Fu wrote in his diary every day, reflecting on roles, activities, relationships and his own feelings. He wrote in his native language, Chinese, using the old-style method of writing traditional characters without punctuation. To write, Fu used thin wooden dip-pens that took a fine Esterbrook (or generic German-made) steel nib. Dots marked in red ink were used as markers between characters to emphasize points, rather like underlining. Fu did not write (as we might do today) in a bound journal. His entries were made out on single sheets of thick, medium grey paper, measuring 13 × 18 cm. Each sheet was personalized with his name embossed in red block-letters on the top right-hand corner of the page, and at the end of each year, the leaves were bound with cord and tied into binders, either of embossed leather, or cloth-covered cardboard.
As a young revolutionary, Fu had worked closely with Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of China’s Republic. Later he became a leading diplomat under General Chiang Kai-shek’s National Government. He held important government positions, including a long stint as Chiang’s Ambassador to Soviet Russia from 1943-1949. An account of that period can be listened to here in ‘Fu Bingchang’s Diaries’, Document, a Radio 4 special on ‘The Big Freeze’ Cold War series.
Educated in Hong Kong, Fu was a man of international culture. He loved languages and was fluent in Chinese, English, French, and in later life, Russian. Fu lived his life during some of China’s most difficult and heroic periods, straddling the divide between East and West through the vicissitudes of the anti-Japanese War, the Second World War, China’s Civil War, the emergence of the Cold War, and finally, National rule in Taiwan. Fu’s diaries cover all these periods, and his keen observations, from a Chinese perspective, throughout these troubled times are heart-felt and candid with doses of wit and humour along the way. Today, Fu is also recognised for his contribution to photography. A talented photographer with an eye for beauty and form, his photograph entitled, ‘Woman in a Swimsuit Sitting on a Rock’ was recently included by Paul Lowe (2017) in his magnificent volume, 1001 Photographs: You Must See Before You Die. More about Fu’s photographic career and talents can be found here at the ‘Historical Photographs of China’ project, established in 2006, and based at the University of Bristol.
A Note on Transliteration
The Republic of China uses the Wade-Giles system as the standard way of Romanization of Mandarin Chinese. In mainland China today, Hanyu Pinyin is the official Romanization system for Standard Chinese. In the introductions to the diaries, transliterations from Chinese are mostly in Hanyu Pinyin. The only exceptions are a few limited cases where names in Wade-Giles may be more familiar to some Western readers. In particular, Wade-Giles is used for names such as Chiang Kai-shek, Chiang Ching-kuo, and Taipei, as readers may have become more accustomed to this traditional style of transliteration of these names.
A List of Major Gaps in Fu Bingchang’s Diaries 1939-1965
Click the ‣ to expand the section.
1939 1 Jan-10 Nov.
1940 20 Feb-20 Mar; 20 Apr-31 Dec.
1941 2-31 Dec.
1949 17 Mar-31 Dec.
1950 Diary notes only
1951 7 Mar-30 Apr; 16 May–Jun14; 20 Jun-21 Dec.
1952 22 Mar-31 Dec.
1953 1 Jan-31 Aug; 27-30 Sept; 8-14 Oct; 7 Nov-31 Dec.
1954 Whole year
1955 1 Jan-21 Aug; 28 Aug-16 Oct; 29 Oct-4 Nov; 9-13 Nov; 15-16 Nov.
1956 14 Feb-31 Dec.
1957 1 Jan-20 Apr; 19 Jun-31 Dec.
1958 1 Jan-21 Sept.
1964 4-10 Dec.
1965 15-29 Jul.