Building Russian Shanghai: architect Alexander J. Yaron

Building Russian Shanghai now has a brief biography of Alexander J. Yaron (Александр Иванович Ярон), the most significant Russian architect of the diaspora:
Yaron designed a wide variety of buildings, many of which were realized: a Catholic cathedral, an Eastern Orthodox church, a mosque, a beach hotel and a hai-alai auditorium... He built English villas, Slavic mansions, Chinese offices and Spanish mission houses. The only style Yaron despised was modernism, so he did not create a single art deco building – quite original for Shanghai!

Top image: Yaron's design of the Hai-Alai Auditorium in the neoclassical style, presented in 1929.

Triangle Motors service truck (1934)

Some time ago I wrote about the Triangle Motors, the most stylish auto salon in Shanghai. Yesterday, I found this photo of a auto service truck from this shop. Here it is positioned on Rue Bourgeat, close to the corner of Route Mercier, with the Cathay Mansions (left) and the French Club (right) at the background.

Image: Shanghai Sunday Times

Another view, with the Lyceum Theatre on the left. The Triangle Motors was on the left of the Lyceum Theatre, out of the frame.

Image: NCDN

Ugliness in the eye of the beholder (1932)

This following was published in the China Press under a stock photo of the Garden Bridge, in June 1932:

Garden Bridge an Eye Sore

This is the famous Garden Bridge, spanning the Whangpoo (eh?). That it is famous cannot be disputed, but the Shanghai Council does not believe that it is famous because of its beauty, apparently, because plans for a new bridge to take its place are being drawn up. Narrow, ugly, with enough steel in it to build a skyscraper, it is felt that the bridge is not conforming with the improving appearance of its own section of the city.

An earlier article from November 1931 lauded the Garden Bridge as cosmopolitan and useful. We can only congratulate Shanghai that the plan to replace it did not come to fruition!

#142 Shanghai Architecture Series (in Russian): Grand Theatre 大光明大戏院

Read in Russian:
The article mentions the old Carlton Café and the early Grand Theatre, the architect L. E. Hudec,  A. A. Reyer's construction company, F. Chaliapine's visit to Shanghai, as well as audience complaints about the design of the building and their (ridiculous) solutions.

Image: L. E. Hudec

Municipal councillor's dream (1925)

Any good bureaucrat can relate! The municipal coffers are full and locked; new capacious trams move passengers along well-organized streets; Shanghai Grand Opera theatre has been built, rows of trees planted, a replica of the Eiffel Tower is looming on the horizon. Thankful citizens have erected the administrator a shiny new statue... In the "biting reality," however, the "expenses cat" is about to outrun and smother the "income mouse."

Image: Sapajou

Late-Qing and Republican-era Chinese Newspapers

I was just reminded of this digitized collection of old Chinese-language newspapers. This is a beautifully presented archive, with sources organized by the date, title and provenance. The search results are shown in their context on the page next to the recognized text – super-useful! The only drawback is the quality of the images; these are scanned from the microfilm, after all.

When did the pedicab come to Shanghai?

From this: this:

Image: Mark Kauffman

In 1873, Shanghai saw its first rickshaw, imported from Japan. Soon, rickshaws were adopted for passenger transportation. By the end of the 1930s, there were over 40,000 registered rickshaws 黄包车 in Shanghai – one for every 120 passengers. The public pullers numbered over 80,000 people; there were also private rickshaws. It is estimated, almost incredibly, that 340,000 people, or 10% of the city's population, were involved in the rickshaw business in this way or other.

The above stats come from the PhD thesis Wheels That Transformed the City by Zhou Fang. Unfortunately, it does not touch on pedicabs, so the data is hard to obtain. According to Lu Hanchao, pedicabs 三轮车 were first adopted in 1942 and replaced the rickshaws by 1947. There is, however, evidence of their earlier use. Already in 1922 a handful of pedicabs were running the streets of Shanghai – they were owned by the wealthy Chinese who first saw them at the beach fronts in the US and Europe. In March 1923, the Municipal Council of the International Settlement agreed to grant a trial permit for the first 200 pedicabs, and a year later a journalist of the North-China Daily News took a close look at the first public pedicab: "To the casual roamer of Shanghai roads, with their high-power motors, brokers' traps and ricshas, this was indeed a strange sight – a combination of a reduced old-style big front wheel bicycle with a rather swanky-looking but low-swung ricsha attached behind. It is a ladies' type of cycle with no cross-bar."

The journalist attempted a trial ride: "There was no jerk at all, and the motion was smooth and forward, with not the usual up and down motion so common to the ricsha as it trotted along, but there was a sinuous side-to-side motion until the ricsha was well under way. The passenger sits lower than in an ordinary ricsha and one seems more at ease with nothing before one but the strong back and pedalling limbs of the coolie." A test drive from Route Doumer to the Astor House took only 20 minutes. The journalist also found it easy to pedal and steer the pedicab. These early models, built in Brussels, had four wheels; later, the pedicabs started to be made locally and became tricycles.

The adoption of the pedicab was, however, slow and fraught with bureaucratic obstacles. Licenses to commercial operators were routinely refused. Pedicabs – ridiculously – were not permitted to cross the border between the foreign settlements. In the early 1930s, the only use for the pedicabs was in goofy sports competitions. But the Japanese occupation, which started in 1937, soon led to the shortage of the gasoline, and the pedicab was remembered. In 1942, the Municipal Council started to grant licenses again, and by the end of the year there were almost 1,800 pedicabs operating in the Settlement. As spare parts began to be made locally, pedicabs became predominant. After the end of occupation, in 1945, many rickshaw pullers were becoming pedicab drivers ("pedicab workers," as the Communist authorities prescribed to call them in 1951). In 1956, rickshaws were officially abolished by the Communist government, while (some of) the pedicabs remained, continuing to carry passengers even during the Cultural Revolution and well into the 1970s.

[See the images from different eras...]

Nanking Road in 1925; rickshaws prevail:

The Pedicab Lancers competing in a joke tournament in 1934:

The ever-popular mocking of the rickshaw trade: Ladies' Night in the American Club in 1935:

Pedicab drivers resting in a quiet lane off Peking Road, near the Bund, in 1937–1941:

Image: Harrison Forman

Pullers lined up their rickshaws along Avenue Edward VII (now East Yan'an Road), also 1937–1941:

Image: Harrison Forman

The uneven availability of rickshaws is the subject of this woodcut cartoon from 1942. In the left panel, multiple pullers are accosting a single theatergoer stepping out of the Capitol Theatre, on Museum Road. In the central panel, the crowd of spectators leaving the Grand Theatre on Bubbling Well Road are fighting for the attention of a single puller. In the right panel, rickshaw pullers are fighting for the same passenger:

Image: David Bloch collection

Traffic on the Bund, showing both pedicabs and rickshaws, in 1945:

Image: Walter Arrufat

Rickshaw and pedicab side by side, with a car and bicycles in the background, in 1945:

Image: Getty

Rickshaws, pedicabs and cars stuck in traffic on a wet day, in 1946:

Image: George Silk (probably)

Pedicab driver in the 1940s:

Image: USHMM

"How to keep dry in a pedicab," in 1947:

Rickshaw pullers and pedicab drivers in traffic, in 1947:

Image: Mark Kauffman

Rickshaws and pedicabs on a bridge across Suzhou Creek, in 1949:

Image: Soviet filmmakers

Motorized pedicab shown off in 1950:

Old passenger pedicab repurposed for cargo, in 1974: