Silas Hardoon’s story of moving from a poor employee of the Sassoon house to the richest man in Shanghai, maybe Asia, is one of those Old Shanghai legends. He was the man that owned most of the ground on both side of Nanjing Road, making a fortune with the Westward extension of the city.
The real mystery as long been how his famous garden and houses, Aili Garden, looked like. Aili Garden was built on the plot where the Shanghai exhibition center (formerly Sino-Soviet friendship building) is now located. As seen in picture below, this block is absolutely massive, occupying a large section of Central Shanghai.
Although Silas Hardoon was already very rich when he built the place, the Bubbling Well Road area (today Nanjing Xi Lu) was still a far away suburb. This was the area for big mansion with large parks, just like the Hong Qiao area in the 1930s and today’s Qingpu district. Picture below gives a clear idea of the street view of the time.
The garden was mostly destroyed after Japanese invasion of the International Settlement in December 1941, freeing prime location space for the construction of the Shanghai exhibition Center in 1956. There was no picture available of the garden and its appearance was only described in a few books. Hardoon’s garden was lost in history.
This is until my good friends from Historic Shanghai found a source and published unseen original pictures from Hardoon’s family. These amazing pictures can be found at this link: http://www.historic-shanghai.com/inside-hardoons-garden/