I was a VDARE.COM reader before I was a VDARE.COM writer, and I got my job here as result of repeatedly emailing Peter Brimelow. In September of 2000, I read John Derbyshire's article, Importing Sino-Fascism? JD wrote
"As Steven W. Mosher has documented in his new book Hegemon: The Chinese Plan to Dominate Asia and the World, the Communists have been at pains to replace the discredited Marxist-Leninist rationale for their rule with nationalism of the grossest and coarsest type. Chinese school history textbooks make no mention of the 1959-61 famine—in terms of the number dead, a greater human calamity than WW2—but dwell bitterly on the tale about a sign saying NO DOGS OR CHINESE at the entrance to a Shanghai park in the 1920s. (Does anybody know if this story is true?)"
I took that as a challenge, and since I happened to be physically in the stacks of large university library when I read it, I was able to pull a round dozen books about 1930's Shanghai off the shelf, including (this is important) books written in the 20's and 30's.
And, as I wrote Derbyshire at the time, it's not true. The closest thing to a contemporary confirmation is a note in Foreign Affairs magazine from 1927, saying that "old residents say" that the sign had formerly said "No dogs or Chinese." But, apparently no photograph of such a sign has ever been found.
Huangpu Park was a park in a section of Shanghai which was set aside for foreigners, known as the Bund. The park built, paid for, and reserved for the use of Europeans. The sign did not say "No dogs or Chinese" but was a list of ten regulations, one of which was that you couldn't bring your dog, one of which was that park was reserved for Europeans, and the other eight are of no importance, as far as I know.
The conflict arose because there was something of a Chinese population explosion in the Bund; thousands of Chinese moved there. Why?
Because of extraterritoriality. The Chinese had guaranteed to the international community in Shanghai that they would be free from the vicious and cruel Chinese laws. And freedom from cruel and vicious laws appealed not only to Europeans, but to Chinese. Result: overcrowding. Sound familiar?
By the way, after going to the trouble of looking at actual physical books, I found that the myth had actually been debunked by William McGurn in National Review [!] in 1994, under the headline of Mad dogs and Chinamen, an article pointing out that modern Chinese are now exhibiting racist, exclusionary behavior to Filipina maids.
"And the infamous sign from atop the Bund? Again, the news is not comforting for those who associate all villainy with the West. In 1973 Richard Hughes returned to Shanghai after many years of absence and devoted his subsequent column in the Far Eastern Economic Review to puncturing the legend. The sign, he said, was not a sign at all but 'a paragraph in a great list of municipal proscriptions—in Chinese, never in English—which was exhibited outside the park from 1868 until 1925. Following the May 30 demonstrations in that year, the British quietly removed it.' That may explain the origins. But no one has yet explained how so many people came to believe otherwise.
"Until now, that is. Lynn Pan, author of several books on Shanghai, says the source of the myth was revealed to her during a visit to the basement of the Shanghai Museum. In the course of her research for a just-released photo essay on old Shanghai, she stumbled across not one but an entire cache of 'No Dogs or Chinese' signs that had been manufactured by Party authorities to parade before visiting foreign delegations as evidence that Noel Coward really had it right when he linked mad dogs with Englishmen.
'People swear until they are blue in the face that they saw it on the Gardens,' says Miss Pan, who fled the city with her family in the 1950s. 'But it was never there.' Perhaps it was the noonday sun.
If you want to see what such a sign would have looked like if it actually existed, you can rent Fist Of Fury, in which Bruce Lee kicks the fictional sign to pieces, and then, in the heat of Chinese nationalism, beats the hell out of a whole bunch of stereotyped Japanese villains.
If you want to see some signs from Chinese history which have some actual existence, go here Or here, where you can see ceramic figures of scholars being abused by the Red Guards during Cultural Revolution.
I saw a figure like that in Chinese shop this afternoon, dunce cap, AK-47, "counter-revolutionary scholar sign and all.
The signs the Red Guards hung around the necks of almost anyone they considered a part of the ancien regime were seen by millions and worn by thousands.
They, alas, are not mythical at all.