Thursday, September 6, 2012

Shanghai Story Walk II (9/6/2012)

Thursday, September 6, 2012
Today, Shanghai Story Walk II ("True Colors") from the book Shanghai Story Walks by Yvette Ho Madany.
This walk is through the former French Concession. After the first Opium War (1842-43), foreigners lived in settlements under foreign jurisdiction. The British settlement was established in 1845, the American in 1848, and the French in 1849. The British and American settlements were combined in 1863 as the International Settlement. The concessions were formally ended in 1943.
The former French Concession was inhabited by mostly Chinese, Russian and French people. Starting on Huashan Road near the Jing'an Station of the Shanghai Metro, you head south, crossing the pedestrian overpass over Yan'an Road.
At Lane 303 there is a relief bust of Cai Yuanpei:
Turn left into the lane, bear right, then left, and No. 16 is on the right:
Cai Yuanpei (1868-1940) was the most important Chinese educator of the 20th century. He had passed the imperial exam and was an editor at the Imperial Academy. He felt the nation was weak under the Qing Dynasty and was disappointed by China's defeat to Japan during the war of 1894-1895. After studying abroad in France and Germany, he developed the idea of education for the common folk with an emphasis on science, rather than education of Confucianism and literature for the upper class. He became the minister of education in the provisional government of 1911, hoping that a proper education would save China from internal chaos and external aggression. He was Chancellor of Beijing University and was the  first to allow women to attend lectures. He established several research centers and opened the National Conservatory of Music (now the Shanghai Music Conservatory). In 1928, Cai became president of Academia Sinica in Shanghai, establishing more research centers and opening a museum of natural history.
Cai Yuanpei briefly lived at this house in 1937. He later left for Hong Kong where he died. During the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards took all of Cai's correspondence with Sun Yat-sen. They left letters from the leftist writer Lu Xun, because they were signed with his official name of Zhou Shuren. That way important history was preserved.
Back on Huashan Road, turn left, then left on Julu Road. Walk down to the end of the block near Fumin Road, to Lane 803. Bamboo Alley leads to a Japanese restaurant:
Back-track on Julu Road to Lane 889:
These villas now belong to the government, but were originally built for the executives of the Asiatic Petroleum Company (formed in 1903 by the English Shell Transport Co. and the Royal Dutch Co.):
If you walk straight in and turn left, you will come to the Garden Villas that are part of a hotel. Turn around and walk along the villas turned into restaurants to exit on Changshu Road. Turn left, then left again at Changle Road.
At Lane 637, you see the archway for the Blue Nankeen Gallery:
Walk to the end of the lane to No. 24, enter the gate and follow the signs to the right, left and left into a courtyard:
At last, today there were blue-and-white fabrics hanging out to dry:
Although sometimes called a museum, there are only a few items for show. The rest is for sale. Nankeen is actually the light-colored cotton fabric, which is then dyed with indigo blue in a variety of patterns from the lower Yangtze River delta region. The patterns are created by block-cuts in designs based on folklore. A paste made from glutinous rice, plaster and yellow beans is applied where the pattern is to remain white. This process apparently begins in the Anhui Province. The fabric is then brought here where the paste is scraped off and the fabric is washed and dried.The shop also sells rolls of fabric and perhaps you may custom-order.
At Nos. 752-764 Changle Road, there is a row of townhouse villas:
Apparently the end unit at No. 752 was sold in 2007 for 10 million RMB/about 1.5 million dollars. Prime real estate in the former French Concession!
Take a right on Donghu Road to the building on the corner at No. 2 Yanqing Road:
Russian Jews lived in this building, including the author Rena Krasno. A peek in the barred gate showed a circular stairway:
In Lane 4 of Yanqing Road, the houses have a curved stairway to each door:
Across the intersection of five corners, you see the glass-enclosed building housing a rockery, with a blue-tile-roofed pagoda on top:
Behind this is the Donghu Hotel:
Du Yuesheng (1881-1951) received this building as a gift, and although he never lived in it, he did help design and install the rockery. Du was known as the Godfather of Shanghai since he was the leader of the Green Gang that controlled the underworld activities in Shanghai. Du, who was nicknamed Big Ears, was born to a poor family. His mother died when giving birth to a younger sister, who was then given away. Du was never able to find this sister. Du's father remarried, then died when Du was 5 years of age. His step-mother disappeared (kidnapped?), so Du went to live with his grandmother. At age 13 he left to find work, but soon became a member of the Green Gang.
When Du was introduced the the boss at the time, Huang Jinrong, Huang's wife realized Du's potential and made him their assistant. In 1925, Du was made a partner. He employed White Russians as body guards, since they were tall, trained in firearms, and didn't speak Chinese. Du was illiterate but had people read the classics to him. He learned military strategies to deal with politicians. He supported Chiang Kai-shek. In 1949, he left Shanghai to go to Hong Kong where he died.
Back-track to Xinle Road and turn right. Xinle Road is nicknamed Mistress Street because wealthy men are siad to buy clothes for their mistresses here.
At No. 63 there is an apartment building with a vertical window:
The French planted platane (English: plane or sycamore) trees whose branches reach out to meet in the middle of the road, creating a tunnel of shade.
No. 55 Xinle Road is the former Russian Orthodox Mission Church:
Built between 1932 and 1934; supposedly the domes were once a brilliant blue. The White Russians were former Russian aristocrats who escaped Russia after the Revolution of 1917. They were the second largest population in the French Concession after the Chinese.
At No. 82 Xinle Road is the Mansion Hotel:
This was previously the clubhouse of the Green Gang led by Huang Jinrong, Du Yuesheng, and Zhang Xiaolin.
Now you have to retrace your steps back down Xinle and turn right on Fumin Road. (There must be a more efficient way to do this walk!)
In the triangle space between Fumin, Donghu and Changle Roads, there is a statue of Tian Han:
He wrote the words to the Chinese National Anthem.
Turn right on Changle Road to Lane 672:
Liu Yutang arrived in Shanghai to make his fortune in shipping. This lane of houses once belonged to his family. One building made an effort to hide the electrical wiring:
Liu had three sons; the eldest died. The other sons, Liu Zhonghao and Liu Zhongliang, liked movies. They ended up owning three theaters and three movie production companies. The next generation produced three actors, with two of them marrying actresses. Liu Zhonghao's wife, Li Meizhen was a movie buff. In 1934 she was impressed by the actress-singer Zhou Xuan (who lived at Zhenliu Mansion) and invited her to  visit. Upon learning of Zhou's unsuccessful search for her birth parents, Li made Zhou her goddaughter. She bought her everything she bought for her own daughter.
During the anti-Japanese movement in the 1930s, the Liu theaters would show only Chinese movies. They also decided to produce a movie based on the Qing Dynasty prostitute, Sai Jinhua, who married a German. It was considered a satire of Chiang-Kai-shek, who also sold out to the foreigners. One actress who auditioned for the movie was Lan Ping, who did not get the role. Later she was known as Comrade Jiang Qing, Chairman Mao's wife. It is said that one day in the 1950s, Madam Mao noted that the Liu theaters were still open for business. After that moment, three Liu production company movies were denied the requisite government approval...
At the end of Lane 672, there was a tiny garden:
No. 666 Changle Road:
The former residence of Pan Mingxun was built in the late 1920s. Pan arrived in Shanghai in 1919 to work as a clerk in a bank. He eventually held a senior position in the Shanghai Municipal Council, the highest authority in the International Settlement.
Pan collected books, mostly from the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1279-1368) Dynasties. Pan bought many books from Yuan Kewen, a man who loved to party. To fund his lifestyle, Yuan sold his family's collection. (Shanghai Story Walks also tells the story of Yuan's father, Yuan Shikai.) Pan kept his collection in this villa. He died in 1941, and his son feared the Japanese would destroy the collection. The British helped ship the collection to Hong Kong for safe-keeping in the vaults of HSBC. In 1951, the collection was returned, but to the Beijing University where Pan Shizi donated 104 books from the Song Dynasty and 7 books from the Yuan Dynasty. The younger Pan also donated the villa to the government, and it became part of a hospital. There is more to the story of Pan Shizi as well as of St John's University in Shanghai where he was president.
No. 536 Changle Road, the Shanghai First Maternity and Infants Hospital:
Nos. 329-337 Changle Road:
These buildings are raised because this area used to flood. The ground floor doors and windows are for the basement:
No. 325 Changle Road is Garden Books:
Two floors of English books!
Farther on Changle Road is Lane 197:
Today we just got a peek over the wall at some "charming" townhouses.
At the corner of Changle and Maoming Roads is the Lyceum Theatre:
Built in 1931 by the British Consul to replace a theater that burned near Suzhou Creek, this was home to the Amateur Dramatic Society. Once the British ballet dancer, Margot Fonteyn, performed here.
Turn right down Maoming Road, along a favorite street of the author of Shanghai Story Walks. Apparently little has changed since she lived near here.
At No. 58 Maoming Road, there is an entrance to the Okura Garden Hotel:
Built in 1926 and designed by Paul Veysseyre, this building was originally the French Club. There are mosaic floors and crystal chandeliers, including an enormous one in the lobby not far above your head. An atrium and ceiling of the Rose Coffee Shop have stained glass in more of a Prairie style than Art Deco. Nude statues were covered during the Cultural Revolution.
The French Club was the first to admit Chinese as members, and the first to allow women. American soldiers occupied the building during the 1940s. In 1949 it became a club for government officials. In 1985 the Okura Hotel was opened.
Across the street at No. 59 is the Jin Jiang Hotel:
Originally the Cathay Mansions, it was built in 1929 by Victor Sassoon, and at the time was the tallest building in Shanghai. It was in this hotel where Zhou Enlai met with US President Richard Nixon. At the time the manager was a woman named Marie Logan. Although unusual to have a woman manager, she was not the first.
There is a story of Dong Zhujun (1900-1997) who was born to a poor family. At the age of 13 she was sold to a brothel to be a singer. She met Xia Zhishi who was a soldier and follower of Sun Yat-sen. When Yuan Shikai seized power, Xia was considered an enemy and had to flee to Japan. He asked Dong to accompany him, and she agreed only if he would marry her, send her to school in Japan, and when they returned to China, he would be a politician. So they married when he was 27 and she was 14.
When they returned to China to Chongqing, they had 4 daughters and a son. But Xia did not regain his political position and became depressed. Dong escaped the marriage by moving to Shanghai with her daughters. In 1930 she opened a textile factory with the help of her uncle, but it was bombed by the Japanese. She was put in jail when suspected of being a Communist Party member. Later in 1935 she was able to open a restaurant called Jin Jiang. The restaurant was a success and Du Yuesheng was a frequent customer. Dong was involved in social work, and was in a position to help many Communist Party members. She moved to Manila from 1941 to 1945 to avoid the Japanese.
In 1951, the Communist Party decided to establish a luxury hotel and chose the Cathay Mansions. They asked Dong to be the general manager, and she moved her restaurant and the name Jin JIang to the hotel. During the Cultural Revolution, Dong was imprisoned. She retired to Beijing and wrote an autobiography called My Century.
On the grounds of the Jin Jiang Hotel is the Grosvenor House. I assumed it was the building on Maoming road, because of a plaque on the building. However, in the Shanghai Story Walks book, the author states the Grosvenor House was also known as "Eighteen Floors." I found another building on the grounds labeled as Grosvenor House:
This apartment building was also built by Victor Sassoon and was considered first class. There must be a couple penthouse floors that you cannot see, and if you take away floors with the number 4 in them, this building might have "Eighteen Floors."
The walk ends at the Metro station at Maoming and Huaihai Roads.

No comments: