Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dutch Retake Xiamen & Tigers

Bill Brown ... Xiamen University

The Dutch Recapture Amoy!
Well, I've found my new career--Tour Guide! I've been asked many times over the years to guide groups, especially on Gulangyu, but I've never done it, except for family and friends (and the U.S. Ambassador a couple years ago). But Mr. Olivier Sieuw, in Beijing, asked me several times to lead a group of 11 Dutch folk on a tour of historic Gulangyu colonial architecture--and it turned out to be a lot of fun. What was really surprising was that one of the guests, who was a former Dutch Ambassador, had no idea that Xiamen used to be Amoy until I signed his copy of "Discover Gulangyu" with "Enjoy Amoy."

The group fell in love with Xiamen, once they came to understand our rich history, and centuries of relations with Europe. And the former Dutch Ambassador told me that he saw in an antique market in Holland a beautiful large oil painting of Amoy harbor in the 19th century, with foreign ships flying their flags of many nations! He'll try to get a photo of it for me, and permission to use it in my upcoming book "Old Xiamen in Foreigners' Eyes."

The Dutch group were surprised to learn that the Netherlands and Amoy have a history together of almost 500 years, and that the Chinese-European Art Center at Xiamen University was started by a lady from Holland, Mrs. Ineke Gudmundsson.

But one thing the Dutch had a hard time believing was that Xiamen had tigers right on Xiamen island and Gulangyu Island! I told them the story of little Nancy Theobold finding the tiger in her backyard on Gulangyu. And below are a couple of tidbits about Amoy Tigers (or South China Tiger, but called Amoy Tiger because this is the area they roamed). By the way....a friend of mine had an aunt killed by a man--eating tiger not far from Xiamen--in the 1960s.

(by Miss D’Almeida, 1863, p. 285)
A gentleman took us to see a young tiger, between six and seven months old, which was so tame that it followed him about like a dog, and seemed quite pleased when we patted his head. The gentleman told us he paid ten dollars for him when he was first caught, a few months prior to the time we saw him, and that he had now sold him to the English Consul for a hundred pounds. I believe it is intended for the Zoological Gardens in London, where it will figure as the first from China ever seen there, and where we may some day renew our acquaintance with the tiger of Amoy.

“Mr. H. R. Bruce brought into Amoy the largest tiger that had ever been seen in that place, measuring over nine feet from nose to tip of tail.”
September 20th, 1888. Diary of Events in the Far East, Chinese Recorder, Vol. 19, Nov., 1888, p. 540

"Two things in Fukien impressed Marco Polo: the beauty of the women and the size of its tigers." Mackenzie-Grieves, 1959, p. 69

Chinese Vampires in Old Xiamen! (Think tigers are bad? Check out the true story of these horrible creatures!).

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