Love and Duty

Ruan Lingyu (阮玲玉) was one of the stars of Old Shanghai movies. Acting in silent movies her career brutaly stopped when she committed suicide in 1935. One of her main movies, “Love and Duty” 1931, was supposed to be lost until a full copy was found in Uruguay in the early 1990s. After restoration, the film was shown Shanghai Film festival in 2014.

Love and Duty, movie title

Love and Duty is a melodramatic movie about the terrible choice of a lady between her high school sweetheart and her husband and family. It is a silent movie, with all intertitles both in English and in Chinese as it was often the case then in Shanghai. The first part of the movie is taking place in the high level neighborhood. It gives a great look into the life of upper class Chinese people in Old Shanghai. I have read many books about it (including ‘Remembering Shanghai“), or seen modern movies (see post “Shanghai the movie“) as well as tv series taking place in Old Shanghai. However, seen a real movie from the area depicting the real life of people is amazing.

Eating in a 1930s western restaurant in Shanghai

The restaurant scene in the movie is stunning. This is taking place in the early 1930’s. A couple in love goes for a date in a western restaurant, eating with fork and knife, drinking (imported) red wine (a few images before), while listening to Jazz music with Art Deco back ground. When I came to Shanghai about 20 years, this kind of scene was not so common in the city and very rare out of Shanghai. A place like legendary M on the Bund, opened only in 2002. It was really difficult that the 1930’s in Shanghai was already so modern and westernised.

Just like today, imported drinks were readily available and consumed.

The former French Concession was clearly then one of the desired place to live. Above image is newspaper article read in the movie (first in Chinese, then in English), clearly mentionning Rue Lafayette (today Fuxing Lu) as a place of living for “a local wealthy resident”.

On the top of intertitles in Chinese and English, signage shown in the background is always bilingual, as it was surely usual in Shanghai then. A large part of the movie takes place in Shanghai city. Although it is not mentionned, it is either in the International Settlement or in the French Concession. I am working on a specific post will be dedicated to film locations.

Bilingual No parking allowed sign in English and Chinese

Cars were a luxury items but private cars and taxis were readily available for the upper part of the society. Old movies from the 1920 or 1930’s Shanghai ( see Old Shanghai short movie) often shows the busy streets of the international settlements. Some of the scenes are filmed along plane tree planted road that were surely located in the former French Concession. I have never seen this kind of pictures before. There are a few scenes of 1920s modernity with cars, including one with road work (!) as seen below.

Driving along the plane trees

The last piece that I thought really showed that Shanghai was a very modern city is the hero scene. The main male characters reads a novel, called the hero. Then he dreams that he is saving his beloved after a pirate style sword fight.

This scene is very strongly inspired by some Hollywood movie scene from the period. Sword fight movies, also called swashnucklers, were really fashionnable as the time. The Hollywood start of the genre was Douglas Fairbanks, with movies including “The mark of Zorro” (1920), “The three musketers” (1921), and “The black pirate”(1926), that clearly influenced the movie as seen in this sword fight scene from the movie. Hollywood movies were very popular in Shanghai and helped to make the Spanish colonial revial architectural style popular in Shanghai (See post “Spanish revival architecture” for more details). Hollywood movies also strongly inspired the local productionl, turning Shanghai into a little Hollywood in Asia.

Former Shanghai French Consulate (Part 2)

Located on the Bund, the French Consulate building was on the cross of the Quai de France (French Bund) and the Rue du Consulat (Consulate street, today Jinling lu). As explained in post “Former Shanghai French Consulate (Part 1)“, the Consulate moved to this plot in 1861. A new building was erected in 1896, when Paul Claudel was Consul General.

The new building was of neo-classical style, matching buildings on the Bund of the International Settlement, a few hundred meters away. It was asymmetrical with a round extension on the side on Rue du Consulat (on the left side, today Jinglin Dong Lu).

Below is another view of the building, probably taken later with trees significantly larger. It is also much closer and gives many more details of the building. it gives a clear pictures of the façade’s balcony and windows. The style was definitely noe renaisssance, typical from the French 3rd Republic period. It is quite similar to the former Saigon municipal building, built by France between 1901 and 1909. Although the picture is not dated, the text on the back side of the postcard dates it from 1927.

Like other postcards then it was made from a black and white photograph (color photography was not widely available then) and colorized by hand. Although the colors were added later, it looks very real and was probably close to original of a grey stone building similar to the first picture. I don’t think the roof was green, probably dark grey colored. Yellow is used for the trees and some part of the front, maybe the “RF” (République Française) sign was covered with gold like on the picture though I doubt it. The characters on the street side clearly indicate the scale of the building that must have been clearly visible from the river, just like buildings down stream in the former international settlement.

The building was the office of the French Consul as well as his family home. If the area was not so busy when this consulate building opened, it was very different in the 1930s as Jacqueline Meyrier, daughter of Consul General Gustave Meyrier ,who was born in Shanghai in 1927 and lived in Shanghai from 1932 to 1936 and from 1945 to 1950. As stated in her interview by Didier Pujol, “She remembers the noise coming from the Quai de France which was always filled with coolies carrying loads off the boats.” The Rue du Consulat was the main road in the East of the French Concession, and was next to Route Colbert were the godown (warehouse) of Butterfield and Swire was located, so the area must have indeed been noisy.

The location of the French Consulate remained unchanged until the end of the former French Concession in 1946 as shown on below map from 1937.

French consulate location

This version of the French Consulate lasted the longest, and the building continued to be used long after the Consulate closed in 1950. A French friend told me the story of the destruction of the building in the early 80s, when he tried to salvage a few pieces. Unfortunately, those remaining pieces have been lost over the years. Below picture is from 1983, shortly before the building was demolished.

The former French Consulate building was replaced by an unimaginative office building. Fortunately, this building was renovated and a neo-art deco style top was added in 2006. It is now occupied by ICBC bank. The ground level of the building reminds of the style of the former Consulate building, including wrought iron fences around the plot. Maybe it is an hommage to the former building that was once on that same spot.

Location of the former French Consulate (Right)

The neighbouring building, the former office of the Messageries Maritimes still stands (right to the main tower), being now the seat of the Shanghai archives. For more information, about the earlier French Consulate (1861-1896) that was located on the same spot please go to “Shanghai Former French Consulate (Part 1)”.

Rain on Gulangyu

It took us ten years to come back to the wonderful island of Gulangu, off Xiamen in Fujian province. Since the Island was added on the UNESCO World heritage in 2017, even bigger crowds of tourists are coming to visit it. While it is surely packed on some days, being off season and with the help of the rain helped us find again the feeling we had in previous trips.

Thanks to gwulo.com, I came with a historic map of the island from 1947 for historical orientation. Since last trip in 2012, the first big change was the harbor. Massive ferries now go to a redeveloped port in a less touristic part of the island, with the original and ferry harbor being reserved for inhabitants. The area around the new port has seen some new construction, matching the old style so it keeps some of the characters. The new port is close to the large tunnel, that it taking people on a quieter side of the island, where we stayed this time and did not know much about before. The new port has directed some tourists to a less developed part of the island, which is good for spreading crowds.

Tunnel entrance on the quiet side

Although historic houses are also found in this part of the island, they tend to be less grand and less numerous than the ones facing Xiamen on the other side. This area was the main fishing port, where the Amoy tinning Co was located, a major employer on the island (Amoy tinning company moved to Hong Kong in the early 50’s but the brand still exist). This whole surrounding area is now a park all along the Coast of the Island. No road or park was indicated on old maps and the harbor reduced quite a bit compared with the old time.

Gulangyu fishing harbour

Going around the island, we reached the (now) main port again, passing by the former American Consulate. I remember that it originally had great view over Xiamen, it is now partly obstructed by new constructions, but still visible.

Amoy former American consulat

With intermittent rain falling, we managed to reach the other side of the island where the largest villas are and we stayed several times (See post “The revival of Gulangyu“). This area has several churches including the beautiful catholic church. Some of the large mansion have been turned to museums, like the Hai Tian Tang Gou Mansion (海天堂构) that was under renovation during our first trip in 2007 trip. The new one is transformation of the beautiful Huang RongYuan mansion into the China Record museum. I think I came to look at this house and took the same picture every time I came Gulangyu. Finally being able to visit it was really enjoyable. I’ll write a post dedicated to the museum itself later.

Back side of the Hai Tian Tang Gou Mansion (海天堂构)

A nice addition to the area is a massive bookstore in a beautifully renovated old mansion and few steps away from the entrance of both museum, it is impossible to miss. Great place to stop for a coffee break in the pouring rain.

strolling in the night

Night on Gulangyu is always a magical time, so I took a stroll after dark. With very few people and very little noise, the island was once again just for me to stroll. Our last day was a Saturday and the weather was much better. Crowd was much larger but not enough to make it unpleasant. Coming to Gulangyu in off peak times is still the best way to enjoy it. We’ll be definitely back again.

For more post about Gulangyu, go to “The revival of Gulangyu” and “Night on Gulangyu“.

ABC News Company

Library and bookstore were the place to get news and culture in Old Shanghai. There was quite a number of official libraries including the Royal Asiatic Society library on Yuan Min Yuan lu, the Ziaccawei Bibliotheca Sinica near the Xu Jia Hui cathedral and the Shanghai library (located in Jiangwan district). There were also a number of private libraries, including Hung Ying Library located on Avenue Joffre (today Huai Hai Lu), and Hezhong library on Rue Bourgeat (today Changle lu).

Foreign bookstores were the place to buy books and newspapers in English and other foreign language stores. The biggest and most well known was the World Book Co building, today’s Foreign language bookstore on 390 Fuzhou lu, as well as Kelly & Walsh (that is still active in Hong Kong nowadays). Another famous one that I recently discovered was ABC News Company.

Located on 391 Szechuen Road, the ABC News Company opened its store 1 August 1936, as mentioned in a China Press article. It was located at the corner of Szechuen Road and Nanjing Road. The article mentioned the location as “opposite Whiteaway, Laidlaw and opposite Hall and Holtz Man’s Shop”, both department stores being very famous in Shanghai, the location was excellent.

Whiteaway & Laidlaw building. ABC news was on the building on the left

ABC News Company had “a large assortment of British and American magazines and newspapers” and could offer subscription. It also offered “Code books, dictionaries, language studies, radio books, works on photography, cook books”. It also stored books from well known American mass publishers like “Everyman’s library and Modern Library”, “as well as current novels and popular cheap editions issued by leading publishers abroad”.

ABC News Company also had a large section of Children books, as well as games and puzzle, crayons and painting boxes. It also carried a large range of stationaries, including account books, “check writers, pencil sharpeners, punches, staple machines, ink and pencils”. Well known brands of pen like Parker and Waterman were also available. They also sold maps of the city, like the one below.

Being one of the leading book, newspapers and stationary store in the Shanghai business district, ABC News Company was surely one of the first places to visit for newcomers. This particular one is from 1945, with the publishing year written below the ABC News company label. It was not published by ABC News, but sold in the store. The map was sold in the above envelop with a Art Deco / modernist pattern. It is not surprising to have the Bund’s HSBC building and the customs building on the cover as they were the symbol of Shanghai.

Arriving in Shanghai in the late 1930’s, a map was pretty necessary to go around the very large city. I am sure this map was sold along books like the “All about Shanghai Guide“, the “Shanghai Dollar Directory” or Carl’s Crow books including “400 million customers” and “Hand book for China”.

Merry Christmas from Shanghailander

Christmas has had a long tradition in Shanghai and Christmas diner and celebration were many in Old Shanghai. Along with the celebration, came printed menus and cards. Below is a Christmas Eve menu from Park Hotel.

Christmas menu at Park Hotel 1944

The menu below quite similar to today’s Christmas menu. Although under restriction from the war, in Shanghai the party was going for Christmas.

I am not sure who attended Christmas diner at the Park Hotel in 1944. As Shanghai was occupied and most allied nations citizens were interned in camps, it was probably a bunch of Japanese militaries as well as the collaborators that Park Hotel was famous for at that time.

For more articles related to Park Hotel, please go to “Advertising Park Hotel” and “Park Hotel accounting”.

Streets of Old Shanghai search engine

One of the difficulties of researching Old Shanghai, is using the old street names references found in historic books, with today’s street names that are totally different in most cases. Long are gone the signs for “Avenue Joffre” and “Rue Lafayette”, and finding a small street on the most accurate maps can be challenging.

La Société d’histoire des Français de Chine, a group of French expats in Shanghai, researching the city’s history (www.histoire-chine.fr) have recently come up with a very useful to solve this issue. Their new online tool is an Old / New Shanghai street search engine.

It is extremely easy to use, just type the street name you are looking for, and the related names will come up immediately, both Old and New Shanghai names. This makes it practical and very useful. The search engine can be found at http://www.histoire-chine.fr/streets-of-old-shanghai/

Much lower tech but very complementary is Paul French’s “Old Shanghai A-Z”, that includes a lot of information about the history of Old Shanghai street names.

More New Asia Hotel luggage label

Search about New Asia Hotel continued after the original post “New Asia Hotel“. Not much seem to have been written in English about it, probably due to its off side location in Hongkou (Hongkew in old spelling) district and its short original life from 1932 to 1937 (before being taken by the Japanese authorities). My original post “New Asia Hotel” attracted attention from fellow researchers, who shared the information with us.

First of all, the original post showed one example of label, but I found another one. Style is very similar but this one is round, compared to the original with slightly different shape. The round shape is also smaller, with different font used though design is very similar.

Luggage labels were is fashion in luxury hotels, and New Asia Hotel was one of the many hotels in Shanghai. More Old Shanghai luggage labels are displayed on post “Old Shanghai luggage labels” as well as “More Old Shanghai luggage labels“.


Peter Hibbard, who has researched the Cathay Hotel and wrote a book about it (See post “Peace at the Cathay“) gave a lot of information of the original mission of the New Asia Hotel.

” The New Asia deserves special mention as it was a remarkable diversion from other ‘modern’ Chinese hotels. Before the Japanese arrived the hotel was a moral exemplar. The New Asia Hotel decided to break away from the prevailing standards of Chinese hotels by barring mahjong, women of ill-fame and opium. With branches of the hotel already operating in Hong Kong and Canton, the nine storey Shanghai hotel, situated on the corner of Tiendong and North Szechuen opened in January 1934. The aim of the Cantonese general manager, Mr. Cheng Bew, known to foreigners as Mr. B Jones, was to conduct business along the lines of the foreign hotels where the morals of young men may be preserved and where the charges will be within reasonable reach of the average man’s pocket.

The unusual combination of Christian fellowship and sound business practice brought, to the surprise of many, immediate and lasting success. In it’s first year of operation the hotel received over 72,000 guests. All of the hotel’s 450 staff were meticulously trained in the hotel’s own lecture rooms, with many of them being able to speak English.

The hotel company, in deliberately omitting a ballroom from the hotel, substituted a spacious roof garden for healthy recreation and games. However a small bar was to be found on the ground floor near a club-like lounge and reading room. The hotel invited international patronage, with the Chinese and foreign dining rooms being a favourite lunchtime haunt of Shanghai’s diplomatic circle. “

Peter also added specific information about the drastic change of policy after the takeover by the Japanese authorities.
“The China Weekly Review May 28th, 1938:

Christian Hotel Converted into den of intrigue…

The New Asia Hotel …has been diverted to strange usage, so strange as to verge on the occult if one would believe all the stories told about the hostelry.

When opened it announced that it would be ‘operated in strict accordance with Christian principles,’ in sharp contrast to some other hotels in the city which catered to ‘the flesh and the devil.’ It had Gideon bibles in every room and was the first ‘strictly modern’ Chinese hotel in Shanghai.
When the Japanese seized the Hongkew area, the Special Service section grabbed the New Asia and established its headquarters there. For a time it was operated by foreigners but now totally Japanese. Now serves as headquarters for around 30 different ‘puppet organisations.’ The New Asia is a hotbed of traitorous activity, housing all manner of organisations which the Japanese warlords are using fro breaking down Chinese resistance or misleading or confusing the public as to what really is going on.’
Secret agents of the organizations are sent into the International Settlement and the French Concession to solicit members. They are plentifully supplied with funds and their main purpose is to invite the prospect to the New Asia for a feat and party. Many Chinese newspapers carried stories of nightly orgies.”

After WW2, the hotel continued being used by the military.
” The China Daily Tribune 3.3.48
Air Transport under General Chennault – the Flying Tigers, moved into New Asia Hotel after V-J Day, later occupied by the US Army and then the Army Advisory Group in 1948.”

Finally, the building was designed architect S. A. Sayer, but American Chinese architect Poy Gum Lee (See post ” Poy Gum Lee lost building“) was also involved as a consultant. He was a rumored to be the actual designer but denied in a new paper post. He retained shares of the hotel after he returned to New York.

New Asia Hotel

Although it is slightly off the beaten track, Honkou’s New Asia Hotel is still an emblematic Art Deco building. Located right behind the Shanghai General Post Office, it is one of the large hotel from Old Shanghai that is still operating until today, like Park Hotel, Cathay Hotel, Yangze Hotel and few others. Having been interested in Old Shanghai hotel and their luggage labels, I recently got the one below, leading to further research about the hotel. If you have missed the previous posts on language labels, please go to post “Old Shanghai hotels luggage labels“.

New Asia Hotel Luggage label

New Asia Hotel was built in the West of Hongkou district in 1933 and opened in early 1934. It is located right behind the General Post Office, on Sichuan Bei Lu near the bank of the Suzhou Creek. The whole area was being developed then, as the neighboring Embankment Building was built in 1932 and the Bridge House one block behind in 1935. The developer of both buildings was Republic Land Investment 五和洋行, with an architect team headed by S. A. Sayer 席拉 (Thanks to Katya Knyazeva @https://avezink.com/ for the find). New Asia Hotel first open a hotel in Guangzhou in 1928 and Hong Kong on the same year before coming to Shanghai.

New Asia Hotel from Sichuan Lu, probably 1934 (picture virtual Shanghai)

The hotel had a distinctive Guandong style, in particular in terms of food. The Hongkou neighborhood had many Japanese residents, so the hotel attracted Japanese clients as well as international travelers as seen as below advertising. The location made it close to the Bund business district, but as also close to Japanese Consulate on the North, the NYK (Japanese Shipping line) wharf and the Japanese Club that was a few streets away in Hongkou district.

Advertising for New Asia Hotel, picture ebay

Business did not last for very long as the brand new hotel was taken over by the Japanese occupation authorities after 1937. The hotel was used as the headquarter of the Special Services Corp of the Japanese Military Police, as well as base for gangsters linked with it. Being the best hotel in Shanghai out of the foreign area, it also became the residence for Japanese appointed mayor of Shanghai at the time.

The above luggage labels and advertising shows a Japanese flag on the top of the building. Large buildings of the period often showed foreign flags, like British flags on the Bund. My guess is that the luggage label and above document are from the 1934-1937 period, as I don’t see the Japanese occupiers being busy with creating marketing material in English. For more luggage labels from hotels in Old Shanghai, please go to post “Old Shanghai hotels luggage labels“. I recently found another luggage label from New Asia Hotel: See post: “More New Asia Hotel luggage label“.

New Asia Hotel was renovated several times, so the interior has lost all its history, but the Art Deco building still remains today. The hotel is now called Golden Tulip New Asia Hotel.

The new look of the New Asia Hotel

Park Hotel accounting part 2

This post is a follow-up from post “Park Hotel accounting“, analyzing accounts Shanghai Park hotel for 22nd October 1938. The original post was looking into the purchase side of the hotel accounts, this post is looking into the revenue side. In October 1938, the international settlement had been surrounded by the Japanese army since Aug 1937, travelling to the rest of China was difficult and only few ships came from abroad to Shanghai. It is then not surprising that the room part of the revenue is low, nearly the same as the F&B, as tourists and businessmen travelling were very few.

The above picture is the daily earnings report for the date of 22nd Octobre 1938, summarizing all the earnings of the hotel including rooms, restaurants and other guest services. Besides Park Hotel had four restaurants as well as room service, details of which can be found on the Park Hotel leaflet that was show in post “Advertising Park Hotel“.

For F&B, on the list is “sustentation”. This large post (44% of revenue on that day) probably covered breakfast and maybe some more small snacks along the day. It must have been reserved for the residents and their guests, as no revenue is booked from outside.

The grill room was located on 14th floor, overlooking the race course. Numbers show that it was the most popular restaurant of the hotel by revenue, with more than 70% of restaurant revenue on that day. Notably, wine revenu was higher than the food showing that it was popular to drink alcohol while eating grilled meat, as it is today. The restaurant attracted many customers from the outside, as the least part of the revenue comes from residents (about 15%). The largest part (56%) was city, i.e. external regular customers with accounts at the hotel who did not need to pay cash, but where sent the “sheet”, meaning the tab, for collection at the end of the month. Finally, about 27% was cash, meaning external customers that did not have a credit line.

The dining room French cuisine on 2nd floor was much less popular (representing 6% of revenue), with most customers being residents of the hotel. The Chinese restaurant had little more success (about 10% of the revenue).

The hotel also had a lounge and a bar that was massively selling drinks, amounting to 30% of total F&B revenue. The place must have been popular in town, as residents only accounted for a third of the revenue, while city and cash accounting for a third each. The main feature of Park Hotel lounge was a full view of the race course, this made the lounge and bar particularly popular during the racing season. The races were organized in a Spring and Autumn season. The Autumn season would start in October with races on weekends culminating on Champion’s day in November. 22nd October 1938 was a Saturday, it was probably a day of races, explaining the strong attendance of the bar and the grill room which both had view on the race course.

A substantial amount was also spent on cigars, probably mostly in the bar. Telephone was also a source of additional revenue as Park Hotel was one of the places where people could make international phone calls. It was the location for the first international call with the USA attended by Soong Mei-Ling, wife of the Chang Kai Shek in 1935 after AT&T started transpacific telephone service. With the international settlement surrounded, international phone calls were surely of high demand at that time.

For more information on the accounts of Park Hotel, please go to post Park Hotel accounting.