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.

Media appearance in Chinese

The last weeks have been very active, with me taking part of the Shanghai Style and fashion festival organized in the city. This was the second edition, I attended the first one last year (see post “Night out at the French Club” for more details). Only this time, I got really involved in it.

I was invited to give a short speech about Old Shanghai, and Art Deco at the opening ceremony. It was rather short but intense, I had to speak in Chinese. My speech was mentioned in daily Shanghai morning post.

The next step was really new to me, as I was part of a tour on Hunan lu that was broadcasted in an internet livestream. Once again, I was only a sidekick with a short speech but it was definitely a first for me, media appearance in Chinese.

French concession detailed map

Maps are an essential took for understanding history. I recently found an amazing map of the Shanghai former French concession. Finding all information on it is a real challenge, but also very rewarding.

The below map was downloaded from a public website. It is clearly the scan of an historical map of the Shanghai French Concession. The title is “Plan de la Concession Française”, “Changhai”. The website mentioned the date of 1920, but it’s clearly from a later date.

The shape of the map clearly shows the full size of the former French concession, after 1911. One specific point for finding the date of the map is the presence of the Cercle Sportif Français (Corner Route Bourgeat and Rue Cardinal Mercier / today Changle Lu and Maoming Nan Lu) , officially opened at the end of 1926. At the same time, the Canidrome is not mentioned on the map, in the block Route Lafayette / Route Cardinal Mercier / Avenue du Roi Albert (Fuxing Lu / Maoming Nan Lu / Shaanxi Nan lu). The part of the Rue Cardinal Mercier next to the canidrome was not even built, with the Morris Estate covering both side of the current Maoming Lu. As the Canidrome opened in 1928 and needed some time for building, the map can be dated from 1927.

Looking at the details more in-depth, very interesting information is found in the lower right corner. First of all, the date of the design is written. The map design was finalised on 28 April 1927, by “l’ingénieur en chef” (the chief engineer) of the Shanghai French Municipality whose signature is printed on the map. Furthermore, the print work is mentionned as “T’ou-sé-Wé”. This was the orphanage of the ZiKaWei (XuJiaHui) Jesuits complex which was also an art and craft school run by the Jesuits priests. The framing of the map is also very nice, with a square motive on each corner. The map was printed on brown paper with 4 color (Black, Orange, Blue, Green).

On the top left corner is added some information probably stamped later in red. “Police Jour C 1514 / Nuit W 6675” as well as “Incendie Jour C 79 Nuit W 79”. I guess those were the police and fireman phone number for day and night service.

The size of the map is mentioned to be 12 x 28 inches (30.48 x 71.12 cm), with a 1 : 8750 scale. I am somewhat skeptical of a map size in inches, this must be an approximation as this French map was surely an integer number in cm. Futhermore, I have seen a very similar French Concession map, with original map about 140 cm x 60 cm).

This map is very highly detailed and of very high quality. Since it is signed by the chief engineer, it was made for the French Consulate, or most probably the French Municipality. This makes it an official map of the French Authorities. Those cadaster maps are extremely rare nowadays, this was a lucky catch. If you need the original full size file, download link is below.

Shanghai French Municipality Letter

Separated from the Shanghai International Settlement, the Shanghai French Concession had an administration on its own. Beside the French Consulate located on the Bund, the French Concession also had a French municipal administration as well as municipality building. The French Municipal Council (Conseil Municipal) was in charge of the city’s management, as opposed to the Consulate representing the French state. Although the French Municipal council was presided by the French Consul General, it regularly tried to distance itself from the Consulate’s influence.

While foreigners, and even more French people, were only a minority in the French Concession, the French Municipal Council had mostly French members as well as 3 foreign members. Chinese members were added in 1914, as a condition for the final extension of the French Concession. Members of the French Municipal Council were elected and including known people of the French community like René Fano, and Lucien Basset. Hugh Martin who I wrote about in previous posts was a also a member. The most famous Chinese member was surely gangster Du Yusheng.

Documents from the Municipalité Française de Changhai are pretty rare, so I was very happy to get this original envelop from the Municipalité Française from 1936. It was posted on 27 June 1936 at the Shanghai Post office, probably the General Post office on Sichuan Lu, as the character Zhong (center) is used below Shanghai. It was stamped with the 12 (probably 12 o’clock) batch. As discussed in previous post “General post office“, this was carried by the Chinese post, with Chinese stamps on the letter.

This was a registered letter, “Recommandée” is written on the envelope, as French was (and still is) the language of the international postal association. This also meant that a coupon was attached on the letter that was detached when the letter was actually delivered. As no mention is about the route to France, I assume the mail went by boat.

I was curious about the destination, ” Etablissements Ph. Lafon in Tours. The company was specialized in floor mills equipment. Below is an add from 1919 but I found pictures of machines from this company from 1950s. I have not found any company importing this brand in Shanghai, but maybe the Shanghai municipality was buying or looking at buying equipment from this company.

Jewish refugees after Shanghai

The story of the 20.000 Jews from Central Europe who took refuge in Shanghai in 1938 to 1939 has been documented quite a number of times in the last decade. Although it was not so well spread when I started this blog, it is now recognized in and out of Shanghai, including in the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum in Hong Kou district.

What is less well known is how they all left China, while some of them remained in Shanghai until the early 50’s. A number of books have been written by some of the people who went through it all, including the excellent “Stateless in Shanghai” from my friend Liliane Willens. However, they tend to focus on individual stories. It also seem that people went on with their new life and wanted to put it all away, until many years later when some wrote their own story.

This is where the recent article from Jewish News of Northern California is interesting. It shows how a place like San Francisco organized a welcoming effort for those refugees after leaving Shanghai. Another interesting point is that a number of those people stayed in San Francisco, and recreated a little bit of Shanghai way of life there, just like they tried to recreate some of their European life a few years before in Shanghai. In that case, it was not only individuals that moved, but a whole community that recreated itself and continued to exist many years later carrying the Shanghai spirit with them, long after having left the city.

The article can be found at: https://jweekly.com/2022/08/17/75-years-ago-this-week-san-francisco-was-port-of-hope-for-jewish-refugees-from-shanghai/