Mudcat Café message #1266637 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #57206   Message #1266637
Posted By: Shanghaiceltic
08-Sep-04 - 05:28 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Yangtse River Shanty
Subject: RE: Origins: Yangtse River Shanty
To add a bit of historical background to the thread here are some interesting links which have photographs of ships of the period that the shanty was written in.

The China station was srongly defended by both the RN, USN the Imperial German Navy and the French Navy at that time.

Shanghai was a main port for many of the ships which patrolled the Yangtze River. However the Yangtze is not the name given to the river by mainland Chinese. Here it is known as the Chang Jiang, the Long River. It provided (and still does)a route deep inland to Wuhan, Nanjing (Nanking) and Chongqing (Chungking).

There were also naval ports in Qingdao and Weihaiwei in Shandong province.

The origin of so many ports and heavily gunned ships was of course the fight with the Chinese over the import of opium form India, what became known as the Opium Wars.

Hong Kong was granted to the UK after the defeat of the Chinese in the Opium War, they objected to foreigners importing opium and saw it as an illegal trade. Many captians of RN ships also disliked defending traders who were breaking the countries laws but politics prevailed and they did their duty.

Following the collapse of the Imperial throne in 1912 when Sun Yat Sen staged the first revolution to depose imperial rule and the then chaos that followed when his colleagues hijacked the revolution for there own ends China descended into anarchy. War Lords ruled many areas inland and pirates tried to contol trade routes, the foriegn powers increased their military presence to protect their business interests.

So the China station became an important area for the navy to operate in.

French site covering RN ships in China around 1920

RN ships in China. English site

Letter from sailors on the Yangtze

The reference in the song to 'the lotus lady' could be a reference to her having bound feet, a common thing amongst women of the time.