mins

Mesmerising snapshot of a China full of extreme contrasts: Nationalists versus Communists, urban versus rural, advanced versus primitive.

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Allied Reinforcements Allied Reinforcements

Non-Fiction19271 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

Allied forces vigorously parade their strength in China's commercial capital in a bid to protect European interests.

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Our Boys Our Boys

Non-Fiction19271 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

British troops make their presence felt in Shanghai as China slides towards civil war.

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Scenes in Chinese CityScenes in Chinese City

Travelogue19302 minsSilent

Tantalising stock-shot glimpses of mid-century Shanghai, probably snipped from a documentary – but which?

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China TodayChina Today

Travelogue193658 minsSilent Location: Guangzhou

An epic amateur travelogue of eastern China on the cusp of Japanese invasion, filmed by British writer Lady Dorothea Hosie.

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Parades and air-raids in ShanghaiParades and air-raids in Shanghai

Amateur film193717 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

While the bombs fall on Shanghai its foreign expats continue to play, as this unique film shows. But it's only the lull before the storm - because the Japanese are on their way.

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Life in ShanghaiLife in Shanghai

Amateur film193317 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

A Dragon procession, a Japanese beer festival, two duck shoots and a day at the races all feature in this remarkable film from 1930s Shanghai.

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Parades in ShanghaiParades in Shanghai

Amateur film193816 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

The brooding cityscape of 1930s Shanghai appears throughout this film as well as military parades and marches by British troops while Japanese soldiers look on.

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Wedding in Shanghai CathedralWedding in Shanghai Cathedral

Amateur film19280 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

Period fashions and cloche hats abound in this film showing a newly married expat couple and their guests in one of Shanghai's more leafy suburbs.

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A Visit to Fuzhou with the Bradford Dyers Association and Shanghai ViewsA Visit to Fuzhou with the Bradford Dyers Association and Shanghai Views

Amateur film19294 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

The bustling waterways of rural Fouzhou contrast sharply with the frenetic pace of life in Shanghai, as seen in this atmospheric film from the late 1920s.

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Colonial WeddingColonial Wedding

Amateur film19302 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

Cloche-hatted wedding guests, armed with confetti, lie in wait for the newly weds as they exit from a Shanghai church while their limousine gets the treatment.

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Hangzhou and a Trip to the Baochu PagodaHangzhou and a Trip to the Baochu Pagoda

Amateur film19304 minsSilent Location: Hangzhou

The remarkable Baochu pagoda dominates this film about a visit to the West Lake at Hangzhou.

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My Oriental Friends, From Penang to PekingMy Oriental Friends, From Penang to Peking

Amateur film192316 minsSilent Location: Hong Kong

This unique and beautiful tour of Southeast Asia and China is a treasure trove of picturesque views of Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.

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Shanghai c.1932Shanghai c.1932

Amateur film193246 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

Join the Eng family on the long journey by ship from Europe to Shanghai, China