Sunday, 13 March 2011

Kuling Thoughts

Meilu Villa
They say you learn something new every day; at least this is an an approach to life  that I try to adopt..

I mentioned earlier in an earlier article that we discovered that there were now two Chinese channels on New Zealand television when we returned for Singapore.

From time to time there is a good documentary and today was no exception.  The programme's focus was on Lushan Mountain which is in Jiangxi Province, sprawling alongside the Changjiang (Yangtze) River and near Poyang Lake.

A great number of Westerners came to the Mt.Lushan area during the period from the reign of Qing Emperor Kangxi (1662-1722) to the reign of Emperor Guangxu (1875-1908).

There they engaged in business, missionary work, cultural and educational work, scientific research, and the operation of hospitals.

In 1886 a European missionary and opportunist businessman, Edward Selby Little came to China.  Then aged 22,  he carried a map of the world and a guidebook to China which had been compiled by a British missionary.  Such were the travel preparations of the day!

He saw Mt Lushan as an ideal retreat from the heat of the valley below for the western expatriates based there.  The middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze river plains get extremely hot in summer and his compatriots from Shanghai to Nanjing were literally getting hot under the collar.

Through a combination of bluff, bribery and persuasion he managed to secure the lease form the rapidly disintegrating Qing dynasty.

In consideration of both the Chinese name of this town, Guniuling, and an implication of “cooling,” Little gave this place a new name - “Kuling".  He then subdivided the land and sold the plots off, although technically the land was not a concession; it remained a lease.

He also built a 12 mile track up the mountain that wound through tea plantations.  A British family ran the general store and the Fairy Glen Hotel.

The son of a London banker opened the Journey's End Inn on the lower slopes and is reputed to have equipped the rooms with both bibles and volumes of French pornography.

By the 1920s, Lushan was already home to more than 800 villas representing the architectural styles of 20 nations, including the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and Sweden.

The western-style villas left by Edward Selby Little and his followers used to be Lushan's most precious attractions.

The most famous of the houses built there is Meilu Villa, which in its time housed both Mao Zedong  and Chiang Kai-shek, the former leader of Kuomintang and later 'founder' of Taiwan.

“Meilu” was constructed in 1903 by a British madame, and later presented by her as a gift, to her friend Soong Mei-ling, wife of Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the then central government.

Guling was handed back to China by the British in 1935 but by then Edward Selby Little had long since departed.

He became a senior officer in the British Colonial service and moved to New Zealand's North Island where he became one of the founding fathers of Keri Keri settlement.

The land on which the famous Kororipo Maori  pa stood was gifted back to the nation by Edward Selby Little and both he and members of his family are buried at the cemetery of the St James Church in Kerikeri, overlooking the pa, and the country he loved.

By strange coincidence we are planning to have our first New Zealand short holiday in Keri Keri, which is a three and a half hour drive north of Auckland
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