Various religious organizations have long been interested in expending in China. A large number of foreigners in old Shanghai came to try and convert millions of Chinese. Missionaries were crossing the country, delivering their “true” faith and building churches. Old Shanghai was the center of all this activity, counting many churches, as well as offices of many religious oriented organizations. This post is about the opposite fate of two historic Churches near the Bund.
The Union Church was built in 1885 on South Suzhou Road, just behind the Bund. This protestant Church was a prime gathering point for the community, being located close to the English Consulate and the business center of Old Shanghai. It was confiscated in the 1950’s and used as an office building.
Like many other churches in Shanghai, China’s history took a heavy toll on the Union Church and the building passed its prime shape long ago (see picture from 2007 on the hand side right). Until destruction, the church tower could be seen from the motorway bridge over the Huangpu river. In 2007, the church was seriously damaged by fire. According to a well documented article from Shanghaiist at that time, the church was not used anymore and scheduled for renovation. From the picture above taken in February 2009, it seems that the renovation was canceled and demolition took place instead. I guess the fire saved cost of renovating this historical relic and in the same
time freed some very valuable land on this part of the Bund. I’m sure there are some very good reasons to do this, but seeing the last bit an historical building being teared down in central Shanghai is never a joyfull sight. Picture left quite an ironic view with Shanghai 2010 advertising on the wall covering the destruction site.
At the same time, another church near the Bund is seeing a new life. The English Church, later called the Anglican
Cathedral, at the corner of Hankou lu and Jiangxi lu is nearly at the end of the restoration process. Apart from a fresh painting, the most visible change is surely that the Church spike is back on the tower next the the main building. The spike was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, the Xu Jia Hui Cathedral and the union Church among others were similarly damaged. Renovation is not finished yet, but it definitely seems to go in the right direction. The tower looks very much like the original that can be seen on old postcards.
A Church near the Bund disappears, while another one gets its tower back and a good renovation. We can’t have it all and both could well have been destroyed. Like the Chinese saying “you win something, you loose something”.