HONG KONG: In the early hours of April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic – the “unsinkable” British passenger ship – hit an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York, taking more than 1,500 of its 2,200 passengers and crew down with it.
Eight Chinese passengers were on board, a fact little known until now. British documentary maker Arthur Jones thought it odd that little was known of their stories, and set about making a film about the lives of the Chinese passengers, six of whom survived before vanishing from history books.
His film, The Six, will be released later this year (a trailer for the documentary came out in June last year and went viral on Chinese social networking site Weibo).
“Of the 700 survivors of the Titanic disaster, the six Chinese men never told their stories. Why were they ignored?” Jones asks from Shanghai, where his production company LP Films is based.
“The global press loved and continues to love the Titanic story, chronicling every little detail, right down to the size of the ashtrays in second class. But nothing was reported about the Chinese passengers,” he says. The Chinese were the largest group of non-European or North American passengers on the luxury ship.
“Who were they, why were they on board and what happened to them after the disaster? And how did so many get on a lifeboat?” Jones asks.
To answer these questions, Jones follows historian and frequent collaborator Steven Schwankert to uncover the lost stories of the men: Lee Bing, Fang Lang, Chang Chip, Ah Lam, Chung Foo and Ling Hee. He says the two believed to have perished in the disaster were Lee Ling and Len Lam.
Jones says a social media campaign to help track down information about the six was hugely successful.
“Thousands reached out, so I launched whoarethesix.com to get more information from people, asking if they had any information about relatives who might have been on board.”
What they found was that the eight men had worked on cargo ships travelling between China and Europe, and were probably bound for the US to start a new life.
They boarded the Titanic in Southampton on a single ticket that listed eight names – common practice for third-class passengers. Four survived by boarding the last lifeboat, one was rescued from another lifeboat, and the sixth was found floating on wreckage – a piece of wood, most likely a door… CONTINUED…
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