Book cover image: Destination PekingBestselling author Paul French returns to the Chinese capital in Destination Peking to tell 18 true stories of fascinating people who visited the city in the first half of the 20th century.

From the ultra-wealthy Woolworths heiress Barbara Hutton and her husband the Russian emigré Prince Mdivani, to the poor “American girl” Mona Monteith who worked in the city as a prostitute; from socialite Wallis Simpson and novelist JP Marquand, who held court on the rooftop of the Grand Hôtel de Pékin, to Hollywood screenwriter Harry Hervey, who sought inspiration walking atop the Tartar Wall; from Edgar and Helen Foster Snow – Peking’s ‘It’ couple of 1935 – to Martha Sawyers, who did so much to aid China against Japan in World War II; Destination Peking brings a lost pre-communist era back to life.

Peking, Beijing or Peiping? The city has had all these names and more during its history. But “Peking” best fits the timescale for the stories in this book, which range from 1901 to 1944.

To mark publication, Paul has compiled a handy list of Peking “hutong hipsters” you should know about from the pre-war years. It’s in this month’s issue of That’s Beijing or you can click the pictures below to see at larger size.




You can also hear Paul explain his new book on RTHK Radio 3: his interview on Phil Whelan’s Morning Brew can be watched on Facebook live.