Katya Knyazeva's scrapbook

Shanghai history and architecture

Some photos from the Budgets of the French Concession
Amid lots of text and numbers there are some interesting views, rare and not:

The northern edge of the French Park used to be quite empty.

Nice little villa on the right is still there. Huaihai Rd / Changshu Rd.

Route Winling (Wanping Road) in 1932.

Poste de Police Foch at 1307 Avenue Joffre, now Huaihai Road, corner of Changshu Road (1932).

The western extension of Route Vallon (Nanchang Road), near Route Tenant de la Tour (today's Xiangyang Road), in 1933.

Avenue Dubail in 1934.

Boulevard de Deux Republiques/Renmin Road, the street between the Chinese City and the French Concession, in 1935.

Lokawei Cemetery in 1935.

Rue de Marche (Shunchang Road).

The open public space in front of Poste Mallet looked so much better than what there is now.

Here it is seen from the north.

Source: http://www.bniao.org/BN/Periodiques

Sapajou's vision of the Russian community in 1929
This is a funny project of a "monument to the Russian diaspora" in Shanghai, designed by Sapajou (Georgy Sapojnikov). Evidently, he saw the community as divided, and the tensions had reached the apogee by 1929 :-)

Source: A. Khisamutdinov, Russian Life in Shanghai (in Russian).

Don Aminado's Montparnasse
Here is my attempt at the translation of some verses by the Russian emigrant poet Don Aminado, who lived in Paris amid the Russian diaspora since the 1920s.


The earth was flooded with electric lights
and the crowd was flowing like an avalanche.
A skinny blond girl in a green beret
was scanning the room for the skinny blond guy.

Some Swedes were sitting and drinking
some weird Swedish grog.
Some girls were strolling, nervously,
stumbling over their long Swedish legs.

Some strange, alien people,
disheveled and aged,
spent hours smoking up the room,
dropping the ashes into their beer glasses.

Some unsung genius was smoking a pipe
with an impertinent smile
while gawking at some graceful,
yellow Siamese goddess.

Poets, vagabonds, oriental princes,
in turbans and headscarves, with proud postures,
some dudes, some half-Argentinians,
some half-pimps with swarthy mugs.

This colorful and strange anthill
was sucking on coffees, buzzing and playing,
and only the garcon with a coffee pot
was hiding a knowing grin,

because after sampling all these philosophies,
he stopped caring about
what swill passes for coffee
and what scum passes for bohemians.


The actress was reading a passage from Blok,
and her left bosom was heaving with sadness.
She had glassy eyes
and the same dress as last year.

Then Kolya played balalaika
in his gorgeous black velveteen pants.
He completely devoured Indian Guest
and did an encore of Down the River.

Then a choir of boyars in smocks filled the stage
and sang about the rebellious chief Stepan Rasin,
which was a little strange
because Stepan was known to hang the boyars.

Then there was dancing, and a bouffet,
and a waltz in a cloud of blue gauze.
Towards the dawn a woman-bass singer
was sobbing on the shoulder of the performer of Liszt.

Something was wobbling in the haze,
and the boyar choir was humming on stage.
It was comforting to know that it all was happening
not in some Russian small town, but in Paris.

The originals are here.

Bologna, the city of creeks
Dragon Chi
Bologna and Shanghai's old city have much more in common than I thought. After watching the movie "Bologna: La città delle acque" I learned that in Bologna they used to divert channels into the city the same way they did in Shanghai – not to water the rice fields (some of Shanghai's creeks were originally irrigation channels), but to power the numerous mills.

There was even a moat outside the city wall, and the gates in the wall admitted the creeks inside.

Ingenious citizens built hydraulic systems to bring the water from the nearest creeks into their houses. This never happened in Shanghai, where people continued to carry water in buckets.

With the help of its creeks, Bologna overcame the dependence on the imports of Chinese silk and in the fourteenth century became the leading silk-producing city. The same water wheels were now used to power silk spinning machines.

(the map was north and south reversed)
Different creeks had different use: the single natural channel crossing the city from south to north filled all the artificial creeks with water; the Canale del Moline continued the ancient flour milling function; the curved channel in the west was used by tanning and dyeing enterprises; the dense mesh of creeks in the northeast corner of the walled city powered silk manufacturing facilities (that area suffered the most during WW2 and was redeveloped almost completely).

There was boat traffic on the canals, quite like in Shanghai!

Shanghai's creeks.

A creek outside Shanghai.

Russian shops on Avenue Joffre
Dragon Chi
Saw this 1946 photo on the Cities in Old Days flickr stream:

This is the north side of Huaihai Rd, west of Old Chengdu Rd.

No. 600–602: At the far left there is the "Co" of the Valet Service Co. 正章洗染公司, opened by the Russian emigrant A. Chehov in 1923. ("The best chemical washing in Shanghai: fast, good and inexpensive.") This company still exists, transformed into one of Shanghai's laozihao (venerable brands).
No. 598: Com* Habedrdashery 广发百货商店;
No. 596 Eastern Pharmacy 东方药房, with signs in English and Russian alongside the Chinese.
No. 594 Venus Watch & Clock Co 金星(*), the future Maochang Watches company 茂昌眼镜公司.

Further to the right there is a beautiful building with three Chinese-run businesses (their exact names and commercial profiles merit further enquiry):
No. 590 Huazhen (?)
No. 588 (not sure)
No. 586 Western-clothing store called Zhang Linchang 张林昌西服号.

Further to the east, out of the frame, a narrow lane called Renshoufang 仁寿坊 used to run at an angle, at No. 582. Here is a 1930s view of the same section of Avenue Joffre, with the lane at the left:

One of the stores in that lane was Tomashevsky's workshop that produced funereal decorations and monuments from granite and metal. It opened in 1929 at No. 582/5.

Tomashevsky was a mystic and a member of esoteric societies, but that's another story.

The stores from the top image and the narrow lane have since disappeared, unfortunately, replaced by modern buildings.

The Red Attic
Dragon Chi
When I came across Hugues Martin's September blog post about Mikhail Borodin's career in China, I recalled a related story I haven't shared with anyone yet.

There is actually an obscure and beautiful landmark connected to Borodin in the French Concession.

In 1927, after the Communists in Shanghai were crushed by the Guomindang, the Soviet agitator Borodin and his Comintern comrades were blacklisted by Chiang Kaishek and had to go into hiding. One sympathetic Russian merchant sheltered Borodin and the others in the attic of his mansion. That merchant, named Wassily (Vasily) Emelianovich Ulanoff, was born in 1881 and had been a successful entrepreneur in Shanghai for many years, working for an established Hankou-based Russian enterprise that exported Chinese tea. Ulanoff had actually supported the Communists since 1921, but by offering his house to the fugitives, he risked his family, his business and his life. Luckily for Ulanoff, Borodin and friends went undiscovered during their sojourn in the manor.

Ulanoff and his family had always lived in the same mansion on Route Dupleix, and stayed there until the mid-1940s. In 1933 Ulanoff became the head of the import-export company Asia Trading Co, and in 1939 he was elected chairman of the Russian Chamber of Commerce. All the time, according to some sources, he was acting as a Soviet agent.

Ulanoff might have secretly labored for years to secure the Communists victory, but the Soviet government was not particularly grateful. In 1945, after the end of the war, Soviet agents smuggled Ulanoff out of Shanghai and sent him to the USSR. There he was tried for promulgating "anti-Soviet propaganda" and condemned to ten years of forced labor. He died in a Far Eastern gulag, aged almost 70.

The house where Ulanoff sheltered Borodin still stands: it is the brooding and angular gothic mansion at 255 Anfu Lu. The estate has always had an air of witchcraft about it, thanks to its unusual architecture and the feral garden behind the high wall. It is true that baleful atmosphere has been diluted recently by a vegan café on the first floor. It is possible though, that above the café, florists, key-makers and the scores of Chinese families who live in the building, some whispers of Soviet espionage still echo in the attic.

The Russian architect W. Livin-Goldenstaedt just got a little closer
Dragon Chi
Today I made another attempt at tracking down the mysterious “W. Livin-Goldstaedt.” This name is associated with the Astrid Apartments on the corner of Nanchang Rd (Route Vallon) and Maoming Rd (Rue Cardinal Mercier), and also King Albert Apartments on Shaanxi Rd (Avenue de Roi Albert) and Fuxing Rd (Rue Lafayette). An attempt at an alternative spelling, Goldenstaedt, yieled a positive result from the Desk Hong Lists. Then I turned to the Russian and Chinese internet to look for "Гольденштедт" and "戈登士达" and got lucky.

The Astrid Apartments in Shanghai

Vladimir Goldenstaedt was born in Vladivostok in 1878. His step-father, Karl Goldenstaedt, married Vladimir's mother Agafya Livina and applied for a formal of her four children from the previous marriage (Vladimir was six at the time). Goldenstaedt, of German origin, was a dairy farmer and a landowner. Such naturalized expats were called “Russianized,” to indicate their change of religion. The adoption was approved on the condition that the children remain in the Russian faith and are raised in the Russian tradition. They all assumed their stepfather’s surname, Goldenstaedt, and received good education.

UPDATE Jan 11, 2017: A descendant of the family left a comment to clarify the circumstances of the adoption, so I've edited the above paragraph.

The young Vladimir Goldenstaedt got his degree in architecture from the Institute of Civil Engineers (in Saint Petersburg, as was pointed out in the comments). His stepfather bought a piece of land in Vladivstok and Vladimir designed a hotel to build on it, called The Central. Finished in 1907, it became the best hotel in the city.

Here is the Central Hotel in Vladivostok photographed around 1920

And here it is nowadays

This is another building in Vladivostok built in 1908 by Vladimir Goldenstaedt

During the 1910s Vladimir Goldenstaedt designed a number of municipal and private buildings in Vladivostok, some of which still stand today. But when the First World War began, a German last name could be damaging to a career, so in 1915 he applied to change back to Livin, and his request was granted.

In 1922, when the civil war in Russia ended and the Bolsheviks got hold of the Far East, the architect emigrated to Shanghai and opened an architecture firm. He worked in Shanghai for thirteen years, under the name W. Livin-Goldenstaedt. His exact contribution to the landscape of Shanghai calls for additional research. He possibly worked for the Eastern Asia Architects and Engineers Corp. Ltd until some time in the middle of the 1930s. Together with his big family he was living in a lane house on Fumin Road (Route Courbet) as late as 1939.

In 1925 Livin-Goldenstaedt submitted several designs to the competition for a memorial to Sun Yatsen in Nanjing, but they did not win the commission, taking the 5th, the 6th and the 7th places.

W. Livin-Goldenstaedt's designs for Sun Yatsen's memorial

The fabled defender of Shanghai can resist "anime" bullets
Dragon Chi
There is a beautiful digital humanities project by MIT and within it an exhibition called "The Opium War in Japanese Eyes," with illustrations from Kaigai Shinwa and Kaigai Shinwa Shūi.

One of the pictures shows Admiral Chen Huacheng dying in the battle of Wusong (Woosung), pierced by the English bullets.

Chen Huacheng, the military commander of Jiangnan, was the most exalted Shanghai hero of the recent era. There used to be a temple in his honor (Chengongci 陈公祠) in the center of the old town.

In June 1842, when the British Royal Navy attacked Shanghai to force open the port for opium trade, Chen’s land army resisted the foreigners at Wusong forts, north of Shanghai. The Chinese lacked mastery of weapons, but thanks to Chen’s commandment their cannons downed several English ships before the battery was silenced. The British landed and pushed forward. Wearing layers of cotton around his body as protection against bullets, Admiral Chen thought himself invincible and fought viciously, serving the guns himself. When he was mortally wounded, he bowed in the direction of Beijing and expired.

Chen’s associate hid his remains in a clump of reeds, and later transferred them to the walled city. Upon hearing of Chen’s bravery in the face of the barbarian invasion, the Daoguang Emperor conferred a posthumous title on Chen, making him second in command to the Thunder God.

From the 1860s Chen's Temple was under the care of the Guoyutang charity (果育堂). After the fall of the Qing in 1911, Guoyutang moved and the temple was converted to a school. Its halls were refurnished for classrooms, and Chen’s life-size statue in official robes was hidden in a dark niche. Shelves beside the statue displayed the hero’s belongings: his official seal, a military token and even his bloodstained clothes. The shrine was always closed with wooden screens and opened only for the annual sacrifice.

In 1937, when the Japanese occupation of Shanghai began, the school closed down. Japanese officers contemptuously set up a gambling den in the Chen’s Temple. Local residents fished out the discarded admiral’s statue from the gutter and hauled it to the Temple of the City God. Once it was installed there, Chen Huacheng was symbolically promoted to the rank of a City God, and for a time a saying went: "One city, three gods-protectors." Extra protection was welcome in the tumultuous wartime decades. This did not last: the Red Guards pillaged the city temple in the 1960s and Chen’s statue was first beheaded and then destroyed. The remains of the temple are now underneath the Forte Elegant Garden real estate development on Zhoujin Rd/Henan Rd.

Other fantastic images from the MIT Visualizing Cultures exhibit:

English Leader in Uniform

The Local Braves in Combat

And the finale: the signing of the Nanjing Treaty.

Or if you show it in a different way:

Streets of old Moscow
Dragon Chi
There is a very nice memoir about Moscow streets and buildings in the 1920s and '30s, by Boris Markus. I losely translated a passage:

"I've always loved to walk in old Moscow neighborhoods. Here everything speaks of peace: every low-rise house and every tree canopy bursting from behind it, every ornate ironwork fence and every plain wooden one. You feel at ease and you forget your worries; there is a feeling of sudden freedom. Life's joy comes back to you together with the love for everything around you. Only old streets can give this to you. Nothing of the kind can happen in new planned neighborhoods. It must be because environment penetrates a person, and vice versa. For that to happen, they have to be comparable in scale. Old Moscow streets still have this human scale. They don't make you feel small and humble, like the new developments, where you are like a fly, or a pygmy, surrounded by monstrous masses. Even though these masses are comprised of smaller units – and you might actually inhabit one of them – you never feel one with it. You crawl into your unit to disengage from the oppressive vacuous space around, from the monsters looming over you. Forget about unity with nature.
Old neighborhoods have preserved the unity of the man with the environment. Even when he is unaware of it, he is not struggling with his environment but is one with it. Can we put "street therapy" or "architecture therapy" on the same level as "labor therapy"? Environment heals. This is precious."

Я любил и люблю бродить по таким островкам старой Москвы. Здесь все, начиная от невысоких, в своей массе, домов, от высовывающихся из дворов и садов больших крон деревьев и кончая узорчатыми решетками оград или даже простыми деревянными заборами, все дышит покоем. И, находясь здесь, проходя по излюбленным своим вечным маршрутам, чувствуешь, как сам освобождаешься от только что пережитых волнений, будь то в школе или на работе, ощущаешь полное внутреннее освобождение, раскрепощенность. И тобой овладевает такая радость жизни, такая любовь к своему городу, ко всему, что тебя окружает. Вот такое чудесное свойство у старых московских переулков и улочек. Я подчеркиваю слово «старых», потому что ничего подобного не возникает в огромных просторах новых микрорайонов или жилых массивов. Очевидно, действует великий закон взаимопроникновения человека в среду и среды в человека. Для этого нужна сомасштабность, соизмеримость человека и среды. В старых московских переулках это свойство всегда существовало и сохранилось. Человек не чувствует тут себя букашкой, пигмеем, как это неизбежно получается в окружении чуждой ему громады застройки. И пусть он даже живет в одной из ячеек этой громады, все равно он не может ощущать своей слитности с ней. Он мошка, былинка. А дома - монстры, массивы, состоящие из небольших ячеек жилья, куда человек забирается, отстраняясь от давящего на него гуляющего пространства, от давящих на него громад домов. Какое уж тут слияние!
        В старых районах и кварталах Москвы сохранилось единство среды и человека. И хочет он того или нет, но здесь он находится не в противостоянии среде, а во взаимном слиянии. Ну, чем это не «улицетерапия», или «архитектуротерапия» вроде «трудотерапии? Тут сама архитектурная среда лечит человека. А это дорогого стоит.
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Bologna old town map project
Dragon Chi


This is a great website, and something that would work for historic areas of Shanghai as well.

Historic objects – streets, buildings, covered galleries, city walls, creeks – are meticulously traced over and colored, overlaying the Google Map.

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