The Shanghai Paper Hunt
“In the beginning, as we can well understand, means of recreation were somewhat limited. Indeed, an old resident has described wheelbarrow races up and down the Bund as an after dinner amusement on summer evenings!”4
When foreigners arrived in old Shanghai, they found themselves with rather an excess of free time. Eventually, they moved on from wheelbarrow races on the Bund and organized a multitude of recreational activities – so many, in fact, that there is an entire directory of expat clubs and associations of the Concession Era!
Possibly the most unique of these organizations was the Shanghai Paper Hunt Club. The British, who feel the need to go hunting wherever they find themselves, were disappointed to find that Shanghai did not have the relevant animals for a proper hunt. At first, they tried to hunt members wearing red cowls on their heads, but when this did not work, they created the paper chase – the next best thing to a good old fashioned fox hunt.
“Paper-hunting is a popular sport among cross-country riders, and well attended meets under the auspices of the Shanghai Paper Hunt Club are held at week-ends during the season.”5
One member of the team would ride ahead to act as the hunted prey, marking the trail with colored paper. The hunt took place in the countryside around Shanghai on small horses called “China Ponies” – Club rules forbade the use of ponies over 14 hands high. The first recorded paper chase at the club occurred in December 1863, and was won by Augustus Brown on a pony called Mud.
In September 1937, Stanley Wang (educated at Cambridge) became the first Chinese man to be elected a steward. Fritz Kaufmann, a German Jewish businessman who lived in Shanghai from 1931-1949, won the Paper Hunt in 1939 – his trophy, among other possessions, was donated to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. At first, women could only be honorary members and were not allowed to not hold office, so they created a Ladies Paper Hunt Club – rules were modified to be more accepting of women in 1929.
Trails were established through local farm lands from November to March, when the lands lay fallow. Riders complained of hostility from the local Chinese farmers, who resented this presumptuous encroachment on their lands and occasionally threw rocks or sabotaged the trails. Some trails ran perilously close to ancestral grave mounds, forcing riders to swerve around or leap over them. The Club made payments to local officials to placate the disgruntled farmers, pay for damaged farmland, and rebuild bridges and trails in amounts ranging from $18 in 1889 to $5000 annually in the late 1920s. Still, as late as 1940 the Club began its season with riders faced by demonstrating farmers carrying sticks to block their way.
Check out this video of the Paper Hunt from 1934, featured on Historic Shanghai’s YouTube account!
1. Bickers, R. (2012, May 25). A hunting we will go. In Visualising China Blog. Retrieved from <http://visualisingchina.net/blog/2012/05/25/a-hunting-we-will-go/>. Accessed 13 Aug 2014.
2. Ditmanson, P. B. (2008). Scholar’s Commentary: The Paper Chase by Joseph Swan. <http://www.movingimagesincontext.org/collections/branch/paperchase/>. Accessed 13 Aug 2014.
3. Djordjevic, N. (2009). Old Shanghai Clubs & Associations: A Directory of the Rich Life of Foreigners in Shanghai. Hong Kong: Earnshaw Books.
4. Hawks Pott, F. L. (1928). A Short History of Shanghai. Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh Ltd.
5. (1934) All About Shanghai and Environs: A Standard Guidebook. Shanghai: Shanghai University Press.
6. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Shanghai Paper Hunt Club silver trophy cup awarded to a German Jewish businessman in Shanghai. <http://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn518150> Accessed 13 Aug 2014.