Collège Municipal Français

The original Cercle Sportif Francais

Most people interested in Shanghai history know about the “Cercle Sportif Francais”, the current Okura Garden hotel on Maoming lu. The French Club as it was called in English moved to this brand new building in 1926, from its original location on Route Vallon (today’s Nanchang lu). The very large building previously used was then allocated to house the French High School or “Collège Municipal Français” in French.  The garden of the Collège Municipal Français extended all the way to French Park, i.e. today’s Fuxing Park. Unfortunately the park has been separated from the building and a wall is now separating them. It would be extremely difficult to take the same picture again.

Shanghai Science Hall

I managed to get into today’s Shanghai Science Hall on Nanchang lu, the building that was the old Collège Municipal Français. It is not a high school anymore, but a building dedicated to science studies. As such, it is sometimes difficult to enter  as the guards are not happy to see foreigners coming in. The side on Nanchang lu is oriented towards North. The much nicer facade is oriented toward the South, overlooking the park. Like in many buildings in Shanghai, a south orientation allows to get some light and warmth in the gloomy winter.  With the large space this building is very cold in the winter, like most buildings in Shanghai. I have not seen a real heating system in place, but the may have been one when it was built.

One of the most interesting feature is the art deco stain glass in the hall way (see picture left). Stain glasses were very much in fashion when this building was erected, as found in a number of building in Shanghai. This one is the largest I have seen in the city. I have tried to take pictures of it before, being chased out by the guard… but today was my day of luck. The stain glass is not noticeable from the outside, but really nice from the inside. Although it has been clearly repaired in some parts, it has crossed time and Shanghai history while being well preserved.

up the stairs

Among others, two famous authors attended the teaching of the Collège Municipal Français, Rena Krasno and Liliane Wilens. As explained by the later when we met (see post “a date with Liliane“), students of the Collège Municipal Français were French children and other foreigners, as well Chinese from Shanghai upper class society. Located in the heart of the French Concession, the Collège Municipal Français was very near to some famous residential areas such as Rue Lafayette (today Fuxing Lu) and Avenue Pétain (today’s Heng Shan lu). Since the building was not originaly designed as a school but as an entertainment club, it became a school with a wonderful design, surely giving life long memory to the children who went to school there.

This location was also the seat of the original Alliance Francaise de Changhai, teaching French to Chinese students just like it is today on the Wusong Lu campus. This very large building is still in use without much repair and still has grand style and appearance. It is very well worth a visit if you can sneak in.

15 thoughts on “Collège Municipal Français”

  1. Thank you for writing about my school, the College MUNICIPAL Francais de Shanghai (sorry for inability to use accents!). The CMF was located on ROUTE Vallon.
    The school had classes from kindergarten all the way to the “premiere/philosphie” for the two baccalaureats which were needed in those days to graduate.’
    Yes, there was heat in the building and ceiling fans for the very warm days.
    The word “Municipal” was removed by fall 1943 when the Chinese puppet government of Wang Ching-wei ruled Shanghai. Soon after, the Japanese army took over our school and all the students were transferred to morning session classes to the Ecole Remi, a school for White Russians who then attended classes in the afternoon.
    By the way the guards and personnel on duty were extremely friendly when it was indicated to them that I was a former student of the school. They let us roam around freely in the building.
    Several years ago I took a picture of the stained glass window which I will email to you.

  2. Dear Liliane,

    Thanks as always for your precisions. I have amended my post.
    I have been many times in it, and taken pictures of the stained glass window on this beautiful day. Sometimes one can get in, but not always and surely not with a camera.

  3. Is anything know about Wantz, one of the architects of this building? And what year did it become the College Municipal Francaise (instead of the Sports Club)? Rue Wantz, now Xingle Lu, where the CCP was founded in1921, is named after this French architect.

  4. In my youth in Shanghai, I attended French schools.
    Started at the collège municipal (CMF) in the fall of 1939.
    When WW2 started, politics intervened; first, some Italian pupils (enemies of France) were asked to leave: I remember the Rubini brothers and Pierro Coudziroco. Then, when French Shanghai became tied to Vichy, it was the turn of the ‘allies’ to leave. Being Greeks (parents escaped from Vladivostok in the early 1920’s), one of my sisters, brother and I were transferred to the école Rémi in the fall of 1941(my eldest sister was allowed to stay at the CMF — go figure). In the fall of 1945 I went to the French section of the collège Ste. Jeanne D’Arc and finally ended up once again in the renamed collège français. My stay at French Aurora university was very short because the communists started to teach in Chinese.
    I left Shanghai in 1952 and moved to Canada in 1953.

  5. Student 1930-1940 . Surrounding grounds have changed but buildings appear as they were when then Principal M.Grosbois and M. Sabatier ran the school.

  6. I went to this school for two years from the age of nearly six to nearly eight. I visited it today after visiting our old home in Shanghai. It has moved into private hands and is now a hotel. It has a plaque saying that it was the former College Francais. it looks very good and has been well maintained.

  7. Hi, I went to College Francais for my first 5-6 years. I still have several friends from College. I am now married and my name is Mary Samson living in Sydney, Australia. email me: MASAMSAL@BIGPOND.NET.AU

    I mentioned the school etc. in my book: MY REMARKABLE JOURNEY BY MARY SAMSON

  8. my grand father ran factory in shanghai 1919 1939 fatherwhent to college municipal looking at his silver medal in track

  9. Dear Shanghailanders,
    I am enclosing a class photo, probably 1953, with Brother Henry?, for class 1, taken on the football field in Ste Jeanne D’Arc. The following year , the school was closed by the local authorities. We lived on Route/Rue Vallon/Vaillon.
    Thank you
    I remember a tuck shop on the premises?
    HOWEVER, I am not sure how to attach the photo to my message. Help will be appreciated.

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