Silas Hardoon’s garden

Silas Hardoon’s story of moving from a poor employee of the Sassoon house to the richest man in Shanghai, maybe Asia, is one of those Old Shanghai legends. He was the man that owned most of the ground on both side of Nanjing Road, making a fortune with the Westward extension of the city.

Silas Hardoon

The real mystery as long been how his famous garden and houses, Aili Garden, looked like. Aili Garden was built on the plot where the Shanghai exhibition center (formerly Sino-Soviet friendship building) is now located. As seen in picture below, this block is absolutely massive, occupying a large section of Central Shanghai.

Hardoon’s garden former location

Although Silas Hardoon was already very rich when he built the place, the Bubbling Well Road area (today Nanjing Xi Lu) was still a far away suburb. This was the area for big mansion with large parks, just like the Hong Qiao area in the 1930s and today’s Qingpu district. Picture below gives a clear idea of the street view of the time.

Bubbling Well Road (today Nanjing Xi Lu) 1910.

The garden was mostly destroyed after Japanese invasion of the International Settlement in December 1941, freeing prime location space for the construction of the Shanghai exhibition Center in 1956. There was no picture available of the garden and its appearance was only described in a few books. Hardoon’s garden was lost in history.

This is until my good friends from Historic Shanghai found a source and published unseen original pictures from Hardoon’s family. These amazing pictures can be found at this link: http://www.historic-shanghai.com/inside-hardoons-garden/

Saint Therese Church

This church is hidden in the labyrinth of lanes from 370 Da Tian Lu, currently in Jing An district. When I first found out about it, it was really difficult to see from the outside as the whole are area was surrounded with blocks and block of lane. This area has now changed tremendously, with most of the blocks now transformed with tower blocks and sometimes a park. This picture from my friend Shi was a good opportunity to write a post about Saint Therese Church.

There is very little information about Saint-Therese of the Child Jesus (or Sainte-Thérèse de l’Enfant Jésus as it is known in French) to be found. The Catholic Church was built in 1931, on the spot of former Saint-Joseph Church damaged during 1927 fights. It is of neo-roman style, with double front columns. Construction started on 30th Octobre 1930 and the Church was consecrated on 3rd October 1931 by Mgr Auguste Haouisée, who later became the first bishop of Shanghai.

Saint Therese de Lisieux was a French Catholic Discalced Carmelite nun who became widely venerated in the 20th century. She was canonized in 1925, and named co-patron of the missions, with Francis Xavier by Pope Pius XI in 1927. As Saint-Therese was highly venerated at this period, the dedication to her was an obvious choice. Mentions of several Churches dedicated to her in Asia around the same period were found during the research for this post, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Hangzhou and Saint Theresa Cathedral in Changchun.

What makes this Church special in Shanghai is that it is a Catholic Church located in the International Settlement, where Christians missions where mostly seated. It is away from the French Concession, where Catholic Church was predominant, as well as away from Xu Jia Hui Jesuits area. It is also in a area that was mostly Lilongs, the local style of accommodation, away from the areas where most foreigners lived, so probably aimed and maybe financed by the local population.

More on Coca-Cola ads

Recent post Coca-Cola in Old Shanghai, was dedicated to a particular ad for Coca-Cola in Shanghai in 1938. This lead into researching it’s largest competitor in Old Shanghai, the Aquarius water company. This pushed me into more research about Coca-Cola advertising in Old Shanghai.

This is probably the most famous ad for Coca-Cola in the early 30s. The lady in the picture was top movie star Ryan Lingyu. This particular ad was used for marketing material again few years ago.

Ads in magazine was a major channel a the time, like the one above, from 1938.

Mural was also a major advertising channel. I am not exactly sure where below picture was taken, but surely in the business district behind the Bund.

Aquarius water, then and now

I recently wrote a post about Coca-Cola and its advertising in Shanghai. The soft drink was bottled in Shanghai by Watson’s Water, a brand that is still sold in Shanghai. Its main slogan was “every bottle is sterilized”, showing the need and attention to clean water then, like today. Its main competitor Aquarius, 正广和,a brand that is also still sold in Shanghai today.

Aquarius serving tray

Aquarius water was originally founded in 1893, producing “water both still and sparkling, for the table”, as noted in “Sketches in and around Shanghai”, published in Shanghai in 1894. The factory was located away from the city, at the cross of Broadway and Seward Road, meaning right behind the Astor House Hotel, in today’s Hong Kou district. Like it’s competitor, it became an essential supplier of water and drinks for foreigners and wealthy Chinese.

Aquarius advertising in the ” Le journal de Shanghai 19 th June 1935″

As displayed in above add, the “every drop is distilled” shows the attention for water purity and safety just like today. One of the main drink on offer in the Shanghai heat of mid June was Aquarius Grapefruit Squash, to be drink with Gin as a refresher.

Aquarius advertising in Shanghai 1930

Aquarius was advertising in Chinese newspaper as seen above, linking is sparkling water with the high life of the day, elite activities including horse riding, tennis, swimming and dancing. Since the ad is in Chinese, it was clearly aimed at the Shanghai bourgeoisie that was rapidly growing at the time. Orange squash was surely a soft drink competing with Coca-Cola.

Aquarius Orange Squash, 1946

Soft drinks brands had also a number of promotional objects to give out to customer. My favorite one is the serving tray (top picture) that was surely used in the restaurants, bars or hotels in Old Shanghai. Along with it came the bottle opener (see below), that it still very usable today. I even found a picture of the actual Aquarius water bottle, though I have never seen the bottle itself.

Aquarius bottle opener

The Aquarius brand is still in use in Shanghai, with one of the main depots in Min Hang district. Funny enough the current logo is still the same as the original and the Chinese name is still the same, though now in simplified characters.

Aquarius modern logo

For Coca-Cola advertising, follow the link to post “More on Coca-Cola ads”.

Coca-Cola in Old Shanghai

Coca-Cola is one of the ubiquitous brand in today’s Shanghai, but the famous soft drink was also very successful in Old Shanghai. It was first bottled in 1927, by the Watson’s Mineral Water Company. “In fact, Shanghai became the first city outside the US to order 10,000 gallons of syrup in a year during the 1930s,” said Ted Ryan Coca-Cola’s director of heritage communications in a 2015 China Daily interview. Like in other countries, Coca-Cola sales were supported by strong advertising.

1938 Old Shanghai Coca-Cola advertising

Above is the front cover of the 1938 Spring Summer Shanghai Dollar Directory, a yearbook including phone and business directory, as well a section on gardening in Shanghai. This ad was the biggest on both covers and must have been a great sale for the advertising section.

By 1938, Coca-Cola was bottled in 2 factories, one in Avenue Haig (today HuaShan lu) and the other one on Wayside (today HuoShan Lu in Hongkou district). Soft drink and sparkling water was a big market, as Watson’s was not the only one (Watson’s has been back in China for many years, but bottling Coke). Another producer of sparkling water and drink was Aquarius (more to come in a later post).

The ad was clearly aimed at both foreigners and Chinese writing. The characters for 可口可樂 (可口可乐 in simplified ) were displayed from right to left as it was usual then. The translation of the brand was the same as today, with characters being roughly translated as “good taste makes happy”, one of the best ever translation for a foreign brand name in Chinese.

Following the link for post “More on Coca-Cola ads” for more examples of Coca-Cola advertising in Old Shanghai.

More on tile patterns

In post “Déjà vu from Shanghai to Paris”, I looked into a strange tile pattern and color scheme that I saw both in Shanghai and in Paris. I believe the tiling below was imported from France.

The famous pattern
Floor tiling in FONCIM

The tiling pattern is sophisticated and used in Art Deco interiors, including on the Normandy steamship. Like many things in China, the original one was probably imported, then it got copied, changed and adapted for local production.

I happened to recently visit a building on Hunan Road (former French Concession), with a very similar tile pattern.

Like the original one in the FONCIM, it is used in the common areas, building entrance. The main differences are the color scheme and material used. The color scheme is definitely less elegant than the original. Material is different, as terrazzo (typical from original Art Deco) have been replaced by stripes of marble. Usage of marble is frequent in Chinese architecture, so I guess this tiling was designed by a Chines architect inspired by LVK work, or maybe for a Chinese client. To confirm this theory, the building were I took the picture was definitely built a few years later than the original FONCIM.

Russia-China Tobacco Ltd

Cigarettes advertising poster from the 1920’s

Advertising posters were the main way of promoting brands in the 1920’s and 1930’s Shanghai. The methods was brought from the USA mostly by Carl Crow, who made the largest advertising company at the time.

Although there are many fakes and reprints, real old posters are really rare to find nowadays. I happened to buy this one from an antic dealer in 2007 (I think). After years of storage, it is now properly framed and I take a good picture of it.

As common at the time, the center of the picture is a young Chinese girl, dressed with foreign clothes and in a foreign-style environment. This kind of advertisement was showing best style and modernity to be associated with the cigarette brands, so the author used the most up-to-date style. for closing and environment.From the layout as well as clothing, I would date it from the early to mid 1920’s, rather than the 1930’s seen with many of those calendars.

Just like today, advertising from that period was following the latest style. In the mid 30’s, they would show of the environment, focusing more closely on the woman. Her dress and posture would be more modern, and suggestive. Lettering would be more Art Deco inspired.

Russia-China Tobacco Company (驻奉中俄烟草公司 in Chinese) was located in Fengtian (today Shenyang) but little more is known about the company itself. It produced quite a number of advertising posters, that can be found on various auction websites. They range from mid-20’s style to early 30’s. Although some seem to be from a very similar period, I did not find pictures of this particular one.

Art Deco in Minhang district

On the way to visit Qibao Old town, in Minhang district, I was not expecting to see any Art Deco architecture. This part of Shanghai used to be a separate village in the countryside, reachable by boat, crossing the swamps over the small rivers that were surrounding Shanghai then. The trip would have been shorter, but similar to the one to Sheshan (see post Climbing Zo Se for more details).

Although Old Shanghai was one of the largest cities in the World in the 30’s with more than 3 million inhabitants, its footprint was much smaller than today’s Shanghai. If early 20’s century architecture, in particular Art Deco, can be found in the center of Shanghai, it is unheard of outside of today’s first ring road. The only exception being Hudec Laszlo’s Catholic Country Church, built then in the countryside, now located in the residential area of Hong Qiao (picture above) in Changning district.

I was then really surprised to discover this Art Deco building close to Qibao Temple. It was hidden between a large advertising poster and seems to be soon to be demolished, but the style was impossible to miss. How could an Art Deco building end up here?

The mystery did not last for long, as although the style was very much modernist / Art Deco, the cover of small tiles is typical of the 1980’s architectural style in China. This building is the former Minhang phone exchange. This kind of building seems to have crossed through time more or less unchanged, just like the ones in the former French Concession or the Former International Settlement. It was probably the first modern building in the area, and like in other cases, architects in the 80’s reused techniques and styles from the late 30’s or 40’s. Architecture did not change much in the meantime in China, so the modern ideas of Old Shanghai were still modern 40 years later. As new technology allowed larger buildings, this lead to Frankenstein Art Deco (see post Frankenstein Art Deco for more details).

Even if it was out of fashion for more than 40 years went it was built, it must have been the top of modernity in this rural surroundings… and somehow it still is very modern. Too bad it will soon go down.

Budapest Art Deco

I only became interested in Art Deco in Shanghai, long after leaving Budapest where I lived for a number of years (see post “Budapest Old and New“) . Just like in France, Art Deco was until recently seen as a minor style, often enclosed in the “Entre- deux guerres” period (Literally “between the 2 wars”), see post “Art Deco in France” for more on that. During my previous trip to Budapest, I was looking for Hudec connection in Budapest (see post “Hudec Alma Mater“. This time I walked around the city in search of Art Deco.

The search was greatly helped by a great guide book, from Zoltan Bolla, that is both in English and Hungarian. I had already looked for Art Deco in Budapest districts where I used to live in (mostly 6th, 7th), including UjSzinhaz theater, that is on the guidebook cover. This time I went to the 8th, 11th and 13th districts, parts of the city I never really visited while living there, but main points of Art Deco and modernist style. The border between Art Nouveau, Art Deco and modernism are often blurry and Budapest is no exception. This made a really interesting trip.

Art Deco on Népszínház utca

8th district

This area is pretty central, and Art Deco buildings are spread between earlier styles building. I focused on Népszínház utca, from Blaha Lujza Tér. The largest and most noticeable building on that road (though not the only onw) is pictured above, a beautiful and massive corner building. Although it is very central, the area was not very desirable when I lived in the city. This has massively changed and it is transforming fast.

11th district

Spending most of my life in Pest, I rarely went to Buda, the other side of the river. This is the home of one the main Art Deco et modernist area, around Móricz Zsigmond Körtér, with its large modernist buildings (picture above). I always felt that this part of the city was mostly about large boulevards, but strolling the small side streets looking for Art Deco completely changed my impressions on the area.

Small leafy streets with Art Deco buildings, like Szábolcska Mihály utca (number 3 on that street is pictured above) are really quite, with a high concentration of Art Deco and modernist buildings, as this part of the city was really developed in the late 20’s and 30’s. Away from the traffic, but close to transportation, they make a really nice area to live, away from the tourist crowds.

Further down Bartók Béla út, around Kosztelányi Dezsö Ter, Art Deco and modernist buildings are much larger, overlooking large boulevard. This gives a much more urban and modernist feeling.

13th district

Although I lived in that area at some point, I only realized many years later that my flat was located in a modernist building from the 1930’s. This part of the city has quite a mix of buildings, including art Nouveau, Art Deco and mordernist. The most noticeable Art Deco part is surely around Szent István Park (above picture). This is also the location of Duna Park Kaveház, a fully renovated Art Deco Cafe and restaurant. A great spot for a rest while on the hunt of Art Deco in Budapest.

Another really valuable guide about Art Deco and modernism in Budapest is the new guide book from Kovács Daniel, with pictures from Gulyás Attila. Although, it is only (so far) in Hungarian, the English translation will be a great addition for international Art Deco lovers.

Art Deco, the French-China Connection

Thanks to a recent business trip, I finally had the chance to view the ” Art Deco, the French-China Connection” exhibition in Hong Kong. Opened in early March, it will last until end of June and is worth seeing for Old Shanghai fans visiting Hong Kong.

The exhibition is the result of a very unique cooperation. It’s origin is the major Art Deco exhibition in Paris that took place in 2014 (see post “1925, when art deco dazzled the World” for more details), with a number of major pieces having been brought from Paris. Had this new exhibition been only a short version of the Paris one, it would already have been really interesting, but there much more to see.

famous “meuble a fards” from Ruhlmann, brought from Paris

One of the major and little known Art Deco link between France and China, is the mausoleum statue of Sun Yat Sen in Nanjing. If the purple mountain based mausoleum and the statue are extremely famous in China, few people know that the statue was created by French sculpture Paul Landowski in Boulogne near Paris, before being shipped to China. Landowski was also the creator of another World famous piece, the Christ statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro. (See post: From Boulogne to Nanjing for more details).

French sculptor Paul Landowski, with his Sun Yat Sen statue.

With a France-China Connection theme, Shanghai art deco was also called in, with the help of major Shanghai based collector including Deke Ehr, Patrick Cranley and Tina Kanagaratnam. The original Paris Art Deco exhibition had shown a few photos of Shanghai Art Deco architecture by Leonard & Vesseyre company. Here, the Shanghai part is much larger with great examples of Shanghai Art Deco furniture, as well as fashion and famous art deco advertising posters. Side by side with the ones from Paris, they highlight the similarities between style and fashion in both cities during the same period.

Shanghai Art Deco furniture, with the backdrop of the Shanghai Bund

Many more of those advertising posters from Hong Kong were on display, but the most important contribution to the exhibition is the whole room full of 1920’s and 30’s compact boxes or “necessaires” as they are called in French. These small boxes for ladies to carry make-up became really trendy in this period, and the collection on display is simply amazing thanks to the Liang Yi Museum.

A few of the Art Deco “necessaires” on display

Although the neighborhood of Kowloon Tong is quite far from the center of Hong Kong, the exhibition is definitely worth the trip for anybody interesting in Art Deco and Shanghai.

It is open until 30th June (10:00 to 19:00, closed on Monday), at CityU Exhibition Gallery, 18/F, Lau Ming Wai Academic Building, City University of Hong Kong, 83 Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon Tong