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Here’s a page from the most popular Shanghai-based bilingual illustrated magazine, The Young Companion (Liang You 良友).

Love Me, Love My Dog
1926, no. 7, p. 15

Title: “Love me, love my dog” 願愛我并愛吾狗

I can identify the Chinese film stars, but not the dogs. Obviously, it was more important to be able to recognize the woman’s face, not the dog. Can you identify the breeds, if they’re even purebred at all? [Click here for a blow-up of the photo spread]

Pictured from the top left, going counter-clockwise:

  • Huang Yueru 黃月如, with Shih Tzu?
  • Li Minghui 黎明暉, famous daughter of Li Jinhui 黎錦暉 and singer of “Drizzles 毛毛雨” characterized as China’s first “modern pop song” — with a Chow? and a Beagle??
  • Xia Peizhen 夏佩珍, who played in the commercially popular serial queen/martial arts films Burning of the Red Lotus Temple 火燒紅蓮寺 — with terriers?
  • Zhou Wenzhu 周文珠, who played supporting roles in significant films — with small dogs with terrier faces and curly tails?
  • Qiqi Di 綺綺翟, whom I know nothing about other than she has a funny name and appears to be holding Shih Tzu
  • Group shot (L-R): Yang Aili, Zhou Wenzhu, Huang Yueru, Qiqi Di, Xia Peizhen, Li Minghui
  • Yang Aili 楊愛立 (center), aka Olive Young, an American-born Chinese actress who didn’t stick around in Shanghai very long before returning to the US for a brief stint in Hollywood — pictured with puppies that look much too young to be posing under studio lights

With the possible exception of Li Minghui’s dogs (which seem rather out of place compared to all the others in terms of size and form), these all seem like they might be native Chinese dogs. What strikes me about this photo shoot is its deliberate staging to mimic Hollywood-produced images of film stars and pets, yet it has its own distinctively “Chinese” twist right down to the selection of dogs.

However, I would be surprised if any of these dogs actually belonged to the starlets, despite what is implied in the title. Wish we could ask photographer Ariel L. Varges, who supplied these photos as the “Foreign Correspondent of the International Newsreel Corporation of New York”. Did he take these photos on behalf of The Young Companion, or on behalf of the news corporation in his home country? What image of modernity was he trying to convey with this series of portraits? Why these stars, and these dogs? Did Varges consider the assignment frivolous, something merely to pay the bills between stops to more politically pressing points on the Asian map? Or was he, like the editors of The Young Companion, just as serious and self-conscious in every picture he produced, even in that which might be (dis)regarded as “trivial”? After all, pictures of dogs and animals abound in The Young Companion (and I hope to present some more over time), but old pictures of Chinese people with dogs are surprisingly scarce.