Katya Knyazeva's scrapbook

Shanghai history and architecture

An elegant fur scam from 1936: brought to you by the Russians (as always)
Police Seek Woman With Expensive Furs
Russian Performing Unique Shop Lifting

Salesmen of the Soskin Siberian Fur Store, 1119 Bubbling Well Road, were much chagrined yesterday when they could not satisfy the fancy of a Russian woman who came into the shop to pick out her winter coat. Aiming to please, the salesmen brought out the store's most expensive selection of furs. But the woman was unimpressed, indifferent. She condescended to try the coats on. None of them, however, pleased her. Annoyed by the lack of good furs in the store she put on her coat and left. After she was gone, salesmen discovered that the woman had departed with the fur coat of another customer. Bubbling Well Road Police were informed of the incident and were last night looking for the Russian woman with an expensive taste for furs.

Published in The China Press (Nov 22, 1936).

Interior of Klebanoff's Siberian Fur Store on Bubbling Well Road (not to be confused with Soskin's First Siberian Fur Store, located across the street).
Source: Zhiganov, Russians in Shanghai (1936).

The eternal case of the province against big cities


Arguments on the respective merits and demerits of life in Shanghai and Harbin are very popular in the Russian colony, and recently a former Harbin resident offered the case for Harbin in the pages of the "Shanghai Zaria." Pointing out that in Harbin life is far cheaper than here, he quoted the price of flour, which here is $20 for a bag weighing 54 pounds, while in Harbin it is $6.85. In Harbin, he said, one gobi will buy 6.85 pounds of flour. Coal can be bought in Harbin easily for 19 gobi per ton, while in Shanghai a ton of coal costs more than $100. Due to shortage of meat in Harbin, the latter product costs much more than was usual, but even so its price is no higher than in Shanghai.

Also, in Harbin such a measure as increasing rent for rooms is unthinkable, and, although rooms are also not very plentiful, one can live in a room for the rest of his days

with·out fear of ever having to pay more for it. The Harbinite confessed that the stories circulated in his city about prices of rooms here seemed to him unbelievable – until he himself arrived in Shanghai. "Where I come from," he said, "a room in the outskirts of the city can be had for 10 gobi a month, while 45 to 50 gobi per month will get you the best room in the downtown district." Electricity there costs 16 and 1/2 fen per kilowatt hour. The price of taxis in Shanghai, he said, would be best left alone. Milk in Harbin costs 15 fen for a bottle holding three glasses, butter costs 2.30 gobi a pound, cheese 60 fen to 1.40 gobi and all this in plentiful supplies.

Foreign articles are not plentiful due to import restrictions, but everything one needs to buy comes from Japan, and is of course sold much cheaper than here. A well-cut suit from good material can be made for 75 gobi. The exchange for the American dollar in Harbin is normal – 3.40 gobi, the exchange for the English pound being 17.30 gobi. Also, the Harbin "patriot" concluded, the many free courses, training and expeditions to Japan make perspectives for Russian youth in Harbin much more promislng than for Russian youth in this city.

Extracted from the serialized writeup IN THE RUSSIAN COLONY by STROY published in the North-China Herald and Supreme Court & Consular Gazette (Jan 24, 1940)

#66 New installment in Magazeta: Russian Women's Shelter (in Russian)

Normandie Apartments haunted by my poor research
Several years ago I wrote a Halloween-themed article for CNN Travel about the Normandie (where I lived) and claimed that the actress Shangguan Yunzhu 上官云珠 jumped to her death from its high floor during the Cultural Revolution. This was incorrect, as I later found out, but my grievous error has informed many writeups since then, including a Wikipedia article.

Indeed, the Normandie was a suicide spot during the Cultural Revolution and because of that the building got nicknamed the diving board: this is supported by many accounts, including testimony from my neighbors. But at the time of writing I was unable to find any specific names, so I relied on a source that claimed Shangguan Yunzhu was one of those suicide jumpers. In fact, a more authoritative source – the memoir written by her daughter – points at a different location of her suicide: an apartment house at the crossing of Gao'an Road and West Jianguo Road, where the actress lived at the time.

While you cannot erase the internet, I hope no more articles quoting my poor research and attaching Shangguan Yunzhu's suicide to the Wukang Mansion (aka The Normandie, aka 武康大楼) emerges in the future.

Then and Now: Star Garage on Bubbling Well Road
I never knew that a 1910s building is preserved in the middle of the much-changed West Nanjing Road. The Star Garage on Bubbling Well Road, designed by Abelardo Lafuente's firm now houses the Windows bar.

Source: virtualshanghai.net

Source: maps.baidu.com

Article about Vladimir Zhiganov (Jiganoff) now available on the web
The Scribe of Russian Shanghai - my essay in the RAS China Journal 2017.


Vladimir Zhiganov (1896, Khabarovsk – 1978, Sydney) – photographer, archivist, author and philanthropist – lived his professional life amid the Russian diaspora in Shanghai, China, and his energies were singularly devoted to his community. He produced only one work – the illustrated atlas “Russians in Shanghai” published in 1936. Few histories are as fundamental to the study of their subject as is this book. It is a photographic index of Russian people, organizations and businesses in Shanghai, and it remains the most comprehensive and, in many respects, the sole source of information on the diaspora prior to the Second World War. Zhiganov was his community’s only biographer, but his own career remains enigmatic, and the only accounts we have of his life are his own. The essay traces the rise of the Russian community as reflected in Zhiganov’s definitive historical portrait of Shanghai’s “Little Russia,” and examines the early years of Communist Shanghai through the eyes of the last remaining Russians.

The house where Zhiganov lived for more than 30 years was near the corner of Avenue Joffre and Avenue du Roi Albert. Source: tuyouhuaxia.com

#65 New installment in Magazeta: Aurora University (in Russian)

Rare photos of the Russian Women's Hostel in Shanghai
Today's visit to the LSE Archives was fruitful: I dug out a bunch of historic photos of the Russian Women's Hostel – a humanitarian shelter and reeducation centre for Russian women in Shanghai. The building still exists; more stories will follow.

Oh what things they were up to.

Livin-Goldenstaedt's architectural drawing
Thanks to a recent enquiry we continue to investigate the life and work of the architect Wladimir Livin-Goldenstaedt in Shanghai. The new findings (in Russian) are being added in this thread. In the meantime, I found an architectural drawing of his, offered for sale on ebay.

Signed 李*建筑工程师.

It's like I've seen those three vertical "wheat stalks" on top, but cannot place them. The drawing resembles the Empire Mansions, but as far as I know, that was designed by the Chinese architect Y. C. Huang (黄元吉) for Kyetay Architects and Engineers (凯泰建筑师事务所). As the moment I cannot quite place the building, and I wonder if it was ever built. It looks like a typical Shanghai late art deco.

If the buildings at the edges of the picture are anywhere close to being true to life (and already built), then this project could have been intended for the northwest corner of Route Vallon (Nanchang Road) Route Herve de Sieyes (Yongjia Road) and Avenue du Roi Albert (South Shaanxi Road), where iapm mall stands now. Compare the photo below, taken by John Meckley, with the edge of the building at the left side of the drawing. It also looks fairly generic for Shanghai, so maybe I'm just imagining things.

John Meckley on flickr

UPDATE: as I was corrected by friends from Historic Shanghai, the building on the photo is at the northwest corner of Shaanxi Road and Yongjia Road (not Nanchang Road). Then there is a (weak) possibility the archtectural drawing was a plan for the development of the southeast corner of that intersection, where a new high-rise stands now:


It is also possible the drawing is an early design for the Astrid Apartments. If this is so, the resulting building ended up with eight floor instead of four, but retained a series of vertical protruding sections breaking up the facade. Also, its right-hand side is longer than the left-hand side, just like the drawing:

#64 New installment in Magazeta: Small World (in Russian)


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