Saturday, March 24, 2012

In Linen

Isn't this lovely. Thank you so much to Lee Ann from Florida who sent me these photos of her precious Ada Lum linen.  This little tea towel clearly demonstrates the beauty and sweetness of Ada Lum's design and the special attention she gave to fabric and details. In an article for McKay's Guide to the Far East and Hawaii‎, Eleanor Cowles Gellhorn writes "Ada Lum has an entrancing collection at her shop at 142 Boundary Road, ... miles out but worth the taxi fare there. She carries exquisite linen, cotton, ...." (Page 101, 1965)  Don't you wish her shop was still there.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

In Search of Ada Lum continued...

A recent e-mail asking for the use of some of my Ada Lum doll photos reminded me that I had never taken the time to go back and share the rest of what I knew about her. So here goes....

On Friday 27 September 1905 Stephen Lum married Matilda Patience Pang youngest daughter of the late Mr. C. Pang, artist. Both were from Adelaide. [The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889-1931) Friday 27 October 1905] According to a 2009 Chinese-Australian Heritage conference article by Paul Jones from the University of Melborne, a son named Gordon Lum Boh Wah was born in Adelaide in 1906.  I could not find any mention of Ada's birth, but she and her brother are included in a sweet obituary notice honoring their grandparents:

Hughes – In loving memory of our darling mother, who was taken August 25, 1922, also dear Dad, died August 25, 1925.
Those who have their parents
Love them while you may,
For they will not always linger-
Too soon they pass away.
-(Inserted by their loving daughter and son-in-law, Tillie and Stephen Lum, also grandchildren Ada and Gordon.)
[The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848-1954) Saturday 28 August 1926]

One article indicated that Stephen Lum's occupation was that of a Melborne merchant [The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848-1954) Monday 28 May 1928]; but Gordon Lum's daughter, Lillian Lum Tsai, relates that her grandparents "migrated Down Under to publish Australia's first Chinese-language newspaper"and that her father was born in Melbourne. (Article: PRO GAME: My Davis Cup Dad, 6/7/99 7:11PM) Ada, herself was known to be a writer as is mentioned in my previous post.

Gordon Lum was an exceptional tennis player and at the encouragement of a friend was lead to move to mainland China. "Such was his skill with racket and ball that he represented China in its challenge for the 1928 Davis Cup, and captained the Chinese team from the following year. Based in Shanghai throughout the 1930s, Lum won every major Chinese tournament and competed in both the singles and doubles at his first appearance at Wimbledon in 1936." (Paul Jones)

Lillian Tsai reflects, "Dad befriended many famous Chinese people when he and his first wife, May, lived in Tientsin (now Tianjin) and Shanghai. He also reportedly played tennis with the last emperor of China, Pu Yi. (It's not as far-fetched as it might seem: In Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor, there's a scene in which Pu Yi plays mixed doubles on a red clay court in the Forbidden City.) Tennis saved Dad a lot of suffering, and perhaps even his life, during World War II. His best friend was tortured by the Japanese -- forced to drink gallons of water until he was severely bloated, after which soldiers jumped on his stomach -- but a Japanese general spared my father the same fate because he wanted to learn how to play tennis. Dad later fled penniless to Hong Kong, where May died of cancer, leaving him alone to raise their son, Raymond."

At some point Ada clearly joined her only brother in Shanghai. An immigration document of the Commonwealth of Australia indicates that Stephen, Matilda Patience, and Ada Marion Patience Lum all left for China per the S.S. Taiping on 13 December 1927.

A niece whom I communicated with in the past, messaged the following information about Ada; but unfortunately I no longer have her contact information. I have every reason to believe the information to be correct and so I will include it here with the disclaimer that I can not currently verify it.

Ada "started her shop 'Ada Lum' in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation. It wasn't safe moving around the city so she spent her time, drawing - designing and developing (making/putting together) the Ada Lum Dolls. In her mind the dolls and Chinese features were appealing, in a pleasant way, to the Western World. (All hand-made).

While the dolls/items started as a hobby for personal pleasure friends amongst the cosmopolitan social circles (of Diplomats, Consulate staff within the French and British Concession Territories) got to see the dolls and by word of mouth, everyone wanted one. That's how the 'business' started and only grew at the end of the 2nd World War (1945 and the presence of the U.S. Fleet and military personnel in Shanghai.) During this time, Aunt Ada added play-clothes, baby bibs, etc for children which were popular souvenir gifts. She (also) added costume jewellery, handicrafts, etc.

When the Communists took over China in 1949, she with her parents and brother moved everything they could take on the last passenger boat to HongKong, where the business continued from (their) home. In 1962, she expanded by setting up shop at the Mandarin Hotel.  [Travel books of this period verify that Ada Lum did have a shop at the Mandarin Hotel on Boundary Street.] She died in 1988 in Hong Kong."

Isn't this an amazing woman and family? There is still so much there between the lines of their history that I wish I could fill in. These are my best efforts for now and I offer them as a tribute to Chinese-Australians, to Ada Lum's memory and in gratefulness to her living relatives.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ada Lum MeiMei and DiDi in Silk

Ada Lum Brother & Sister in silk clothes

MeiMei or "Little Sister"

DiDi or "Little Brother"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hakka Doll

The Hakka people are said to have migrated South from north central China in as early as the 1400s due to times of wars and famine. Not being the original peoples of the lands they came to inhabit; they were known as the "guest people," which is the meaning of Hakka (in Chinese 客家 Kejia). Hakka communities can be found in Guandong, Jiangxi, Fujian, as well as other parts of China (including, of course, Hong Kong), all around the South China Sea, and even in Australia and the US. One article I read, referred to them as the gypsies of China.* The Hakka of the mid-1900's were a unique people... due in part to speaking their own dialect, not practicing footbinding of women, in a fondness for education, and in their unusual living structures and cuisine. Though known for their hospitality, some Hakka clans previously resided in round fortress-type multi-story, earth homes called tulou. A tulou could house hundreds of individuals all sharing a common family name. The Hakka people were typically farmers, though there may have been fisherman among them as well. Hakka women worked the fields while the men sought jobs in the cities or as soldiers. Hakka cuisine is notoriously different, as the people are said to "have made an art of salting and preserving ingredients (pickling), as well as developing tasty dishes from whatever cheap produce was available." Their more well known dishes include: ja dai cheung (deep-fried intestines), yim guk gei (salt-baked chicken), and poon choy (literally dinner in a bucket)." (*Lonely Planet: World Food Hong Kong by Richard Sterling and Elizabeth Chong, 2001, p25) Some internationally recognized Hakka include actor Chow Yun-Fat and former government leader of the People's Republic of China Deng Xiaoping. There are actually many others as well. These "guest people," though often left with the least desirable land, living in poverty, and looked down upon; seem to have a persistent, patient will to triumph over their circumstances.

Clearly, Hakka people were a special and distinct part of the cultural diversity that was Hong Kong during the time that linen crafter, business woman, and dollmaker Ada Lum made her life there; as seen in one of her following creations....

Information gleaned from:
Lonely Planet: China's Southwest
by Damian Harper, 2007, p372
More information about the tulou can be found in:
Lonely Planet: China by Damian Harper et al, 2005, p340
Frommer's China by Simon Foster et al, 2010, p533
Wikipedia: Hakka People

Monday, May 17, 2010


I haven't posted here in such a long time primarily for two reasons: my doll collection is housed in the states and I really don't have very good images to share with you; and it's just hard to find the information I'm searching for. I do have a little bit more on Ada Lum, but have not found the time of energy to work it into a post-able format. I leave you with these photos of one of my mystery dolls. He looks so much like a Lum doll, though somewhat smaller; and carries the attached tag "Sun Wong Doll" and a stamp "Made in Formosa" (Formosa is an old name for Taiwan).

Note the split pants

If you have any knowledge of this doll I would love to hear it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

In Search of Ada Lum

After first discovering the lovely cloth dolls created by Ada Lum, I began to feel very curious as to her life and background. It has not been an easy search, but a very interesting one. I would like now to try and string together some of the information I have uncovered with the disclaimer that the links are still not completely clear and some suppositions have been made.

In the "Sunday Oregonian, Portland," June 21, 1936; American born Chinese actress Anna May Wong writes of her first visit to China. The article is subtitled, "She finds social life of Shanghai even more glamorous than that of American cities." Please note that this is 1936, one year prior to the beginning of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War (which merged into WWII with the bombing of Pearl Harbor) and 13 years prior to the formation of the communist People's Republic of China (when all outside, western influence was shut out of China by the "Bamboo Curtain.") In this article Miss Wong mentions a visit with a woman named Ada Lum.... "After tiffin (a meal at midday; a luncheon) I had a delightful shopping trip with Ada Lum, sister of Gordon Lum, Australia's Chinese tennis champion. (Gordon made his home in Shanghai in the 1930's and perhaps Ada came because he was there.) We went to a number of shops hidden in the byways of the Chinese city, down alleys crusted with grime of past dynasties or in courtyards flanked by ancient temples."

In fact, Miss Lum's residence in Shanghai and her talents and abilities are noted in an even earlier publication. The Chinese Christian Yearbook of 1934 edited by Frank Joseph Rawlinson records that, "Bringing beauty into the home is the aim of Miss Ada Lum, who is a wizard with her hands- and an attractive one at that. Her specialty is decoration of the home, though anything she touches becomes a work of art. She has been most successful in the decoration of children's rooms and nurseries." (pp 87-88)

And Perry Burgess also came in contact with Miss Lum in Shanghai in the course of his leprosy work. He writes in his autobiography Born of Those Years,

"Miss Ada Lum, Chinese in descent and English (?) in citizenship, a friend of many years standing, was a writer who carried a column in one of the English papers. (It should be noted that Miss Lum's niece remembers the Lum family occupation as creating an early Chinese-language newspaper in Australia) Ada was on the Japanese blacklist because of her outspoken articles. Her friends were greatly concerned, but she shrugged her shoulders at their warnings, continued to write and speak her mind, and managed to survive.

She has a pleasing personality and was a leader in community and welfare activities, especially Red Cross work. Some of my most delightful evenings in China in peacetime had been spent in her company when she took me and other friends to restaurants for unusual native dishes. Ada is a cultivated gourmet so these dinners were memorable affairs, although she achieved her fine results by taking tyrannical charge of the restaurant's kitchen until the meal was served to her liking. Ada took it upon herself to be our guide, showing Cora and me the wreckage of the city. The people, their homes destroyed, simply camped on the streets or in the doorways of half-shattered buildings." (pp148-149)

This brings us to Miss Ada Lum's community service in the early stages of war. Evidently she had already begun working with the Red Cross as in "China Monthly Review," a Shanghai English language journal published by John W. Powell, she was noted for having written at least two articles related to this humanitarian work. One was a special Red Cross supplement of December 4, 1937 entitled, "Hospital for Refugee Children."

An article in the "Rochester Democrat and Chronicle," dated Sunday, January 2, 1938, and entitled "Priest Saves 115,000 Chinese Lives in War;" includes a photograph of Ada Lum dressed in her Red Cross uniform alongside French Jesuit Priest Father Jacquinot. The photo caption includes the information that Ada Lum is the sister of former Chinese Davis Cup player Gordon Lum and was then involved in the aid of Shanghai refugees. Father Jacquinot de Besange is known for courageously setting up a Safe Zone for Chinese in Shanghai. A similar Safety Zone was set up in Nanjing; but as with the rest of this city, it was not truly safe.

I will come to a close here noting that at some point Ada Lum removed from Shanghai to HongKong, but I will leave this and some family background for another post....

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pauline Bjonness-Jacobsen

pictured (left) 1986 Liberty doll (right) 1985 Jade with Panda

I am always on the look out for lovely cloth dolls - those with sweetly painted or embroidered expressions and great attention to detail in their make and clothing. In doing so, I was naturally drawn to Dolls by Pauline, the company encompassing the fine workmanship, creativity, and heart of doll maker Pauline Bjonness-Jacobsen. While Dolls by Pauline have many delightful vinyl and porcelain creations, I have most admired their cloth ones.

This is truly a family business birthed out of the sensitivity, vision, and artistry of a special woman. Please check out their website and read the "inspiration story" of how as a girl Pauline choose the doll Emma for her own, how Emma comforted her through fear and suffering, and eventually how Pauline saw her own joy made complete in giving Emma away.

Pauline was born in Makkassar, Indonesia to Capt. Josef and Paulina Hoen. She survived internment in a Japanese concentration camp during WWII. Later her family was able to return to Holland. She studied in Switzerland and went on to live in Hong Kong. She met her husband Mick Bjonness-Jacobsen there; and they raised their family all over southeast Asia (Borneo, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Philippines). Finally they settled in West Vancouver, Canada. Pauline loved drawing and sculpting and out of these passions by the 1970's Dolls by Pauline came into being. Her dolls have been sold on qvc and through other venues, and are quite recognizable by their delicate features and wide intent eyes.

On October 7, 2006 Pauline Bjonness-Jacobsen passed away peacefully in her sleep. She had been diagnosed with colon cancer 3 years prior; and yet continued to work on illustration and doll design. Her children Liesbet, Mikkel, and Ernst; who have shared in the business for over 20 years, continue in her rich tradition of careful attention to quality and detail and capturing the tender charm of childhood. For the love of dolls.

This above information is rewritten from DOLLSBYPAULINE's wonderful site.

Modern Dolls

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