A Picture of Swiss Presence In Shanghai Before 1949

What was the greatest passion of the Swiss in Shanghai one hundred years ago?

- Of course the Rifle competition.

Have you ever thought about implementing the Swiss model to some other place in the world?
- Chinese newspaper in Shanghai discussed about the Swiss model in 1937 and was thinking about developing Shanghai to another Switzerland in Asia.

Who was the first European interviewed with Mao Zedong in Yan’an?
- Walter Bosshard from Switzerland was the first European reporter reached the “red capital” Yan’an in early Mai 1938 and interviewed with Mao.


If you know the answers to all the questions above, you were probably among the audience at swissnex on Nov. 13th evening. In collaboration with swissnex China, swisscham, the Consulate General of Switzerland organized an event addressing the topic of Swiss Presence in Shanghai before 1949. The Keynote speakers in the evening were Ms. Bao Zhong from Shanghai Library and Dr. Daniel Nerlich from ETH Zurich.


Ms. Zhong works for the Department of Foreign Historical Documentation of Shanghai Library. She studied History in China and Switzerland and is currently engaged in history research on German and Swiss residents in Shanghai. Ms. Zhong used plentiful historical material e.g. newspaper, manuscript, etc. to illustrate the life of Swiss residents in Shanghai before 1949. The first Swiss residents in Shanghai are traced back to 19th century. Most of they were settled in the French Concession and the international Settlement.  Before the founding of Swiss General Consulate in Shanghai in 1921, the Swiss Rifle Club, later the Swiss Club, was the most active Swiss organization in Shanghai since 1911. The Swiss Club organized the annual Rifle competitions and also the Swiss National Day Celebration. The Swiss residents in Shanghai celebrated Swiss National Day on 1st August with an official reception at noon and an informal dinner with dancing in the evening. The Swiss National Day Celebration in Shanghai even got Chinese media attention in the 1920s. The annual celebration of Swiss National Day was suspended in 1940 due to the severe political situation in Shanghai. In 1941, however, on the occasion of the 650th birthday of Switzerland, the Swiss National Day was celebrated on the largest scale before 1949. The ceremony consisted of the official talk from the Consul General, the singing the National Anthem of Switzerland and the traditional Swiss sport “Schwingen”. Ms. Zhong drew the conclusion that Switzerland has gained the main stream media attention in China at that time and the Swiss residents here helped shape parts of Shanghai’s history.


Dr. Daniel Nerlich is the deputy director of the Achieves of Contemporary History at ETH Zurich. He just completed his three-month sabbatical program at swissnex. During the three months in China, his main project was to reiterate the path of Walter Bosshard from Xi’an to Ya’an. In Dr. Nerlich’s talk, he depicted the adventurous life of Walter Bosshard and his own experiences and encounters during the trip. The documentary film of Walter Bosshard’s interview with Mao Zedong was also shown during the presentation. Dr. Nerlich will be back in Zurich upon finishing his sabbatical in Shanghai. But he is eager to come back in China again for the next adventure. If you want to know more about Dr. Nerlich’s work in China, please click here.


--- Contributed by Meijun Liu, Academic Intern