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Katya Knyazeva's scrapbook

Shanghai history and architecture

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See all the entries on Shanghai Russians.
See all the entries on the old town.
Search for old photos of Shanghai on the map.

Click here to 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).

#120 Shanghai Architecture Series in Russian: Chung Wai (Zhonghui) Bank

Deciphering inscriptions on shikumen gates
There is an ongoing series Forever Shikumen 永远的石库门 where the brilliant 井蟾斋主 decodes and interpets plaques placed above the gates of shikumen residences in Shanghai. Here is the latest issue, No. 13:

Sohu version: https://www.sohu.com/a/294587854_99943237?sec=wd
Wechat version: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/EXwBFLkk0imkvNpLqknP5g

He also has a collection of old town's boundary stones!

Shanghai Daily mention
As a follow-up to the lovely meeting with the Shanghai Old Houses Club (上海老房子俱乐部), an interview came out in Shanghai Daily. Some of the quotes are inaccurate: "Good to see the city take a break from barbaric growth to focus more on development of culture" is not really my voice or opinion, but oh well.

And here is the meeting:

Sixth Tone on Laoximen (article)
A good article on Laoximen in Sixth Tone, accompanied by this beautiful personalized map illustrating generational ties to this neighborhood:

Image: Liu Chang for Sixth Tone.

I met Mr. Wu in 2013, and now I was happy to know his story.

#119 Shanghai Architecture Series: Louza Police Station

The development of the Development Building
An odd fact: the Development Building 建设大楼, opposite the Metropole, was meant to be one part with the Central Police Station 总巡捕房.

Architect D. G. Miriams' drawing of the planned corner building. Image: The China Press, 10 Dec 1931.

The illustration above announced the plan to create a six-story building on the corner of Kiangse and Foochow Roads to house "all branches of the central police force, including the Criminal Investigation Bureau, Police Department, Fingerprint Department, and numerous special branches [...] at present scattered over all parts of the central district." This was published when Metropole and Hamilton House were already rising on two other corners of this intersection.

Instead, the Central Police Station was built in 1933 not on the corner, but in the middle of the block, while the corner was taken up by the Development Building rising much higher than the architect's vision. I think this was for the best, as it created the most impressive intersection anywhere in the International Settlement, firmly pinning down the center of the business district. You can see various angles of it at PastVu.

Part of the Development Building (left) and Central Police Station (center) in 1937. Image: Harrison Forman, AGSL at UWM.

The version of the corner building that was built in 1934 for the Commercial Bank of China, by Davies, Brooke & Gran. Image: minguotupian.com.

The Development Building.

Over 1,900 historic photos of Shanghai mapped on PastVu

Even luggage tags can be mapped! Image: ebay.

The most recent additions include:

- every view of the Pushkin Monument I could find, in various versions of the bronze bust;
- the only view I know of the largest Russian restaurant La Renaissance;
- this one was tricky! New New Stage (Xin Xin Wutai 新新舞台) that used to be where the Wing-On Tower was built in 1932;
- Shanghai Banking Corporation, architectural drawing and photo;
- rare image of St. Olga's Orphanage in the French Concession (I wrote about it here);
- a variety of drawings and photos of the Chinese YMCA on Sichuan Road;
- various views of the old and new Messageries Maritimes (I wrote about it here);
- some street views are hard to identify, and I have to check by the names of the stores: corner of Fuzhou Road and Fujian Road, Madunhe Hat Store, Sichuan Goods Store, "God Save Our Sale" at Sung Kee.
- I like to tease images out of newspaper pages; this one shows Yih Pin Shang and Jue Lu Hotels at the background;
- Each July 14th issue of Le journal de Shanghai had boastful photo essays about the development of the French Concessions, with some rare views, like this view of the Willow Court and Boissezon Apartments;
- from the same source, this unusual angle of the Cathay Mansions...
- ...and the Church of Christ the King on Rue Bourgeat, which unfortunately has not survived;
- beautiful drawing of the Metropole Hotel;
- Liza Hardoon Building as a drawing in 1935 and under construction in 1937;
- various views of Hope Bros. store;
- Nanking Theatre on Avenue Edward VII under construction;
- and many more.

Link to the map

You can switch between the base maps and use the street grid, Google Scheme, Google Satellite or Yandex Satellite (sometimes sharper than Google).

To switch between architectural drawings and photographs, select the icon with the landscape or the photocamera. To open each image in a new window click the icon with the arrow to the left of the word "Google:"

The end of the old town
The redevelopment of a large area in the old town's southeast quarter was approved a few days ago. This area includes Qiaojia Road 乔家路 and everything around it:

The original document is quoted below:



  • 索引号:

  • 发文机关:

  • 发文字号:



一、      原则同意乔家路地块旧城区改建项目分东块、西块,分别实施房屋征收。具体范围如下:





Even if we leave the damage to centuries-old urban communities out of the discussion, the most interesting architecture and historic relics of the old town concentrate within the circuit that is now approved for demolition and redevelopment. When I guide walking tours, we spend most of the time in these blocks. From the mid-sixteenth century onward, this was a prestigious neighborhood, and even today many of the gentry clan residences survive here partially or completely, as well as mutiple remains of old temples, gardens and creeks.

There are:
- Shuyinlou 书隐楼 (they'll obviously leave it standing and "revamp" it);
- Xu Guangqi's residence 九间楼 and his family ancestral hall 徐氏祠堂;
- the gate of the Medicine Merchants' Guildhall 药局;
- Wang Yiting's estate Catalpa Garden 梓园;
- General Qiao's Ming-era residence 乔一琦旧宅;
- nineteenth-century Yu Residence 宜稼堂;
- Qing-era courtyard homes on Yaoju Lane 药局弄;
- Ming- and Qing- era courtyards on Yujia Lane 俞家弄;
- former Zhenwugong Temple 真武宫;
- former Narcissus Hall 水仙宫;
- fine courtyards and shikumen lanes on East Meijia Street 东梅家街;
- old magnolia trees on Meijia Street 梅家街;
- a pair of 17th-century ginkgo trees from the Penglai Monastery 蓬莱道院;
- several 1930s lane compounds on the north side of Qiaojia Road 乔家路;
- several 1920s lane compounds on the south side of Qiaojia Road 乔家路;
- fine quality lane compounds on the south side of Penglai Road 蓬莱路;
- fine residential architecture along Tiandeng Lane 天灯弄;
- other small sites.

The disappearance of these neighborhoods will truly be the end of the old town.

[See more images from the redevelopment area...]

Aerial photo of the old town in the 1940s
Found this 1940s aerial at an online auction. The top photo shows the northern half of the old town, looking across the northwestern quarter toward the northeastern part. I'd love to have it, but the set of three pictures sold for 23,000 yuan.

Image: Huachen auction.

In the lower right corner (of the top image) we can see the devastation from the wartime artillery raids and conflagrations. That area corresponds to today's Sanpailou Road三牌楼路, Zhangjia Lane 张家弄, Guangqi Road 光启路, Xueyuan Road 学院路, Hongqiao Lane 虹桥弄, etc, all of which were built up again after 1949. The curved path at the bottom is Fuxing Road 复兴东路.

My presentation in the Russian Consulate
My talk on the old town in the Russian Consulate on January 31, at 6:30 pm.


UPDATE: More than one hundred people turned up, and extra chairs had to be brought in from all corners of the Russian Consulate. A very warm reception!