Lot’s of Champagne in Old Shanghai

Champagne has been the drink of parties and celebration since the 18th century and a lot of it was consummed in Old Shanghai. In 1934, about 42.000 bottles of French Champagne where imported in China, mostly through Shanghai port.

Champagne was served in the many private parties organised then. It is public knowledge that Champagne was flowing freely at Victor Sassoon’s party. Drinking Champagne at a wealthy Chinese mansion in Shanghai is mentionned in “Shanghai secrets” by Jean Fontenoy, the editor in chief of French newspaper “Le journal de Shanghai”. Champagne was also available in the numerous restaurants, bars, clubs and dancings in the city.

Wine list from Sun Sun’s (Courtesy of MOFBA)

Above picture is the first page of the Sun Sun sky terrace wine list displayed in previous post (See post “French wines in Old Shanghai“). Lines 1 to 4 are famous Champagne brands that are again available in Shanghai today : 1 Pommery, 2 Veuve Cliquot, 3 Mumm Cordon Rouge, 4 Piper Heidsieck. Champagne was already very expensive then, as a bottle of the best Champagne was 30$, 3 times more than Chateau Lafite from Bordeaux or Corton from Burgundy. There was a real premium for sparkling wines as the cheapest on the list was more expensive than the best red wines.

Ad for Charles Heidsieck Champagne in Le Journal de Shanghai

Importing Champagne was a big business for a number of French companies that were the Champagne houses agents in Shanghai. French company Racine & Cie was the agent of Champagne Heidsieck mentionned above. Racine & Cie was one of the major agents for French companies in Shanghai, with its GM Jean Donné being a member of the board of the French Chamber of Commerce in 1930. Racine & Cie also imported French tinned food (See post “Vegs in a can” for more details).

Ad for Mumm Champagne in Le journal de Shanghai 1931

Mumm Cordon Rouge Champagne was imported by smaller French import company Optorg, with advertising in “Le Journal de Shanghai”. The above ad is about 14th July 1931, with the following caption : “To upstand your reputation and match the taste of yours guests, serve them Mumm”. In Shanghai as well, serving French Champagne was seen as a matter of high taste.

Although not in the Sun Sun restaurant drink list, Lanson Champagne was imported in Shanghai by British trading firme Calbeck MacGregor. Above ad is from Le Journal de Shanghai 1st January 1932.

Other sparkling wines from France were also available in China, including Loire Valley Veuve Amiot, imported by leading French trading company Olivier Chine. Above picture shows 2931 bottles to Tientsin (today Tianjin) and 3642 to Shanghai.

For more information about wines in Shanghai in the 1930s, see post “French wines in Old Shanghai” and “Burgundy wines in Old Shanghai“.

Looking for Love and Duty

The 1931 movie “Love and Duty” (恋爱与义务)was a great success in 1930s Shanghai. It was the first big movie with actress Ruang Linguy who would become the superstar of Shanghai cinema, until her suicide in 1935. I have written several posts about some of the location where the movie was made in Shanghai (see post “Love and Duty” for more details). This post is showing the video that was made of the location search.

You will find more information about Ruan Lingyu, the movie “Love and Duty” and film locations in posts “Love and Duty” Part 1 and 2.

Shanghai American School building

Founded in 1912, American School of Shanghai was one of the famous high level schools in old Shanghai. The campus on Avenue Pétain (today Hengshan lu) was opened in 1923. The building has long been off limit for visitors, and only part of the façade was still visible from the street. Fortunately, a building next door has just been renovated and turned into commercial. This gives an open view on the former Shanghai American School building.

Former American School building

From this angle, it is clear that the streetside façade is only a short part of the whold building. Although I lived in this neighborhood for years, I was never able to see it before so clearly. The skyscraper in the background it the Shanghai library, located on the spot of the former Culty Dairy.

Back building of the Shanghai American School

As seen on below map, there was a back wing the building. This part has been demolished and modern and larger building has been built instead. The commercial building where I took the pictures from is located on the part where “Shanghai American School is written”. This was an empty space when the school was operating. The former running track is not occupied by a commercial building.

Walking down the alley next to the former school building, one can see the former school water tower. As mentioned by Betty Barr, who actually attended the school herself, “the tower was famous for romantic reason: couples used to climp up there to sign their names.” Looking at it today, it’s not recommended to climb it up, but it amazingly survived all those years.

The American school of Shanghai closed in 1950 but was been recreated in 1980 and still operating today in a different location. Their website is www.saschina.org .

Love and Duty (part 2)

This post is the second one focused on the 1931 Ruan Lingyu movie, Love and Duty (恋爱与义务) “Love and Duty (part 1)” was focused on showing modernity and westernisation in 1930s Shanghai through some scenes of the movie. This part is focused on searching for actual film locations in today’s Shanghai.

The first part of the movie is taking place in a upper class neighborhood called “Kiangwan”. Jiangwan (today spelling of Kiangwan) was then a far suburb of Shanghai, chosen by the nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek to create a new city center away from the foreign concessions (See post “Ordinary metropolis” for more details). This was supposed to be the incarnation of modern upper class neighborhood in Shanghai. The movie “Love and Duty” was released in 1931. At that time, the plan for Jiangwan was already made, but the first building, the Jiangwan civic center, was still under construction, finished in 1`932. To illustrate this modernity and high level, the director used the streets of the French Concession as film location.

The first minutes of the movie shows view of the surroundings. Despite the changes, the above picture is the same as the right and below picture. The house is located on Route Delastre (today TaiYuan lu) and Route Remy (Today Yongkang lu). Design and marking on the front wall is very unique.

Even more unique are the arcs of this residence in the Yongkang road, shown a few minutes later. Although the structure of the buildings has been altered an little, it is easy to recognise, on former Route Rémy (today Yong Kang Lu). This location is a few meters from the above one on Taiyuan Lu.

Above corner street corner is of Yongkang lu and Taiyuan lu. It has changed since 1931 and a small building on the right has been turned down but the location is still easy to recognise. The CMF stones have been covered or removed but the iconic door on the left side is still here. In 1931, this part of the city was recently built and urbanised. Like many buildings in this area, this settlement was owned by the “Société Fonci`ere et immobili`ère” also called Foncim, one of the major real estate company in the French Concession.

Later on in the movie, the main character goes to look for jobs in the business district. This is clearly filmed in the area behind the Bund, but exact locations are difficult to identify apart from one. In Old Shanghai, the French Concession was a residential area, and the International Settlement’s district behind the Bund was the location for finance and trading houses.

During his job search, the character walks up the street shown above. One ca recognise the famous furniture store “Arts and Crafts” that was located on the corner of Bubbling Well Road and Park Road (today Nanjing Xi Lu and HuangHe Lu). This particular building does not exist anymore and was replaced by a higher corner building. The space of the HS Honisberger building, is now occupied by Park Hotel (built in 1934). The scene was filmed in front of the Foreign YMCA (today Sport Museum), on the side of the horse race course (today people square). Just like the early scenes were filmed in the most modern residential district, this was filmed in the most modern business district of the city.

A video about the search for “Love and Duty” locations has been published in post “Looking for Love and Duty“. For more analysis of the movie “Love and Duty” and the modernity of Shanghai life seen in the movie, please go to post “Love and Duty (Part 1)“. “Love and Duty” can be viewed on the Chinese video platform bilibili.com (use this link to access it).

Love and Duty (part 1)

Ruan Lingyu (阮玲玉) was one of the stars of Old Shanghai movies. Acting in silent movies her career brutaly stopped when she committed suicide in 1935.

Ryan Lingyu in « Love and duty »

One of her main movies, “Love and Duty”(恋爱与义务)1931, was supposed to be lost until a full copy was found in Uruguay in the early 1990s. After restoration, the film was shown at Shanghai Film festival in 2014.

Love and Duty, movie title

Love and Duty is a melodramatic movie about the terrible choice of a lady between her high school sweetheart and her husband and family. It is a silent movie, with all intertitles both in English and in Chinese as it was often the case then in Shanghai. The first part of the movie is taking place in the high level neighborhood. It gives a great look into the life of upper class Chinese people in Old Shanghai. I have read many books about it (including ‘Remembering Shanghai“), or seen modern movies (see post “Shanghai the movie“) as well as tv series taking place in Old Shanghai. However, seeing a real movie from the area depicting the real life of people is amazing.

Eating in a 1930s western restaurant in Shanghai

The restaurant scene in the movie is stunning. This is taking place in the early 1930’s. A couple in love goes for a date in a western restaurant, eating with fork and knife, drinking (imported) red wine (a few images before), while listening to Jazz music with Art Deco back ground. When I came to Shanghai about 20 years, this kind of scene was not so common in the city and very rare out of Shanghai. A place like legendary M on the Bund, opened only in 2002. It was really difficult to imagine that 1930s Shanghai was already so modern and westernised.

Just like today, imported drinks were readily available and consumed.

The former French Concession was clearly then one of the desired place to live. Above image is newspaper article read in the movie (first in Chinese, then in English), clearly mentionning Rue Lafayette (today Fuxing Lu) as a place of living for “a local wealthy resident”.

On the top of intertitles in Chinese and English, signage shown in the background is always bilingual, as it was surely usual in Shanghai then. A large part of the movie takes place in Shanghai city. Although it is not mentionned, it is either in the International Settlement or in the French Concession. I am working on a specific post will be dedicated to film locations.

Bilingual No parking allowed sign in English and Chinese

Cars were a luxury items but private cars and taxis were readily available for the upper part of the society. Old movies from the 1920 or 1930’s Shanghai ( see Old Shanghai short movie) often shows the busy streets of the international settlements. Some of the scenes are filmed along plane tree planted road that were surely located in the former French Concession. I have never seen this kind of pictures before. There are a few scenes of 1920s modernity with cars, including one with road work (!) as seen below.

Driving along the plane trees

The last piece that I thought really showed that Shanghai was a very modern city is the hero scene. The main male characters reads a novel, called the hero. Then he dreams that he is saving his beloved after a pirate style sword fight.

This scene is very strongly inspired by some Hollywood movie scene from the period. Sword fight movies, also called swashnucklers, were really fashionnable at that time. The Hollywood start of the genre was Douglas Fairbanks, with movies including “The mark of Zorro” (1920) and “The three musketers” (1921). “The black pirate”(1926) clearly influenced the movie as seen in this sword fight scene. Hollywood movies were very popular in Shanghai. Douglas Fairbanks arctually visited Shanghai and stayed at the Majestic Hotel. The success of Hollywood moviedhelped to make the Spanish colonial revial architectural style popular in Shanghai (See post “Spanish revival architecture” for more details) as well as Art Deco. Hollywood movies also strongly inspired the local production, turning Shanghai into a little Hollywood in Asia.

For a look into actual film location of the movie “Love and Duty”, please go to post “Love and Duty (part 2)“.

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 May 1867. Due to the low quality of the construction, 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)”.

French concession detailed map

Maps are an essential took for understanding history. I recently found an amazing map of the Shanghai former French concession. Finding all information on it is a real challenge, but also very rewarding.

The below map was downloaded from a public website. It is clearly the scan of an historical map of the Shanghai French Concession. The title is “Plan de la Concession Française”, “Changhai”. The website mentioned the date of 1920, but it’s clearly from a later date.

The shape of the map clearly shows the full size of the former French concession, after 1911. One specific point for finding the date of the map is the presence of the Cercle Sportif Français (Corner Route Bourgeat and Rue Cardinal Mercier / today Changle Lu and Maoming Nan Lu) , officially opened at the end of 1926. At the same time, the Canidrome is not mentioned on the map, in the block Route Lafayette / Route Cardinal Mercier / Avenue du Roi Albert (Fuxing Lu / Maoming Nan Lu / Shaanxi Nan lu). The part of the Rue Cardinal Mercier next to the canidrome was not even built, with the Morris Estate covering both side of the current Maoming Lu. As the Canidrome opened in 1928 and needed some time for building, the map can be dated from 1927.

Looking at the details more in-depth, very interesting information is found in the lower right corner. First of all, the date of the design is written. The map design was finalised on 28 April 1927, by “l’ingénieur en chef” (the chief engineer) of the Shanghai French Municipality whose signature is printed on the map. Furthermore, the print work is mentionned as “T’ou-sé-Wé”. This was the orphanage of the ZiKaWei (XuJiaHui) Jesuits complex which was also an art and craft school run by the Jesuits priests. The framing of the map is also very nice, with a square motive on each corner. The map was printed on brown paper with 4 color (Black, Orange, Blue, Green).

On the top left corner is added some information probably stamped later in red. “Police Jour C 1514 / Nuit W 6675” as well as “Incendie Jour C 79 Nuit W 79”. I guess those were the police and fireman phone number for day and night service.

The size of the map is mentioned to be 12 x 28 inches (30.48 x 71.12 cm), with a 1 : 8750 scale. I am somewhat skeptical of a map size in inches, this must be an approximation as this French map was surely an integer number in cm. Futhermore, I have seen a very similar French Concession map, with original map about 140 cm x 60 cm).

This map is very highly detailed and of very high quality. Since it is signed by the chief engineer, it was made for the French Consulate, or most probably the French Municipality. This makes it an official map of the French Authorities. Those cadaster maps are extremely rare nowadays, this was a lucky catch. If you need the original full size file, download link is below.

Shanghai French Municipality Letter

Separated from the Shanghai International Settlement, the Shanghai French Concession had an administration on its own. Beside the French Consulate located on the Bund, the French Concession also had a French municipal administration as well as municipality building. The French Municipal Council (Conseil Municipal) was in charge of the city’s management, as opposed to the Consulate representing the French state. Although the French Municipal council was presided by the French Consul General, it regularly tried to distance itself from the Consulate’s influence.

While foreigners, and even more French people, were only a minority in the French Concession, the French Municipal Council had mostly French members as well as 3 foreign members. Chinese members were added in 1914, as a condition for the final extension of the French Concession. Members of the French Municipal Council were elected and including known people of the French community like René Fano, and Lucien Basset. Hugh Martin who I wrote about in previous posts was a also a member. The most famous Chinese member was surely gangster Du Yusheng.

Documents from the Municipalité Française de Changhai are pretty rare, so I was very happy to get this original envelop from the Municipalité Française from 1936. It was posted on 27 June 1936 at the Shanghai Post office, probably the General Post office on Sichuan Lu, as the character Zhong (center) is used below Shanghai. It was stamped with the 12 (probably 12 o’clock) batch. As discussed in previous post “General post office“, this was carried by the Chinese post, with Chinese stamps on the letter.

This was a registered letter, “Recommandée” is written on the envelope, as French was (and still is) the language of the international postal association. This also meant that a coupon was attached on the letter that was detached when the letter was actually delivered. As no mention is about the route to France, I assume the mail went by boat.

I was curious about the destination, ” Etablissements Ph. Lafon in Tours. The company was specialized in floor mills equipment. Below is an add from 1919 but I found pictures of machines from this company from 1950s. I have not found any company importing this brand in Shanghai, but maybe the Shanghai municipality was buying or looking at buying equipment from this company.

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.

爱情神话 / B for busy

爱情神话, in English “B for busy” is a recent Shanghai movie that has taken the city like a storm. This is a story of Shanghai people, taking place in the heart of Shanghai… in Shanghai dialect.

爱情神话 movie poster

爱情神话 can be translated as “love myth”. The movie is a romantic comedy centered on Old Bai, a Shanghai man in his mid. Divorced since years, he still looking for love and find himself the center of attention of three women. His Tango lover ex-wife is still around, and his own mother never accepted their divorce. One of his female student is also showing clear interest, though he is mostly some kind of distraction for her. Along comes a new friend that is attracting a lot of his attention. This trio of women makes a mess of his own little comfortable life, along with old friend Lao Wu, with his legendary past adventures with women.

The movie reminded me a lot of French movies, that are often centered around a couple of people in a short period of time. It studies the interaction between and how they change each character’s life. It also gives a sense of intimacy that really helps the viewer to relate with the movies characters. It’s a romantic comedy, and like in many French movies, the viewer will experience both laugh and sadness within short periods of times, making the movie very close to real life. Like many intimate French movies, it is depicting the life of the middle class, with cultural or artistic background.

Having lived in Shanghai for more than 18 years, I could also find a lot of reminders of my own life in Shanghai. All characters speak Shanghai dialect and characters are a real reflection of Shanghai life, including food and habits. All exteriors have been filmed in the streets of the Former French Concession, where a lot of Shanghai people in their midlife have spent their childhood in, just like characters of the movie. Walking down one of those streets, I am half expecting to meet the movies characters along the way. The whole movie actually feels like a love letter to life in this city.

The combination of strong Shanghai feeling and close intimacy with the characters is surely what has made the success of the movie in Shanghai. At the same time, it is also attracting foreigners who live in the city, as it gives all of us a sense of proximity and belonging. .. thanks to the English subtitles in the theater version. Hopefully, this will also make successful abroad as well, showing a very human face of Shanghai to the World.