Former Shanghai French Consulate (Part 2)

Located on the Bund, the French Consulate building was on the cross of the Quai de France (French Bund) and the Rue du Consulat (Consulate street, today Jinling lu). As explained in post “Former Shanghai French Consulate (Part 1)“, the Consulate moved to this plot in 1861. A new building was erected in 1896, when Paul Claudel was Consul General.

The new building was of neo-classical style, matching buildings on the Bund of the International Settlement, a few hundred meters away. It was asymmetrical with a round extension on the side on Rue du Consulat (on the left side, today Jinglin Dong Lu).

Below is another view of the building, probably taken later with trees significantly larger. It is also much closer and gives many more details of the building. it gives a clear pictures of the façade’s balcony and windows. The style was definitely noe renaisssance, typical from the French 3rd Republic period. It is quite similar to the former Saigon municipal building, built by France between 1901 and 1909. Although the picture is not dated, the text on the back side of the postcard dates it from 1927.

Like other postcards then it was made from a black and white photograph (color photography was not widely available then) and colorized by hand. Although the colors were added later, it looks very real and was probably close to original of a grey stone building similar to the first picture. I don’t think the roof was green, probably dark grey colored. Yellow is used for the trees and some part of the front, maybe the “RF” (République Française) sign was covered with gold like on the picture though I doubt it. The characters on the street side clearly indicate the scale of the building that must have been clearly visible from the river, just like buildings down stream in the former international settlement.

The building was the office of the French Consul as well as his family home. If the area was not so busy when this consulate building opened, it was very different in the 1930s as Jacqueline Meyrier, daughter of Consul General Gustave Meyrier ,who was born in Shanghai in 1927 and lived in Shanghai from 1932 to 1936 and from 1945 to 1950. As stated in her interview by Didier Pujol, “She remembers the noise coming from the Quai de France which was always filled with coolies carrying loads off the boats.” The Rue du Consulat was the main road in the East of the French Concession, and was next to Route Colbert were the godown (warehouse) of Butterfield and Swire was located, so the area must have indeed been noisy.

The location of the French Consulate remained unchanged until the end of the former French Concession in 1946 as shown on below map from 1937.

French consulate location

This version of the French Consulate lasted the longest, and the building continued to be used long after the Consulate closed in 1950 as the Jin Ling Road Middle school. A French friend told me the story of the destruction of the building in the early 80s, when he tried to salvage a few pieces. Unfortunately, those remaining pieces have been lost over the years. Below picture is from 1983, shortly before the building was demolished.

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. It is now occupied by ICBC bank. The ground level of the building reminds of the style of the former Consulate building, including wrought iron fences around the plot. Maybe it is an hommage to the former building that was once on that same spot.

Location of the former French Consulate (Right)

The neighbouring building, the former office of the Messageries Maritimes still stands (right to the main tower), being now the seat of the Shanghai archives. For more information, about the earlier French Consulate (1861-1896) that was located on the same spot please go to “Shanghai Former French Consulate (Part 1)”.

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.

Asni`eres Art Deco

The 1920s and 30s was a period of intense building in Paris outer districts and in Paris close suburbs. Away from the grand building of Central Paris, buildings in suburbs tend to be a little smaller, with more space around. They are more similar to the ones of Shanghai former French Concession.

As a stopover before flying back to Shanghai, I spent a day in Asni`eres/Seine, a very close suburb to Paris. Asni`ere is familiar for French people, as French standup Fernand Raynaud (1926-19730) mentioned it in one of his most famous pieces, asking for phone number 22 in Asni“eres in the 1950 (see video below).

Like many cities in the Western part of Paris, it was built up before and after WWI, so Art Nouveau and Art Deco are plentiful. Another similar exemple is much more though after Boulogne-Billancourt (see post From Boulogne to Nanjing for more details). Walking around the city, I found a number of nice Art Deco examples.

With such a sunny and hot weather, it felt even more like in Shanghai, surrounded by Art Deco buildings.

Shanghai customs house 1860

Travel books from the late 19th century are a good source of information about Shanghai at the time. However, the engraving that come with them are often wrong or invented. I recently receive the picture below, a extract from French review “Le tour du Monde” (around the World) from 1860. Unlike some others in the same review, this one seems pretty true to the original scene.

The above engraving was made from a painting from Pierre-Eug`ene Grandsire (1825-1905), a well known French painter. As the painter did not travel, it was made from a description or an earlier drawing from French marin officer M de Trévise. The picture must have been a great success, as it was later used for other publications in the UK.

Published in 1860, the picture is a reflection of 1858 or 1859. Control of the Chinese customs was handed to the British in 1854, and in 1857 the Shanghai authorities spent 6800 taels to built the customs office that was located on the Bund. From some sources, it seems that the building was originally a temple on the river side. The engraving is quite similar to the few pictures of the building that there taken later. The shape of the building was kept, though the actual proportions and size of the building is somewhat flawed.

A picture of the early Shanghai customs house, courtesy of https://www.hpcbristol.net/

In 1893, it was replaced by a more western building, as seen below. That building was demolished in 1925 and replaced by the current customs house in 1927.

The 1893 Shanghai Bund customs house (Shanghailander.net own collection)

Short trip to Lyon Art Deco

After 2 years without foreign travel, I was able to get back to France. The trip included a short day in Lyon, with some Art Deco photo opportunities. This post follows another post about Lyon Art Deco from… 2012.

Lyon has a lot of Art Deco architecture (See one of the best sites on the topic… in French only). Unfortunately, I did not have so much time to visit it apart from walking around between business meetings, so I focused on the business district of Lyon 3rd district. The first stop was this beautiful building on Avenue Maréchal de Saxe, that features really of lot of the Art Deco ornaments.

Later I walked up Cours Lafayette, one of the main boulevard leading to Lyon Part-Dieu station. Bordering the 3rd and 6th district, that were developed in the 1920s and 1930s, it really goes trough Art Deco splendors in Lyon and is located very close to Palais de Flore, on the Art Deco Lyon icon.

It was a really short view of Lyon Art Deco, but was a nice a sunny reminder of a style that is so present in Shanghai.

Bucharest Art Deco

Art Deco was a major artistic movement in the 1920’s to 1940’s. Although it was overlooked for decades, attention has come back to it, first in the US, starting with Miami Beach, as well as in Australia and New Zealand (See post Napier Art Deco). In the last ten years, Art Deco has also come back to Europe, including France the original location of the 1925 exposition des Arts Decoratifs. Shanghai Art Deco was celebrated by the 2015 World Congress on Art Deco, with Paris being the location for the 2025 Word Congress, 100 years after the original exhibition.

The rediscovery of Old Shanghai was also a discovery of the Art Deco heritage of the city. As Old Shanghai buildings were uncovered (from add-ons in particular) or restored, they could be classified in various style, with the leading style being Art Deco. The next step was to realize that “unique” Shanghai buildings where unique in Shanghai, but very similar to some in far away places. For a while, I was travelling to various destination, looking for buildings that looked like the Shanghai own, often from the same period. The first post was probably “London recalling“, followed by many trips in Auckland, Sydney, New York, Miami, Paris, Lyon, Budapest, Dijon etc etc. The feeling of Deja Vu was summarized perfectly in ” Deja vu from Paris to Shanghai “, as well as in post “Shanghai flashback“. Although I have reduced travelling for architecture in the last years, friends who lived in Shanghai started to send pictures to me. The latest example, is from Bucharest, from Old Shanghai specialist Peter Hibbard.

Art Deco building in Bucharest… that would look just at home in Shanghai

The above corner building could fit very well in the streets behind the Bund, or near Hamilton House, Grosvenor house or the corner of Avenue Edward VII and Szechuen Road (today Yanan Dong lu and Sichuan Lu). Just like building in Old Shanghai, and most communist countries, it was poorly maintained after WWI, but I am sure it was originally a very high class building.

Another example of Art Deco / modernist similarities is the above corner building in Bucharest, that is quite similar to some in Shanghai, including the Bearn apartment building in Shanghai, buy French firm LVK.

2025 Paris World Congress on Art Deco

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 speaking gathering of the 2015 World Congress on Art Deco

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.

Now in 2021, Art Deco in France has gained a lot of exposure in the last years following the first Art Deco exhibition in Paris in 2015, “1925, when Art Deco dazzled the World“. This was followed by a massive Bauhaus exhibition in 2017 “L’esprit du Bauhaus“.

Another major event was creation of Paris Art Deco society, with a Facebook group with 6000 members. A new Art Deco society has opened in Vichy and the media exposure around the re-opening of the renovated Villa Cavrois in Lille area in 2015 shows that Art Deco is now getting a lot of attention in France.

Villa Cavrois, Croix near Lille

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!

In April 2021, Art Deco International (formerly ICADS) has also introduced the first World Art Deco day, on 28th April. The date was chosen as the anniversary date of the opening of the 1925 Exposition des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

Lafuente article in Madrid paper

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!

Staying on Rue Colbert

Spending a staycation around the Yu Garden area became a great way to enjoy an overlooked part of Old Shanghai, before it disappears. Bordering the Renmin Lu (former Boulevard des deux Républiques), the building hosting the hotel occupied a complete block, with a great view in all directions.

Hotel location on a very old map

Above map shows the location of the block, at the cross Renmin Lu, Xinyong’an Lu and Yong An lu. Although the hotel is mostly known for its proximity to Yu Garden, it’s view on the former French concession that really interested me.

Boulevard des deux républiques (carte 1932)

Renmin lu was originally a canal, like many streets in Shanghai including today’s Yanan Lu (see post “Crossing the Yang Jing Bang” for more details). As the South border of the French Concession, it was called “Quai des fossés”, meaning “pit quay” in English), and was facing the North part of the Shanghai city wall. The city wall was teared down in 1912, the canal was filled and turned into a street called “Boulevard des deux Républiques”, meaning two republics Boulevard, i.e. the French Republic and the newly formed Chinese Republic. The Chinese name was and still ease “Renmin Lu”, republic street. Along with Zhong Hua lu, litteraly China street, making a circle following the former city wall, they form “Zhong Hua Ren Min”, meaning “The people of China”.

Xinyong’an Lu, was one of the early roads of the early French Concession, called “Rue Colbert”. One block down from the main road Rue du Consulat (today Jinling Road), it was the original seat of the Shanghai General hospital. Xinyong Lu was called “Rue Laguerre”, after French Commodore Adolphe Laguerre, who helped liberate Shanghai city from the Small Swords Society in 1855.

The whole area was covered with lanes, or Lilong housing many people and shops. In 1937, the block where the hotel is now located had 1200 inhabitants, with 33 Europeans and 70 shops. Shaped as a triangle, it could offer a very long line of shops. The building was on the border between the Chinese city and the back street of the French Bund. Located close to the Northern gate of the Chinese city, it must have been a great location for shops.

The opposite block was much larger, housed 2000 people including 49 Europeans and only 30 shops. Those Europeans were mostly living in the Saint-Anne building, a long 6 storey building on the side of Rue du Consulat, that was the highest building on this part of the French Concession.

The opposite corner from the sky

It was great to give a last look to this area that is now scheduled for redevelopment, as the opposite corner has already been emptied of its inhabitants and will surely massively change in the coming years. The other side of Route Colbert must have been built with similar kind of housing. A few year ago, this stretch of the street was a great spot for being ribbons, knots, fabrics and was needed for sewing.

wheelbarrows on Rue Colbert (Picture virtualshanghai)

Above picture shows the half way between de rue Laguerre corner and the river. The first building is the back of the Butterfield & Swire godown (warehouse). Being close to the French Bund, or Quai de France, and with a major trading company this part of the street must have been busy with warehouses and coolies. This is very different nowadays as the river front is not used for unloading cargo anymore. Route Colbert nowadays is a much quieter street.

Mr Loo’s pagoda in Paris

Mr Loo, the novel of an Asia art dealer” is a post I wrote in November 2014 about the book by Géraldine Lenain focused on CT Loo the main Chinese antic dealer in the early to mid 20th century and a colorful character (Follow this link to original post for more details). CT Loo lived three nearly parallel lives in China, France and the USA. His former Paris gallery shaped like a pagoda is probably his most visible creation. Modern pictures of the building are easy to find, but I recently found a much older one.

Amazingly, the building existed before taking this shape in 1925. It was of Louis Philippe style building and surely less visible in Paris landscape. The tour de force of CT Loo and architect Fernand Bloch was to turn it into a classical Chinese style building. Inside was also changed to reflect the outside Chinese style. Interestingly, it seems to be the only noticeable building by Fernand Bloch.

Although there is no date for the picture, people’s dress style and the car visible in the picture make it possible to date it to end of the 1920s or early 1930s. This was probably shot in the months or years after completion. At a time when the only pictures of foreign country were black and white, and people did not really travel, it must have been a real shock for Parisians to see it and a great advertising for CT Loo.

Modern view of the pagoda

Being so different from the surrounding buildings, the pagoda is still an amazing view in today’s Paris. The pagoda is located 48 Rue de Courcelles, in Paris 8th district. For more details about the original owner CT Loo, follow this link.