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62nd IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 25-31, 1996

German Influence on the Press in China

Hartmut Walravens
Berlin State Library, Germany


The contribution of Germans to the press in China is very small, and it might be more rewarding to investigate the role of other nations like Great Britain and the USA in this respect. Well-known missionaries like James Legge (and his lettr Wang Tao), W. A. P. Martin, and Timothy Richards, but also business men like Frederick and Ernest Major (the founders of the Shenbao, and the famous Dianshiz hai huabao) as well as John C. Ferguson were involved in the development of the Chinese press while William Gamble at the American Presbyterian Mission Press was instrumental in solving some problems of Chinese movable type printing, and the French Jesuits at Ziccawei (Xujiawei) introduced the technique of lithography into China.


The first attempts by a German in China to publish a news serial were probably due to Karl Friedrich August Gtzlaff (Guo Shila), a Protestant missionary from Pomerania. He started his Dongxiyang kao meiyue tongjichuan at Canton (Guangzhou) in 1833 and continued it, with a gap of several years, until 1838. Gtzlaff was a versatile evangelist who followed the traditional Jesuit method of mixing sci entific and geographical knowledge and news items with unobtrusive information on christianity. Gtzlaff probably borrowed the first part of the title from Zhang Xie's geographical treatise Dongxiyang kao (1618) while the second part is in line with William Milne's Chashisu meiyue tongjichuan (Malacca 1815). But this publication can only be regarded as a forerunner of the press. The oldest German- language paper in China was the Ostasiatischer Lloyd, founded in 1889 in Shanghai as a daily and edited by von Gundlach, later on by Bruno Navarra, and from 1900 to 1917 by Carl Fink (1861-1943) who changed it into a weekly. It had a widespread readership all over the German communities in China and South-East Asia. Its contents covered politics and economy but there were a number of good cultura l contributions. In 1904 Fink published an illustrated monthly magazine Der ferne Osten of which the North China Daily News offered an English version but this was given up after only a few issues. Xiehebao was a Chinese weekly published by the Ostasiatischer Lloyd under the editorship of Karl Fischer. Fink has been instrumental in building up a German news service for East Asia (Deutscher Nachri chtendienst fr Ostasien), and there is no doubt among specialists that the Ostasiatischer Lloyd, especially under his editorship, has been not only the first but also the best German newspaper in China.

The first German newspaper in North China was published in Tientsin under the title of Tageblatt fr Nordchina while the Brigade-Zeitung served the needs of the military railway guard stationed in North China until 1906.

It is not so well known that to the periodical of the Chinese reform movement, Shiwubao, a daily under the title Shiwu ribao was added in 1898. In connection with the suppression of the reform movement it soon changed its title to Zhongwai ribao and was able to continue publication under the roof of a German firm whose proprietor was nobody else than Carl Fink! Later on the newspaper, however, sw itched over to the reactionary side.

Qingdao with its German garrison and a relatively large German community had three German papers, the Deutsch-Asiatische Warte (until 1906, weekly; with an interesting cultural supplement Die Welt des Ostens. Altes und Neues aus Asiens drei Kaiserreichen. Taidong gujin jian. Edited by V. Roehr), Tsingtauer Neueste Nachrichten (1905-1914, daily; edited by Fritz Secker), and Kiautschou Post (1908-1 912, daily).

Hankou also had a German paper, The Hankow Daily News, published in English but edited by a German. The outbreak of the World War I led to a close-down of German publishing in Qingdao as the Japanese took over there. In other parts of China the interest in news from Germany had grown, and as the circulation of the Ostasiatischer Lloyd to other countries was becoming more and more difficult, its e ditors started another daily, Deutsche Zeitung fr China which became quite successful. The same applies to The War which was published three times a week in English and found its readers among the Chinese population and foreign communities. In addition, regular news-bulletins were published in German and English, which disseminated the news received from Germany via America. This came to an end, of course, when the United States entered the war. A satirical weekly was published for some time in Shanghai under the title Wau Wau. It attempted to follow along the lines of the well-known Munich paper Simplicissimus but was not very convincing. China's entry into the war, in August, 1917, put an end to the German press for some time. Like all other enterprises, also the German papers were clo sed down in March 1919, and most Germans were repatriated. Already in 1922, Fritz Secker tried to publish the Deutsche China Post but had to give up after three months. In 1925 P. Kettner, an idiosyncratic Protestant pastor, apparently of the militant type, started his Deutscher Ostasien-Bote (weekly) which was mostly written by himself. It seems to have had little influence and came to an end wh en the editor died in 1931.

A German daily started in Harbin in 1929 under the title Deutsch-Mandschurische Nachrichten. While there was a potential clientele in Harbin owing to many people from Russia and the Baltic states who understood and read German the paper offered little to interest a wider circle of readers. The editor was not a professional journalist but an engineer, and the main asset of the paper were the adver tisements while the news section was very poor. In 1930 the paper was transferred to Tientsin and the title changed to Deutsch-Chinesische Nachrichten. Its performance improved but it still looked like a province town paper.

For half a year a self-taught sinologist, Jonny Hefter, was responsible for the feuilleton part; and during this time quite a number of excerpts from the Chinese press were printed. Later on the the paper, like the most other German media in China, were under the control of the National-Socialist Party. 1932 saw the establishment of the Deutsche Shanghai Zeitung, owned and edited by the former ar my captain Max Simon-Eberhard. The paper's performance was rather poor but there was an improvement when a professional journalist, Paul Huldermann, took over. In January 1936 the paper was reorganized and renamed Ostasiatischer Lloyd to profit from the reputation from the former newspaper.

On the 1st of October, 1932, Theo Eckardt started the two-weekly illustrated China-Dienst; while the editor was not a journalist by profession he was an old China hand and an experienced man. The paper had a good coverage, the articles were well-founded, and there were good contributors, among them several young German sinologists. Unfortunately, the paper came to an end when Eckardt died at the end of 1934. The official organ of the China group of the National-Socialist Party was published in Shanghai as of 1933 as Mitteilungs-und Verordnungsblatt der Landesgruppe China der NSDAP (monthly). From 4 typewritten and mimeographed pages and an edition of 325 copies it grew within three years to an 8 page publication and 800 copies, under the title Ostasiatischer Beobachter. Later on its size increased to 50 pages and an edition of 2,000 copies.

A purely literary publication was the monthly Die Dschunke, edited by Erich Wilberg in Beijing, from 1940 to 1945. Altogether 63 issues were published and printed by Vincenz Hundhausen at his Poplar Island Press (Pappelinsel-Werkstatt, yangshudao) as he called his publishing establishment not far from the Southwestern corner of the former Beijing city wall. Wilberg, a journalist by profession, wa s shot by accident near his Beijing home in 1948.

Vincenz Hundhausen (Hong Taosheng)1, a masterly translator of Chinese drama and poetry, and for a number of years professor of German at Beijing University, was responsible for a series of special issues of Deutsch-Chinesische Nachrichten. These Sonderausgaben (tekan) were edited by himself and contained articles, texts and translations in memory of famous people on the occasion of their annivers aries, like Goethe (1932), Spinoza (1932), Schiller (1934), Wieland (1933), Humboldt (1935), Platen (1936), and Horace (1936). They were well illustrated and consisted of a German and a Chinese section each, and boasted excellent contributors from both sides.

It should be noted that most of the German news reached China in those days through the Transocean News Service from Germany, from the 1920s onwards by short-wave transmission. The official German news office in Beijing (Deutsches Nachrichtenbro) was headed by Herbert Mueller2, a lawyer and sinologist by training, who was known for his collection of Chinese art. It may be mentioned in passing th at there was a Deutschland Institute in Beijing in those days which acted as a cultural institute. Among its publications were three volumes of Sinologische Arbeiten (Beijing 1943-1945) and a Chinese edition of Forschungen and Fortschritte, a journal devoted to the advancement of science, which was published also in Spanish (Yanjiu yu jinbu). Manager of the Deutschland-Institut was during its lat er years Wolfgang Franke (Fu Wukang), later Professor of Chinese at the University of Hamburg3.

An unexpected stimulus to the German-language press in China was due to the growing persecution of Jews and non-conformists in Germany under the Hitler regime. By the late 1930s almost all countries had closed their borders to the refugees, and Shanghai remained the only place which they could enter without a visa. Suddenly there was a large German community in Shanghai, and it was not surprising that there were attempts to start a German press. The Ostasiatischer Lloyd (the former Deutsche Shanghai Zeitung, not to be confused with the earlier publication) did not count because it was the voice of the National-Socialists. At the middle of March 1939 Wolfgang Fischer established his Schanghai-Woche. It did not only cover the situation of the emigrs but also touched on world politics and included articles on economy and the arts. After the Japanese occupation it featured Japanese language courses regularly. Another weekly was started on May 3rd under the title Shanghai Jewish Chronicle (Shanghai yutai yuekan), edited by Ossi Lewin, J. Kastan and Horwitz. It was soon (June) turned into a daily but had to struggle for its existence. It was saved by the outbreak of World War II whe n the demand for news increased. The Chronicle adressed itself «to the Jews of the Far East and especially those of the German speaking community. It printed international news, frequently with reference to Jewish interests, and also covered problems of the emigration. About one third of the eight to sixteen pages of one issue were filled with advertisements. The Ward Road News (named after the m ain street in the Hongqiu quarter), eventually renamed The Shanghai Post, was established on April 30, 1939. It comprised from six to eight pages, about half of which were covered by advertisements. Besides some general political news the paper focused on the emigrant community and featured a column Familien-Nachrichten aus der alten Heimat with birthdays and deaths of the European relatives of t he emigrants. The Gemeindeblatt der Jdischen Kultusgemeinde was started on September 15, 1939, also by The Shanghai Publishers (proprietors Max Nacht and Georg Laske), limited its contents to religious matters. Approximately one third was filled with advertisements. Both papers did not have a long life. The Shanghai Post started a noon edition S. Z. am Mittag (Schanghai Zeitung am Mittag) in Nove mber 1939 but ceased publication again on Jan. 15, 1940. It consisted of a sheet of four pages.

Der Querschnitt (Dewen zhoubao) comprising four pages was started on July 8, 1939, «for the preservation of common interests». It was devoted to emigrant problems, and the editor, Egon Varro, showed a critical and somewhat militant attitude.

A major event was the publication of the monthly Die gelbe Post (Huangpao banyuekan) by A. J. Storfer who had been a writer in Switzerland and Germany, correspondent for the Frankfurter Zeitung in Vienna and founder of the Psychoanalytischer Verlag which published works by Sigmund Freud. In 1932 Storfer moved again to Berlin and worked for Ullstein Publishers. In December 1938 he emigrated to Sha nghai. The Gelbe Post soon had the reputation of being one of the best edited periodicals in Asia. In October 1939 Storfer announced his intention of turning his journal into a weekly (November 17, 1939), a bi-weekly (Jan. 6, 1940) and eventually a daily. When the latter was done on March 1, 1940 the competitor Shanghai Jewish Chronicle had completely reorganised its presentation with the help of two Vienna journalists, Ladislaus Frank and Mark Siegelberg, and Storfer had to struggle considerably. The size of Gelbe Post ranged from six to ten pages. As to the contents the newspaper expert Lwenthal commented: «The contents of this newspaper have necessarily become more popularized as compared to the time when it appeared as a semi-monthly. At the time of the outbreak of the Pacific War S torfer managed to get to Australia where he died later on.

In the meantime the Schanghai-Woche had started a noon bulletin which was subsequently changed into an evening paper, Acht-Uhr-Abendblatt. By 1940 Shanghai had 3 German dailies, two morning and one evening paper. In addition there were journals like Tribne, and Laterne (edited by Heinz Ganther). The Jewish Community published the Jdisches Gemeindeblatt which was distributed by Werbeverlag Philipp Kohn. A Berlin journalist, Gnther Lenhardt, established the Shanghai Herald but the Shanghai Jewish Chronicle remained the leading paper; in the meantime it had formed an association with Fischer's Acht-Uhr-Abendblatt. In 1941 Dr. Frank left the Chronicle and started the Schanghai-Morgenpost, in cooperation with China Press, one of the leading English papers. But on Dec. 8, 1941, the day of the Japanese occupation, the offices of the Morgenpost were closed while the Chronicle proved cooperative and continued. It was suppressed by the Americans in October 1945, in spite of the paper's zionist tendencies. Soon after the Chronicle ceased publishing, Heinz Ganther founded the twice-weekly Die neue Zeit. Dr. Frank took it over at the end of December and published it as of Jan. 6 as a daily u nder the title Shanghai Journal. On March 1, 1946 the Shanghai Journal formed an affiliation with The Shanghai Herald which then published The Shanghai Herald / German Language Supplement. Almost simultaneously with the establishment of Die neue Zeit, the Jdisches Nachrichtenblatt (weekly) changed its title to Jewish Voice, under the editorship of Ludwig Schäfer.

During the years of the Japanese occupation it was very difficult to publish good papers - one either had to concentrate on emigration problems, or cooperate like the Chronicle.4

While representing only a little mosaic stone in China's press history, the German influence is nevertheless varied, colourful and for the most part unresearched. The major obstacle to historians is the rarity of the source material which has suffered from the destruction of two world wars in Germany, suppression and emigration, and by the historical development in China itself, which had other p riorities than collecting and preserving ephemeral publications by foreigners. Nevertheless it would be desirable to collect the extant materials and make them available for scholarly research.

1 A monograph on him is in preparation.

2 On him see H. Walravens: Herbert Mueller (1885-1966), Sinologe, Kunsthändler, Jurist und Journalist. Eine biobibliographische Skizze. Berlin 1992. 206 pp. (Han-pao tung-Ya shu-chi mu-lu.45.)

3 see his Im Banne Chinas. Autobiographie eines Sinologen.1912-1950. Bochum 1995. 248 pp.

4 For an example of the activities of a German-Jewish journalist in Shanghai see the list of publications of Willy Tonn in Monumenta Serica.42.1994,472-481.