Former Shanghai Belgian Consulate

After a number of years of renovation, the campus of the Shanghai musical conservatory is now open to the public again. Includes several Old Shanghai building that have been renovated.

The most iconic part of the new project is surely “The German building”. This house in Bavarian style had been hiding in plain sight for years, as its main facade was covered by a more modern building for a long time. After renovation, it is now visible from Huai Hai Lu and attracts a lot of attention.

From the outside, it is clear that a lot of care has been put into the renovation. This massive house of German / Bavarian style wasbuilt for a German merchant between 1905 and 1911. It was designed by German architect firm Becker & Baedecker, that also built the former German club on the Bund. At that time, the road was called Rue Paul Brunat and this part was outside the French Concession area. It was formally included under the French jurisdiction after the extension of the French Concession in July 1914.

The back of the house includes a beautiful covered terrasse, also very well restored. An information plate mention that it was the seat of the Belgian consulate, but research shows it was a different building in the same area (see below).

Getting further into the park, one will encounter the former Shanghai Jewish Club, the main building of the modern Shanghai musical conservatory until a few years ago. Having been expended over the years, it is still used although it is now less visible compared to the newly opened buildings. This building is from 1932, with some art deco elements, much later than the “German building”. It’s interior has renovated many times and has little of the original. The location is close to the compound entrance on Feng Yang lu (former Route Pichon).

Former Shanghai Jewish Club

Hidden in the back of the compound is another building that was the biggest surprise as I had not spotted it before as it is hidden in the trees.

Art Nouveau Building in Shanghai

Its Art Nouveau designs looks very much like Vienna style, which is very rare in China. The only other building in that style I saw was in Wuhan. Along with the rest of the compound, the building has also been recently renovated. The inside is still not open to the public. This building is mentioned in an article from 1919, stating it had already been built by Mr Gerecke for a number of years by then so it was probably built around the same time as the German house.

Mr Emil Gerecke (1862-1933) was an employee of the Deutsche-Asiatische Bank (Bank Germano-Asiatic) in the 1890s, and then made his own company. The 1909 China Directory lists E. Gerecke as a bills broker located Route Pichon, and the Shanghai Club. The firm Gerecke & Sierich, Exchange brokers is also located at this address. He was repatriated to Germany in 1919, and came back to Shanghai in 1924.

The house was sold in 1917 and was turned into Dr J B Fearn Blue bird Sanitorium, a modern healthcare facility. It was named after 1908 Maurice Maeterlink’s play “L’oiseau bleu” (or blue bird in English), that was turned into a famous movie around that that time. The Blue bird Sanitorium lasted until 1926.

Blue Bird Sanitorium around 1920

From that point, the house was used as the Belgium Consulate in Shanghai. It is indicated on this 1935 map of the French Concession at 30 Route Pichon. The German house does not appear on the map, so it was not an official building then.

Position of Consulate General of Belgium

The footprint of the existing campus has also been greatly expended, now enclosing neighbouring plots that where previously off limit. This part, including the former Ezra mansion will be introduced in a further post.

Apart from the former Belgian Consulate, I have written posts about the former French Consulate, the former French Municipality and the former British Consulate. Follow the links to access them.

French Consulate of Amoy

Xiamen/厦门, historically called “Amoy” after the local dialect pronunciation, had a long history of international trade before becoming one of the five “Treaty ports” in 1842 following the treaty of Tianjin. Foreign consuls moved from Amoy city to the island of Gulangyu (鼓浪屿), located opposite the city in 1902. The whole island became an international settlement, with land regulations and municipal council like in Shanghai and consulates from many nations. Gulangy (鼓浪屿) is one of my favorite places in China, and I have been to the island 5 times since 2005 (See posts “Night on Gulangyu“, “Rain on Gulangyu” and “The revival of Gulangyu” for more details). This new trip was an opportunity to search for the former Amoy French Consulate on the island.

Gulangyu’s main beach

The backwater island I first saw in 2005 has now transformed into a tourism Mecca since getting on of the UNESCO protected heritage list in 2017. Although tourists have come in number, it is still possible to avoid massive crowds by visiting the island in the low season, like in the winter apart from Chinese New Year. With a little sun, temperature gets easily to 15-20 degrees, perfect for walking around. Most crowded roads are the one going along the coast overviewing Xiamen city, as well as the one going through the island to the main beach. They are best avoided in the afternoon, when most people come over.

South of Gulangyu

As per the old maps, the former French Consulate of Amoy (or “Consulat Français de Amoy” in French), was located on a secluded beach on the South West side of the island. The whole area around “11” on the map is now the Gulangyu Piano museum. The former Chan Bay West road (today Tian Wei Road) is blocked, as part of a large estate that was probably military zone a few years ago. Fortunately, today’s Tianwei Road splits into two branches, one of each is open leading to the former Danish Telegraph Office and former Oeitjoe Garden.

Former Oeitjoe Garden and the jetty

As indicated on the map, the former French Consulate is the building on the other side of the jetty, on the Chan Bay Beach. Although the building itself cannot be accessed, I managed to catch a picture (see below). A large plot of land around the former consulate was surrounded by large tents, and 2 rickshaws (!) were parked in the front. My guess is that it is currently used as a film set.

Former French Consulate, Amoy

Although it has quite a vast plot of land, Amoy French Consulate was never really seen as important by the French administration. Very little information is available on the internet about it. After consulate closure in the late 1940s, the Consulate’s archives were kept at the French Embassy in Beijing until 1981, when they were brought back to France. As French historian Roger Pérennès explains, France had a presence in Amoy since 1901, with a vice-Consulate from 1906 to 1916. Below picture from the Australian University archives stating “Amoy, at the French Consulate” is dated from 1907.

A proper consulate was only open on 1st December 1925, with Fernand Roy (1885-1967) being the Consulate for most of the time until end 1939. With little activity during WW2, the consulate finally closed down in February 1946.

Since the consulate was actually open very much later than others, it could explain that the location is away from the main port, on a more secluded part of the island as better located ground were already taken. As a comparison, the American, British and Japanese Consulates were located on the other side of the island, overlooking Xiamen and the main port. I did not find any information about the construction of the French consulate building, but the building looks like it was “ruinovated” at some point later. Below is another picture I shot in 2009 in a previous visit that is mentioned in post “The revival of Gulangyu” when garden and the building was much better maintained.

Former French consulate in Amoy (2009)

The site of the French consulate is located near the former Northern telegraph office, which was built in 1918 in a somewhat similar style (see below).

Northern telegraph building

The next building on the road, shown on the map but with no mention, is also of similar style. It was probably built around the same time.

Hopefully more information will come up about the former French Consulate in Amoy as French archives and others are researched. I will definitely come back to my favorite Island Gulangyu. For more posts about this topic, see posts “Night on Gulangyu“, “Rain on Gulangyu” and “The revival of Gulangyu“.

For more information about French Consulates in Old China, see post “Former Shanghai French Consulate“.