British director tells untold story of Titanic's Chinese survivors

Updated 2017-08-31 10:01:49 Xinhua

This is a little known fact that eight Chinese passengers were on the legendary liner Titanic when it perished in 1912 and six of them survived.

Now a new documentary, The Six, made by a British director, is going to tell the story of the Chinese survivors.

Arthur Jones, a professional documentary director from Yorkshire, told Xinhua from his Shanghai studio Tuesday, that after he learnt the information about Chinese survivors almost two years ago from his friend Steven Schwankert, a U.S. maritime historian, he decided to make the documentary to tell the world about who the six Chinese survivors are, how they survived and why they vanished from the records.

"Out of over 700 survivors of the Titanic disaster, the six Chinese people were the only ones who never told their stories," said Jones, who has been living and working in China for over 20 years.

According to the historical evidence and accounts that Jones' team have collected, all the eight Chinese men had previously worked on cargo ships travelling between China and Europe. They boarded the Titanic in England on a single ticket listing eight names, working as stokers and staying in the third-class cabin.

When the giant ship struck an iceberg, the men tried to escape with their own survival skills. Five of the six survivors boarded lifeboats, while the sixth one was found floating on a door and luckily picked up by a lifeboat that returned to search for survivors.

However, when the six survivors finally arrived in the United States, the discriminatory Chinese Exclusion Act, which was in force at the time, forced them to leave the country within 24 hours. Since then the Chinese survivors were disappearing from history books.

Their absence has left some questions unanswered, including a claim that they were stowaways on lifeboats. Jones and his research team believed this rumor was out of racist background and full of injustice.

"We visited a large number of foreign archives and museums, worked with historians from the United States and China, searched and studied many evidence," Jones said. "There is no single evidence to prove the Chinese survivors were stowaways. I believe they did not do anything dishonourable."

Schwankert, the maritime historian, who is now also the film-maker of the documentary, said the Chinese survivors' story is not of cowardice as the Western media unfairly portrayed more than one century ago, but actually one of courage and of quick thinking.

"We don't accept the reports and the history as it is presented. The six Chinese men have been put into a position of injustice for more than a hundred years. We can finally tell their story rightly," he told Xinhua.

In order to trace the descendants of the survivors, Jones and his team went to the United States, Britain, Canada, Cuba and other countries.

"We do find the descendants of some of them, and they welcome us to confirm the identity of their predecessors," Jones said.

The documentary, scheduled to be released next year, has drawn investment from Chinese and foreign companies.

The British passenger liner Titanic, the largest ship afloat at the time, sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, after it collided with an iceberg during its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City.

There were an estimated 2,224 passengers and crew aboard the ship, and more than 1,500 died, making it one of the deadliest commercial peacetime maritime disasters in modern history.

James Cameron's 1997 film Titanic has led to a huge surge of Chinese interest in the doomed liner.

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