Log in

No account? Create an account

Katya Knyazeva's scrapbook

Shanghai history and architecture

Quick links
My book Shanghai Old Town. The Walled City

See all entries on Shanghai Russians

See all entries on the old town

See old photos of Shanghai on PastVu

See all topics or use the Search box on the top right.

Read my article on Vladimir Zhiganov on academia.edu.

Читать о шанхайской архитектуре по-русски (серия в Магазете).

Shanghai as seen by the National Geographic (1900–1994)

The National Geographic magazine featured Shanghai once in a while, starting in 1900. The authors of the 1927 article "Ho for the Soochow Ho" traveled along Suzhou Creek from Shanghai to Hangzhou, taking pictures along the way:

The September 1932 article, called "Cosmopolitan Shanghai: Key Seaport of China," showed some interesting photographs, like this steamer in Nantao:

The October 1937 feature "Changing Shanghai" was written before the onset of the Japanese occupation, so it was illustrated with photographs from earlier years. For instance, the image of the Bund where the accidental bombs landed in August 1937 showed the Concordia Club (demolished in 1935):

[Continue reading...]

In 1945, Shanghai appeared in the write-up on the means of transportation in China:

As civil war raged in China, the March 1948 issue had some beautifully colorized views of unchanging Shanghai:

The staunch apolitical stance of the magazine painted the picture of a city frozen in time. The 1949 Liberation and the Great Leap Forward went unnoticed. The November 1964 issue mentioned Shanghai in "This Is China I Saw" article:

The December 1971 article "Return to Changing China" did not talk about Shanghai very much. But the July 1980 feature took extensive notice of "China's Born-Again Giant" and showed some excellent photographs:

This last photo shows the "chronic protesters" who aired personal grievances and demanded more jobs, standing in front of the city hall (which would be in the HSBC building on the Bund).

What a marvelous view, taken from the TV tower on West Nanjing Road (already dismantled); its shadow dissects the picture around the center:

The neighborhood around Jiangying Road seen closer: the Raceclub; the stables are still standing; there is no elevated Chongqing Road yet, so the Chengtu Road Police Station (left) is still in place:

And the March 1994 feature was entitled "Shanghai: Where China's Past and Future Meet:"

Corner of Shunchang Road & East Jianguo Road: then and now

The traditional sauce factory 福源酱园 at the corner of Rue du Marche and Route Conty has been remodeled into a storefront, but the shape remains (建国东路/顺昌路).

Going, going, gone: Route Conty Post Office 1930–2013
This rare photograph of Route Conty Post Office, on the corner of today's East Jianguo Road and Danshui Road, was published by 食砚无田. The building, inaugurated as a post office in April 1930, was in place until 2013.

The historic photo was likely taken in December 1937, when the French Concession authorities were forced to allow the attacking Japanese army to pass through their settlement. Note the mournful expressions and lowered heads of the French officials:



Horrors of War cards
I didn't know this genre existed! Here are the cards related to Shanghai.

"Chinese bombs rain death in Shanghai." An explosion in front of the Cathay Hotel on 14 August 1937 (Bloody Saturday):

"Shanghai shoppers blown up by bombs." The aftermath of the explosion in front of the Sincere Co. store on Bloody Saturday, 14 August 1937:

"U.S.S. Augusta is hit by shell as Shanghai burns." Downstream from the Bund, on Bloody Satuday, 14 August, 1937. No one was killed:

[See the rest of Shanghai cards...]
"Japanese flagship assailed in Whangpoo." Izumo, moored north of the Bund, on Bloody Saturday, 14 August 1937, sustained no damages, which cannot be said about the Chinese boatmen depicted:

"Tokyo tank fires on British troops and refugees." Presumably, on the north side of Suzhou Creek, between two bridges:

"Bomb kills passengers on Shanghai trolley." Not sure about the location, but this is a tram or a streetcar:

"Mobs add terror to Shanghai shambles." Location – one of Japanese bars off Woosung Road or North Szechuen Road?

"Japanese launches halt British ship in Whangpoo."

"Cholera breaks out in Pootung."

"Street fighting tactics in Shanghai." Either around North Sichuan Road, or close to Broadway Mansions?

"Shanghai university head slain by gunmen." The assassination of Liu Zhan'en 刘湛恩 (Herman Liu), president of the University of Shanghai, by pro-Japanese terrorists on 7 April 1938, which happened on Bubbling Well Road, near Majestic Road:

Images: psacard.com.

The long-gone opera theatre in the French Concession

Chinese opera venue New Theatre, or Sing Chih Tseng 新剧场, on Rue Tourane 郑家木桥路 (today's corner of South Fujian Road & East Jinling Road). Image: Virtual Shanghai.

The photo of this splendid building, captioned simply "Chinese Theatre in the French Concession" on this photograph from 1917, has long intrigued me. At last I found out this was a Peking opera venue, called New Theatre 新剧场, which opened with pomp on January 6, 1910:

The National Review reported:
"A very fine Chinese theatre has just been built in Frenchtown, at the corner of Rue du Consulat and Rue Tourane, and foreigners wishing to view a Chinese play may now do so with more of comfort than has generally been round. It is named the Sing Chih Tseng Theatre, and both externally and internally it marks an advance on native theatrical architecture. There are a pit, a dress circle, and a gallery, but one feature which is above all to be commended is the large number of safety exits. A theatre cannot have too many emergency exits, and unless this feature receives attention, as it has done in the present case, one of those appalling catastrophes which from time to time have occurred in Europe and America, may be the result. Messrs. Grove and Co. are the architects of the Sing Chih Tseng Theatre."

Grove & Co., Architects and Surveyors, had offices in Shanghai and Hankou.

The North-China Herald gave these specs for the building:
"The Sing Chih Tseng Theatre, which is situated at the corner of Rue Tourane and Rue du Consulat, French Settlement, was officially opened last evening. There was a very large attendance of foreigners and Chinese, so large in fact, that although there is seating accommodation for 2,500 many were unable to find even standing room. The theatre has been built in the short space of ninety-five working days, and the work has been continued day and night until completion. The cost of the building alone was Tls. 40,000 and the remainder of the capital is used for effects, clothing, scenery, etc. The stage manager is the popular actor Mr. San Ma Tsze. The principal actors are of the highest standing in their profession, as much as $2,500 per month salary being paid to the principal actor. The stage revolves on ball bearings, and there are five fire escapes from each floor. The area of the theatre is 104 ft. by 110 ft. and the top of the dome is 65 ft. above the floor. The span of the dome is 36 ft. and the stage is 36 ft. by 36 ft."

Here is the modern view of the corner where the theatre used to stand:

What happened to the theatre? It began to change names in a quick succession. Half a year after its opening it became Phoenix Stage 凤舞台, then 成转台 in 1912, then 朝阳凤舞台 in 1913 (source). In 1912, a Chinese entrepreneur was granted a permit to bring a female troupe in this theatre, and since then the mixed troupe was the much-advertised specialty of this venue:

A 1915 newspaper ad for Chaoyang Phoenix Stage 朝阳凤舞台.

In 1913, the ascendant thug/policeman Huang Jinrong 黄金荣 obtained the venue. He continued to change its names frequently, becoming 天声舞台 in 1916, and soon after – the Public Stage, or Gongwutai 共舞台. In spite of these auspicious name changes, the fortunes of the theatre sometimes declined and it closed its doors; one such instance was in 1918. But it always managed to rise like a phoenix from the ashes, and in the early 1920s the opera stars Mei Lanfang 梅兰芳, Xin Jupeng 言菊朋 and Lu Lanchun 露兰春 all performed here.

In 1924, the famous incident involving Lu Lanchun, Huang Jinrong and the landlord son Lu Xiajia took place in this theatre, after which Huang's partner Du Yuesheng 杜月笙 superceded Huang who never regained his influence in the gang world.

A performance in Gongwutai in 1926.

Eventually, the old building became too dilapidated, and Huang Jinrong moved the establisment to a new location adjacent to the Great World 大世界, which he also owned. The outline of the theatre with its dome is discernible on the 1927 aerial composite map below, but in 1929 it was demolished and the lot was built up with lane houses. Perhaps, the arcading policy of the late 1920s contributed to this decision: it mandated that buildings along Rue du Consulat install arcades along their facades.



Maps: Virtual Shanghai.

Hotel des Colonies' first owner Alexandre Seisson
I'm researching Hotel des Colonies 密采里饭店 in the French Concession, and came across this beautiful photo of its first owner Alexandre Seisson and the hotel personnel. Incidentally, this same photo is also discussed by Mr Seisson's descendants in the comments to Hugues Martin's entry on Hotel des Colonies in his blog.

Mapping the old town in 1949-2
A couple more photos from Jack Birns' walk through the old town. The sharp-eyed sy-随意 helped identify the corner of Fangbang Road and the Jiujiachang Street:

This alley, once called 陈士安桥, is now nameless, nothing more than a gap between a new shopping mall and a parking lot:

If you find yourself at this spot in our days, your attention is immediately drawn in the opposite direction, where ginormous faux-historic facades of the Yuyuan Bazaar beckon the tourists. But back in 1948, nothing was there to spike the interest of the photographer – in spite of the favorable western light – so he pointed his camera in the southern direction, down the narrow cobblestone alley with laundry strung overhead...

Earlier posts:
Jack Birns on Dajing Road / Luxiangyuan Road.
Jack Birns in the Yu Garden.

Ascot Apartments 东莱大楼 70 years apart
1948. The relief portraits on the wall designate the Cosmo Club (髙士满舞厅). Address of the building: 577–587 Bubbling Well Road.


I'll just leave it here...

Somehow I am having hard time imagining this cake as being over 6 feet (1.80 m) high. The perspective distortion makes it look more like 6 inches high. I wish Mr. Lubeck had chosen to pose next to his confection for scale.

8 Rue du Consulat – the mislabeled building

Image: Aleksandra Drozdova.

Every source I could find claims that the lovely neo-gothic building at 8 East Jinling Road 金陵东路8号 was built for the company of Pierre Dominique Remi de Montigny, the first French merchant of Shanghai, who was active here since 1849. Remi's family business (雷米洋行) was, however, auctioned off in 1889 and had no more traceable activities in Shanghai. Instead, in 1912 – the year of this building's construction – Bejan Dadabhoy Tata, who had arrived in Shanghai several years prior, moved to this address. As a distant relative of the founders of the largest Indian corporation Tata, Sons & Co., B. D. Tata acted as the company's representative on Shanghai soil. The Tatas lived and worked out of the building on 8 Rue du Consulat for more than twenty years. In 1935 the big family moved to a newly constructed Avan Villa in the western French Concession, and the office moved to 20 Ningpo Road 宁波路20号.

The story of Shanghai Tatas, as well as the rediscovery of their 1935 property, has been well covered in multiple articles. My primary interest here is in establishing the provenance of the old building on East Jinling Road. Prove me wrong, if you can!

Image: Aleksandra Drozdova.