Katya Knyazeva's scrapbook

Shanghai history and architecture

Over 1000 historic photos of Shanghai mapped on PastVu
Link to the map

See the map.

A while ago I was a bit disparaged because of the limited search capability of PastVu, but presently there is a good reason to continue to add photos, so I won't stop at one thousand.

Recently added clusters of photos include:
Hongkou Fire Station
Margary Memorial
The corner of Nanking Road and Szechuen Road, 'the busiest corner in Shanghai', according to the studio that distributed this stereo photograph
Temple of the God of War on the old city wall
International Institute of China on Avenue Joffre, behind today's Shangxianfang
Multiple view of the New North Gate (Porte Montauban) of the old walled city
Chinese Garden, aka New Public Garden, on Suzhou Creek
Architect's drawings of the Russian Orthodox Church on Rue Corneille
Xujiahui Cathedral without its domes, in 1979
A sketch of Beth Aharon Synagogue
The old and new RAS Building
The Drummond residence (the Dennartt) on Huashan Road
Metropole Hotel in various stages of construction
Sino-Soviet Friendship Hall during the US President Nixon's visit
Some rare drawings of the above building
Jewish residents of Tangshan Road
Central Police Station on Fuzhou Road
The famous White Horse Cafè (Zum Weissen Röss'l) in Hongkou
A thorough walk-through of Chusan Road (Zhoushan Road), or Little Vienna, in Hongkou
The rarely seen Horse Bazaar, between the YMCA and the China United Assurance, on the Racecourse
and many others...

Isn't it neat?

From Norwood F. Allman, Shanghai Lawyer (1943).

#89 Shanghai Architecture Series: The Chinese Garden (in Russian)

Real old town
Going through my collection of archival images of the old town I was reminded of these wonderful, authentic photos from the USC Digital Collections. Real raw streets of the old city – so raw, in fact, that it is often hard to identify the exact locations:

Source: USC.

Shiliupu 十六铺, the Chinese Bund, south of the Quay de France:

Source: USC.

Yuyuan; view north from the zigzag bridge, across the pond, toward the commercial pavilion and the garden wall behind:

Source: USC.

Location unknown, unfortunately:

Source: USC.

'Gate separating two families.' Location unknown:

Source: USC.

Prepare to lose everything you loved in central Shanghai
Sickening news: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/9ADE7kjJnop7Ohzet5pLBQ.

For several years, if not decades, the 'ruinovation' has been brewing.

Top left circled area: The last inhabited lane compound in the area, Shangxianfang, was emptied of residents and prepared for gentrification a few years ago.
Top right area: The only street with contiguous arcades in southern style, Jinling Road, was emptied and destroyed too.
Lower left area: Xintiandi has been expanding in all directions, devouring more and more historic neighborhoods.
Lower right area: The last historic patches in the north half of the old town – the Wangyima Lanes, the Jinjiafang area, the Wutong Road neighborhood – have been on the fast track to obliteration since last year.

Source of images: here.

Rags and riches at the edge of the French Concession
Xujiahui 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 it when something did not look right in 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: virtualshanghai.

Here it is from behind:

Source: UWM.

Forman spent some time at this intersection, taking pictures of all directions. If you look left of the police substation, along Avenue Petain, you will see the grand buildings of 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 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 ends 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 the crowded 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.

Below the gate, 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.9 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.

How was I able to track the photographer's route? I sorted the photos in the relevant box in ascending order, and saw the progression in which the photos were taken (and realised they are often mislabeled). For me, as a flaneur and photographer of many years, this is like walking in Shanghai together, with cameras in hand.

Xujiahui then and now:


#88 Shanghai Architecture Series: the RAS Building (in Russian)

The long-forgotten Chinese Garden in the International Settlement
Continuing to look at John Thomson's photographs of Shanghai, one of which was discussed in the previous post.

These two photos from around 1890 have always intrigued me. They are captioned 'Public Gardens, Shanghai,' but clearly this is not the Public Garden at the north end of the Bund:

Source: Google Cultural Institute.

A church spire is visible on the right, in the distance. And in the center, behind the thatched gazebo, a low building with characteristic timber structure resembles the Rowing Club. There are also boat masts in the distance.

The elegant geometric fence in the second picture is the same as in the first one, so this has to be the same park. The griffin sculpture is so cool, and it has a sundial on its head. The row of Chinese houses in the distance appears to be separated from the park by a stretch of water, and there are several boats moored on the left:

Source: Google Cultural Institute.

[Continue reading...]
Then I found this map and it confirmed the location of the park on the photographs: the southern bank of Suzhou Creek, between Szechuen (Sichuan) Road 四川中路 and Museum (Huqiu) Road 虎丘路. Then the church spire in the top photo belongs to the Union Church, behind the British Consulate, and the pitched gable in the distance has to be the Rowing Club:

Source: virtualshanghai.net.

So this is the infamous Chinese Garden 华人公园! It was set up by the Municipal Council in December 1890 in response to the foreigners' complaints that there were too many Chinese in the Public Garden on the Bund. The SMC Report for the year 1890 describes the new park, prudently named the New Public Garden:

Source: HathiTrust.

The New Public Garden apparently succeeded in pacifying the Chinese protests about the inequal treatment by the foreign authorities, but evidently the name did not stick, because all sources refer to the park as "Chinese Garden.' According to this article, 'few of the well-dressed Chinese elite, and few foreigners, ventured past the gates of the Chinese Garden where members of the lower classes of Chinese society would congregate in great numbers.' Another research says 'the Chinese garden was largely the resort of “the coolie class who monopolized it and consequently the better class did not frequent it to any great extent.”'

Interestingly, Thomson's photographs, taken some time after 1893, paint a rather serene picture: the garden seems deserted, and well-dressed Chinese and Western visitors are quietly sitting on the benches. Another image, from the Shanghai Archives, also shows this park as peaceful and not-so-intimidating:

Source: minguotupian.com.

Montalto de Jesus' History of Shanghai offers an interesting piece of trivia about the site of this park: 'Along the Soochow Creek, at the site of the present Chinese Garden, stood a villa known as Siu Wending's Library, in a peach garden with rockeries, arcades, and ponds surrounded by a hedge of cypress.' Siu Wending is another name for Xu Guangqi, Shanghai's celebrity scholar from the late Ming era. With all respect to Montalto de Jesus, I have not found any supporting data about this library.

Here is another photo of the griffin on the pedestal, by an unknown photographer, taken in the 1900s. Behind the griffin, on the north bank of Suzhou Creek, is the General Hospital that had relocated there in 1875:

Source: artron.net.

The dragon-like griffin is capable of supporting not only a sundial but also a toddler:

Source: minguotupian.com.

Two years into the new garden's operation, the SMC report from early 1893 confirms that the garden has been a success, but suggests to replace flimsy bamboo fences around the flower beds with iron ones, against 'rough usage.' Presumably, this modification has been implemented, because Thomson's photos show iron rails:

Source: SMC Report 1893.

The following photo from the 1900s–1920s, taken from the Zhapu Bridge towards the Sichuan Road Bridge, shows the hospital buildings on the right and the edge of the park on the left:

Source: Historical Photographs of China.

What happened to the garden in the twentieth century? This 1927 aerial faintly shows its outlines:

Source: virtualshanghai.net.

This high angle shot from 1932 shows the garden in a good state:

Source: virtualshanghai.net.

But this image from 1937 shows the park looking quite barren (or maybe it's just winter):

Source: virtualshanghai.net.

Here the edge of the park and numerous boats moored at the embankment are photographed by a Japanese military photographer after the onset of the occupation in late 1937:

Source: tuyouhuaxia.com.

A very similar photo, looking down from the Museum Road bridge, was taken by Harrison Forman during the occupation. It shows the edge of the park on the left:

Source: Harrison Forman at UWM. Mapped here.

Here is another photo by Forman, looking east from Sichuan Road Bridge. One can see carefully pruned plane trees on the right:

Source: UWM.

This photo, dated by the 1940s, shows the park looking fresh again:

Source: Cities in Old Days (flickr).

This 1948 aerial shows some trees, but the decorative pavilions and flowerbeds are gone. The ground is covered with either stacks of cargo or rolled-up mats used as shacks (滚地龙). The onset of the occupation and the bombing of Zhabei, probably, cancelled out the recreational function of the park:

Source: shanghai-map.net.

This postcard from 1958 or 1959 shows the park looking healthy again, with the British American Tobacco and Capitol buildings behind it:

Source: Fin_de-Siecle flickr.

In 1973 Harrison Forman revisited Shanghai. The park is seen in his skyview shot from a high floor in the Broadway Mansions:

Source: UWM.

A close-up from another photo in this 1973 series:

Source: UWM.

In 1963 the former Chinese Garden was downgraded to the status of a green space, and now it is a vapid landscaped lawn with a gas station:

Source: Baidu Maps.

Source: shanghai-map.net.


A wife's arch
Among John Thomson's photographs of China taken in the 1870s and 1880s, several are attributed to Shanghai. This is one of them, incorrectly captioned as a 'temple gate' on Getty Museum's website and also on Google. In fact, this is a ceremonial arch (pailou, 牌楼 or 牌坊), erected in the memory of a virtuous widow.

The large two-charecter sign on top of the gate spells 節孝 (节孝), 'wife's fidelity.' The plaque below says: 故儒士应宽妻冯氏之坊, arch in honor of the woman surnamed Feng, the wife of the Confucian scholar Yingkuan (thanks go out to marenzhi for his expertise!) Two columns on both sides spell 'the 54th year of the reign of Qianlong,' or 1789.

It would be great if this beautiful arch was indeed in Shanghai. The walled city had almost three hundred of such gateways around the time this one was erected. By the end of the 19th century they were gradually torn down, to give way to wider roads, or because the wooden constructions were getting shabby.

Sadly, it appears this arch was not photographed in Shanghai. This blog investigation places it in Cixi County, in Zhejiang Province, names the exact street and concludes the arch has long been demolished.

The Cultural Heritage Day still needs English translation!
The lineup for this year's Heritage Day 文化遗产日, on June 14, contains over 100 buildings open to the public. The Heritage Day has been around since 2006, but unfortunately, after all these years, there is still no English-language list of participating buildings. While I was still living in Shanghai this major event was notoriously easy to miss. The announcements in Chinese popped up only a few days before the actual open day (usually the whole weekend) in May or June. In 2016 I published a brief English list with addresses on the City Weekend website, and it was picked up by the editorial team, but then I left Shanghai and the translation initiative died.

In 2008 a total of 90 buildings were open to the public, although in fact, many of those were open for a visit any day. But paid venues, like house museums, waived their fees during the Heritage Weekend, which prompted huge lines in front of Song Qingling's residence, for example.

In 2009 a total of 78 buildings were open to the public.

In 2010, there were 80 participating buildings.

In June 2011 90 buildings were open.

In 2012, 80 buildings were open.

In 2013, there were over 100 buildings.

In 2014, there were 104 buildings. We went to the old town, with infant Anna in a sling, only to find the beautiful and mysterious Ever-Spring Hall crudely repainted.

In 2015, there were 78 buildings on the list.

In 2016, there were 104 buildings. That year, appalled at the pathetically low profile of the event, I posted this event on City Weekend's website, to get the word out for the English-reading public.

In 2017 there were 100 buildings. Still, no English-language list of participating buildings, only this brief.

This year – anyone?


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