LAO SHE (1899-1966)
Plaque erected in 2003 by English Heritage at 31 St James's Gardens, Notting Hill, London, W11 4RE, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
LAO SHE 1899-1966 Chinese writer lived here 1925-1928
Lao She was one of the outstanding Chinese writers of the 20th century. He is commemorated with a blue plaque at 31 St James’s Gardens in Notting Hill.
Lao She is the pen name of Shu Qingchun. Born in Beijing to a poor family from the Manchu ethnic minority, he travelled to England in 1924 to teach Mandarin at London University’s School of Oriental Studies (now the School of Oriental and African Studies). His experiences resulted in the novel Mr Ma and Son (1929), an evocative account of London life in the 1920s from the viewpoints of a Chinese father and son.
Lao She lodged at St James’s Gardens – then St James’s Square – between 1925 and 1928 with the scholar Clement Egerton. He assisted Egerton in his translation of one of the best-known Chinese erotic novels, The Golden Lotus.
Later Life and Career
In 1931 Lao She returned to China and married the prominent painter Hu Jieqing. Lao She’s work was often set in Beijing, and tended towards humorous satire. His literary successes included the play Teahouse (1957) and the novels City of Cats (1933) and Rickshaw Boy (1936), the latter of which is considered a classic of Chinese literature.
Lao She was heavily involved in the resistance against the Japanese after war broke out in 1937 and was initially well regarded by the Communist regime after the People's Republic of China was established in 1949. Soon after the Cultural Revolution began in 1966, however, he was tortured and persecuted by the paramilitary youth movement, the Red Guards. On 25 August 1966, his body was discovered in Beijing’s Lake of Great Peace. It is widely believed he took his own life.
The rehabilitation of Lao She’s reputation in China was demonstrated by the presence of the Chinese Ambassador to Britain, Mr Zha Peixin, at the plaque’s unveiling ceremony in 2003. It is the only blue plaque, so far, to feature Chinese characters.