October 13th, 2009

Link: Whut?
  • aorin

Ocean Liner Travel in 1890 - 1900: England to China

Setting: 1890 - 1900, on an ocean liner travelling from England to China. AU.
Googled: Travelling in Victorian times, passenger liner, ocean liner, steamboat, 1890 travel, SS City of Peking, RMS Empress of China, RMS Empress of Japan...

So, I have a few questions and I'm hoping that someone can provide some answers or point me to the right direction.

1. How long does it take to travel from England to China via an ocean liner in 1890s, which would be the most likely route taken and what are the ports that the ship might dock temporarily along the journey? 

Notes: From some basic readings, I'm assuming that they'll dock at Hong Kong at the end of their journey (since Hong Kong has been ceded to Britain then, though I was considering Canton and Shantou earlier). I've read that the SS City of Peking took 22 days to travel from San Francisco to Hong Kong in 1874 through a transpacific crossing, while the Empress of Japan took 52 days (1891) to travel from Liverpool to British Columbia, via the Suez and passing through Hong Kong. However, I still couldn't find the travel time from England (London, perhaps) to Hong Kong.

2. The four characters (two men and two women) are travelling first class. What kind of (daily and evening) activities will they have during their long journey? What would their daily schedule be and how would they fill up their time?

Notes: Titanic made it seem like they have formal dinners every night. Assuming that the journey to China takes roughly a month, would it be even plausible to do that? This also brings in the question 3.

3. What would they need to pack for such a long journey? (Clothes, books, essentials... maybe a gramophone or some personal items?)

Notes: The characters have accomodation in China, so all they need to pack are the items that will be used during the trip. I know this may differ from person to person, but let's say they are of the nouveau riche and has considerable wealth to match with the aristocrats, what would their basic luggage be for the trip?

4. Also, one of the characters is half-Chinese, he's highly educated, has a good understanding of social norms and etiquette, live a good deal of his life out of China and behaves like all other gentlemen. All things considered, would he actually suffer racial discrimination from fellow passengers of the same class who doesn't know him so well?

Notes: Since this takes place during the 1890s, and the Boxer Rebellion did happen during the same decade, I would like to some opinions on this. It won't be blatant discrimination or throwing him off the boat, but what about light teasing, gossips or sarcasm?

ETA: I would like to thank everyone who had commented to this entry. You have all been extremely helpful and provided me with more help that I had hoped for :) Thank you so much.