In post Shanghai Milkman, I wrote about milk delivery in Old Shanghai, and Culty Dairy, a farm located in the former French Concession. Culty dairy was advertising its products in the “Journal de Shanghai”, the French newspaper in Old Shanghai. Below ad is from 8th December 1928. “Culty milk. Drink it daily brings good health”. Simple but effective!
Shanghai 2015 World Congress on Art Deco was a major event for the Old Shanghai lover community. Bringing dozens of delegates US, the Americas, Europe and Asia, it focused the Art Deco World’s attention to Shanghai heritage, thanks to organizer Historic Shanghai. It was also a great meeting place for Art Deco people and an introduction to the very few Art Deco societies in France and other European countries to ICADS (now Art Deco International). As explained to post “Art Deco in France” from 2014, Art Deco was not really well recognized in Europe then, particularly in France.
French speakers taking part to the Shanghai 2015 World Art Deco congress gathered for an informal meeting after one of the Congress diners at the former Cercle Sportif Français (today the Okura Garden Hotel). The conversation moved to the plan of having the World Congress on Art Deco in Paris in 2025, that seemed like a distant dream.
The best part is that the 2025 World Art Deco Congress in Paris has been confirmed, starting on 28th April 2025. An early version of the project has already been presented. This event will mark the 100th anniversary of the opening of the original exhibition and will be a great boost for Art Deco in France. The dream from Paris is now becoming reality. Surely a Shanghai delegation will join!
“La Concession Française de Changhaï”, the Shanghai French Concession was officially created by the Whampoa treaty in 1844. It became much real at the arrival of the first French Consul Général, Charles de Montigny in 1847. One of the main task of the Consul was to open a Consulate General, and later to build an actual building to host the Consulate.
As seen on above map, the original French Consulate building was not on the Bund, a little behind, within the plot of the Catholic missions. This plot is where the current Saint-Joseph Church is, on Sichuan Nan Lu. The Consulate moved a few years later to a location on the “Quai de France”, the French Bund.
The new consulate building of classic style, was probably built in the mid 1860s as the French Concession was extended on the river side in 1861. From that point, Quai de France, or French Bund, became much longer and with more traffic. The street on the left side of the Consulate became “Rue du Consulat” (today Jingling Dong Lu). Although I could not find the actual date of construction of this building, it did not last very long as a new Consulate was built on the same plot but closer to the river and the French Bund, opening in 1896, when Paul Claudel was the French Consul in Shanghai.
The new building was of neo-classical style, matching buildings on the Bund, a few hundred meters away. It was asymmetrical with a round extension on the side on Rue du Consulat. Actual French people were only a few hundreds in the French concession at that time.
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 1982, when he tried to keep a few pieces of the original building. Unfortunately, those remaining pieces have been lost over the years. 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, occupied by ICBC bank. The ground level of the building reminds of the style of the former Consulate building, including the metal fence around the plot. Maybe it is an hommage to the former building in the same spot. The neighbouring building, the former office of the Messageries Maritimes still stands, being now the seat of the Shanghai archives.
Although the French translation of “400 million customers” seems to have been a strong success Carl Crown did not gain long term fame in France. I never heard about him before coming to Shanghai. The discovery came while listening to Paul French, author of his biography, Paul French, during the 2007 Shanghai literary festival. Having heard about the famous Carl Crow map of Shanghai before I bought the book after French’s speech at Glamour bar.
Carl Crow was a very important figure of the old Shanghai, where he spent two periods of his life. He first started the China Press in Shanghai, a newspaper that was bringing an American voice to a scene dominated by the British North China Daily News. After moving to Japan, he became famous for being the first journalist to publish the “21 demands” from Japan to China in 1915.
Coming back to Shanghai in 1918 he created what became one of the main foreign advertising firm in Shanghai, helping foreign companies to sell their products throughout China. Carl Crow Inc also maintained the first and largest advertising network in Eastern China, importing the concept of advertising and creating the famous Shanghai advertising posters with Chinese girls in QiPao. These posters have since become one of icon of old Shanghai. He also founded the Shanghai Evening Post in 1929, the Shanghai newspaper that mostly supported the Nationalist cause and the development of China. He finally left Shanghai on the last American refugee boat after the Japanese invasion of the settlement in 1937 and finished his life in the US as a writer and adviser on Asian politics. MOFBA recently published a great article about the different locations of the Carl Crow Inc in Shanghai.
Carl Crow is the author of many books including “400 Million Customers“, “The Chinese are like that” and “Foreign Devils in the Flowery kingdom”. He crossed the path of Sun Ya Tsen, Chiang Kai Chek and his wife, Zhu En Lai, various Chinese warlords and many Shanghai known figures. He was part of the Shanghai publishing scene along with fellow Missourians such a Tom Millard and JP Powell.
It took me while to finish the book, not by lack of interest but by lack of time. Paul French definitely spent an enormous amount of time to research it. He travelled extensively to the US, HongKong and other locations to pull together information, and the book really feels like a great study. As an Old Shanghai fanatic, I found in it many information that I missed, many cross references to things I had heard of and many points of high interest. Carl Crow’s life takes us to the tumultous Chinese’s history from the 30’s. At the same time, I sometimes felt that without all my previous knowledge of these events and characters, I would probably have been a bit lost. “A tough Old China Hand” is a highly interesting book, but not one for the freshers in the Old Shanghai.
The weather was really nice last week, I spent time walking up the Western stretch of Nanjing Dong Lu, the former Nanking Road. Going from the Bund to the Race course, Nanking Road was the main road of Old Shanghai and its main shopping street. It is still very busy nowadays, although it mostly caters for tourists. Walking down Nanjing the newly pedestrian street all the way to the Bund is a must for a Shanghai visit.
Although many of the old buildings of the Nanking Road have been destroyed, the above section (corner of Nanking road and Hoopei road / Nanjing Dong Lu and Hubei Lu) has not changed so much, as seen on above picture. The four main modern department stores of Old Shanghai were built on this stretch and those buildings are still here.
Some of the buildings on the left side have been teared down, but Wing On department store (1918) is still visible. The façade has been renovate and looks very nice. Unfortunately, the interior been ruinovated several times in the last decades.
On the right side, Sincere department store building (1917) is also still visible. Although it has been renovated, the building is in less good shape than the Wing On. The façade is half covered by an ugly advertising. The ground floor is occupied by cloth shops. The hotel in the back of the building has been expended to occupy a large share of what was the department store.
Finally, the middle spire of has disappeared but the building supporting it has not. The former Sun Sun Department store (1935), designed by Hungarian architect C.H. Gonda is still there, although it is less visible. Sincere spire can be seen in the background of above picture left. Further down is the location the fourth department store of Nanking Road, the Da Sun, now Shanghai N1 department store.
Modern skyscrapers in the background seem just behind the Sun Sun, although they are much further, located on the side of people square. The lowest dome is the New World shopping mall, located at the spot of the New World entertainment centre and hotel.
Due to the CoVid epidemic, the original entrance of the former “Cercle Sportif Français“, the former French club, on Rue Cardinal Mercier (today Maoming Bei Lu) has been closed for months. This is a great opportunity to admire the wonderful original wrought fence that is normally folded during the day.
This is a great work of wrought iron, undoubtedly the original Art Deco fence designed by Léonard & Vesseyre. Sunshine gave a great light to it.
2019 James Carter book about Old Shanghai races was on my reading list for a while before I finally could go through it. Focus on Old Shanghai through the horse races and a very thorough research makes it an entertaining read full of new or rarely found information about my favorite topic.
Horse races in Old Shanghai
The book centers around horses races in Old Shanghai. Although this type of activity has gone out of fashion a lot, horses races were a major part of entertainment in Old Shanghai. The highlight of the season was the twice a year Champions Day, the main competition between horse owners. Shanghai would stop for the afternoon with large crowds joining for viewing and betting on the race. This made the Shanghai Race Course was the most important point of the city along with the Bund. The first main point of the book is to show the upmost importance of the event for the social life of Shanghai, that may be little difficult to grasp in today’s World of unlimited entertainment.
New information about race courses
The books also brings a lot of information about The Shanghai Race Club and the race course (that was located in today’s people square). What is really new is the in-depth information about the other major race course, IRC (International Race Course) located in Jiangwan district. Although started by Chinese who could not get membership in the Shanghai Race Club, both Race Courses had strong links and membership in one would bring access to the other, allowing Chinese and foreign horse owners to mix.
Many new characters
Finally, the book brings out a lot of characters that were previously little studied. The cast of horse owners competing for the main price gives is varied, showing different sides of the Shanghailander society. As opposed to what was mostly thought, some of those characters were Eurasians, children of (mostly) western fathers and Chinese mothers. The book also turn the light on the Chinese modern society that was created in Shanghai, with several inclination towards foreigners and political conviction. Whether they lived from or competed with foreigners in Shanghai, the whole development of Shanghai was influenced by the West, while trying to keep a distinctive Chinese character.
Although very detailed, the book lacks in pictures which will make it harder to comprehend for people unfamiliar with the topic. The other missing point is a transcription in characters of the main people and location. This would have helped research on them on the Chinese internet, where probably more information is available.
A great read about Old Shanghai
Champions Day is the result of an incredibly thorough research, compiling the whole English press from Old Shanghai, as well as massive research in existing academia on the topic. It definitely brings lots of information on many new characters in a very entertaining manner and definitely a recommended reading for anybody interested in Old Shanghai.
Traveling in general and hotels in particular, have long been a strong interest of mine. In an earlier post, I was writing about Hotel luggage labels that were stuck on traveler’s luggage for advertising (see post: “Old Shanghai hotels luggage labels“). Here are a few more examples of luggage labels.
The Cathay Hotels Ltd
The luggage label from Cathay Hotels featuring The Cathay and the Metropole is probably the most famous luggage label of Old Shanghai. I found out that there was also a version with three properties. The Cathay Mansion was completed in 1928, the Cathay in 1928 and the Metropole 1931. However the Cathay Mansion was originally an apartment building, turned into hotel with a redevelopment and restaurant addition, so I guess the 3 hotels version was the latest.
The Great China Hotel
The property is still located at that corner and Fuzhou Lu and Xizang lu, but it was turned into an apartment building. The building that was dominating this side of the racetrack is now dwarfed by neighboring towers, but it is still easy to recognize.
The New World Hotel
Also located near the race track, the New World Hotel was located at the corner of today’s Nanjing Dong Lu and Xizang Lu. It was part of the entertainment center, the New World, an earlier version of the massive gambling, shows and entertainment focus, the Great World or Da Shi Jie that is located a few hundred meters down Xizang Lu. It has been destroyed to build a shopping mall.
Spanish architect Alvaro Leonardo has been instrumental in the rediscovery of Spanish architect in Shanghai, Abelardo Lafuente. While being in Shanghai, he researched his thesis on his forefather. He has been back in Madrid for a couple of years and his thesis is now completed, though only in spanish. His work is starting to get attention, like in this recent article in major Madrid daily Diaro ABC (in Spanish only).
Like for most Shanghai architects, their legacy was lost for many years and has only recently reappeared. It is then a struggle to find back information and an even bigger struggle to achieve recognition in their home country, so far away and after so many years. Congrats to Alvaro for this article!
Francophone Chinese stand-up comedian Li Song has got really popular in the French community in Shanghai, and with China focused people in France and French speaking countries.
He launched in career with the stand-up show “Chroniques du débridé” in 2018. The weekly Show “Le Journal du débridé” started in 2020. I was invited to be part of #11, released on 27th Feb 2021 (the part on Shanghailander.net starts at 13:50). The show is available on Youtube and Wechat.