Representatives from the Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China joined CSUN faculty and staff June 30 to discuss the history of people who migrated to and lived in China before the government came to power in 1949.
These people, called “Old China Hands,” were the subject of the academic symposium, held in the Oviatt Library, which was part of a five-day event. The Old China Hands archive, also located in the Oviatt Library, was opened after the symposium.
According to Robert Gohstand, project director of the archive, the term “Old China Hand” refers to select people who migrated to China between 1840 and 1949. Gohstand said about 80 percent of the people who attended the symposium were Old China Hands.
“The Old China Hand period (from 1840 to 1949) was very influential, because it was representative of cultural contact between the rest of the world and China,” Gohstand said.
Gohstand said the mission of the archive is to collect, catalog and preserve written, printed, graphic audio, and video materials that pertain to Old China Hands.
“The archive is (designed) to promote the study of the history of Old China Hands,” Gohstand said.
Chen Wentie, a representative from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, presented a paper at the symposium titled, “Cherished Memories of Homecity: An Insight into the History and the Future of Jews and Shanghai.”
Chen, who is currently working on a Ph.D. at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, said about 30,000 European Jews fled to Shanghai in order to escape from the Nazi Holocaust during World War II.
Chen discussed various topics, including ties between Jewish immigrants and Shanghai, contributions made by the Jews and the future for Jews and Shanghai.
Ester Shifren, an Old China Hand who attended the symposium, said her family was one of the first to arrive in Shanghai from India in the early 1840s. Shifren said her family was in Shanghai for approximately 100 years, spanning five generations. She was 10-years-old when she left Shanghai.
“It was just a wonderful experience growing up in China,” Shifren said. “There are a whole lot of us here who were in China for many generations. We played a major part in the history and development of Shanghai and its people.”
Shifren said she is writing a book about the culture and the environment in Shanghai, as well as her personal experiences there. Shifren said she is considering titling the book, “The Children at the Party in Shanghai: Five Generations of a Jewish Family in Shanghai.”
“I have always loved these events,” Shifren said. “It gives people who have a unique background the chance to get together.”
Ed Immergluck, another Old China Hand, is organizing a September 2006 reunion that will be held in Portland, Ore.
Gohstand, who works as a volunteer for the archive, said he heard that the delegates from Shanghai Jiao Tong University were quite impressed with CSUN.
“I am very pleased with the whole thing,” Gohstand said. “Old China Hands live on as a group, and live on as individuals through their identities.”