Blood brothers: Crime, business and politics in Asia by Bertil Lintner

By Bertil Lintner

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70 His mansion on Rue Wagner was one of the most famous in the French Concession, but it also had some very bizarre features. BigEared Du, who now was also known by an even less flattering nickname—‘Snake Eyes’—was a highly superstitious man who adhered to his own interpretation of ancient Chinese beliefs. For instance, he was born in 1888—the Year of the Rat—and therefore refused to let his servants disturb, let alone kill, any rodents in his house. 72 But it is nevertheless part of the legend that surrounded the wily urchin from Pudong.

54 The French officers did not interfere, and their Annamese gendarmes just kept on patrolling the streets. The almost surreal quality of the French Concession was further enhanced by the presence of large numbers of Russian refugees. The Communist victory in the Russian civil war had forced tens of thousands of people who remained loyal to the Tsar—hence the nickname ‘White’ Russians—to flee. The wealthiest ended up in Paris, London and New York, but those without money and contacts, and thousands of soldiers who had been trapped in the Russian Far East, crossed into Manchuria to settle in the city of Harbin.

His name was Du Yuesheng, an almost illiterate urchin from the slums of Pudong across the Huangpu. In 1902, when ‘Big-Eared Du’ was only fourteen, he had left his mud hovel in Pudong and gone across the river to Shanghai proper to look for a job. After working as an errand boy for a fruit vendor, he drifted into gambling. Being extremely fond of both sex and opium, he spent a lot of his youth in the ‘flower-smoke rooms’. Those two addictions were to follow him throughout his life. In the early 1910s, Du joined the Green Gang and became a follower of Chen Shichang, an opium trafficker in the Shiliupu area.

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