Katya Knyazeva (avezink) wrote,
Katya Knyazeva

Rags and riches at the edge of the French Concession

Old Xujiahui (or Siccawei) has not always been the gigantic five-street intersection that it is today. The roads used to be narrower, lined with two-story shops, and there was a creek running through the area. I was reminded of that creek when I came across this Harrison Forman's photo:

Source: UWM.

The photo is captioned 'Houseboats behind the post office on Suzhou Creek,' but the monogram CMF (Conseil Municipal Français) could not be on a building in the International Settlement:

This building is a French police substation, located on Place Paul Siu, where several street meet at sharp corners – Route de Zikawei (today's Zhaojiabang Road 肇嘉浜路), Avenue Petain (Hengshan Road 衡山路) and Avenue Haig (Huashan Road 华山路):

Source: UWM.

[Continue reading...]
Here it is on the old aerial map:

Closer, with Zhaojiabang Creek in blue:

Here is the same substation seen from the corner of Avenue Haig (Huashan Road 华山路):

Source: Virtual Shanghai.

Here it the substation from behind:

Source: UWM.

Forman spent some time at this intersection, pointing his camera in all directions. If you look left of the police substation, along Avenue Petain, you will see the grand buildings of the Picardie and Cavendish Court in the distance:

Source: UWM.

A bit closer:

Source: UWM.

Walk along Avenue Petain for five minutes and you are in the gorgeous West French Concession, outside of the Picardie Apartments...

Source: UWM.

...where a chauffeur ushers in his passenger:

Source: UWM.

But look directly north of the substation, along Avenue Haig (Huashan Road), and you'll see a bustling Chinese market:

Source: UWM.

This postcard (not Forman's) shows the view south along Avenue Haig, where the French Concession ended with a barbwired check point. The French police substation is just out of frame, on the left:

Source: Fin_de-Siecle.

Forman also went behind the substation and looked at Zhaojiabang Creek:

He followed it west and crossed Tianyaoqiao Bridge 天钥桥, where some ramshackle houses on stilts came very close to the waterway:

He followed Zhaojiabang Creek south:

Source: UWM.

He passed the Star Motion Picture Studio on a huge lot across the creek (this would be today's Film Museum on North Caoxi Road 漕溪北路)::

Source: UWM.

The gate of the film studio:

Source: UWM.

The creek is teeming with houseboats:

Source: UWM.

Here is Forman's description of life on the houseboats: 'The tiniest of quarters will house sizable families of three, sometimes four generations, together with a few chickens and a pig or two tethered with just enough string to allow some freedom of movement. The baby, too, has a stout cord tied to one of his fat little ankles or around his waist. When he grows to the more active toddling stage, a gourd is fastened to his waist to keep him afloat should he fall overboard.' (source)

Dirt and abysmal poverty:

Source: UWM.

'Millions are born, live, and die on these river and canal boats which clog China's waterways, her principal means of transportation. China's floating population has, in point of numbers, no counterpart in the world today. Millions are born, live, and die on the sampans, barges, and junks which ply the tangled maze of her canalized waterways.

Xujiahui then and now:


Tags: avenue petain, creek, forman, french concession, inequality, municipal council, photography, picardie, police, shanghai, then and now, xujiahui, zhaojiabang, 徐家汇, 肇嘉浜, 衡山路

Posts from This Journal “french concession” Tag

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