Bianchi Pastry and Chocolate

Having a sweet tooth myself, I got interested in Old Shanghai sweets brands, like Hazelwood ice cream. A more high level and confidential brand was Bianchi, a pastry and chocolate shop on Nanjing Road.

I got to know about Bianchi’s when finding a chocolate wrapping paper at an antique dealer store, probably around 2008. There was no indication of time then, but it turns out that Bianchi was a famous store located on 23 Nanking Road. This is actually inside the former Palace Hotel (today Swatch Peace Hotel), at the corner of the Bund and the Nanjing Road. I guess Bianchi chocolate was the shop on the right-hand side of the main entrance, nowadays selling watches.

Bianchi Chocolate wrapping paper

Bianchi’s must have been a high level shop, catering for both a foreign and Chinese clientele as the address is written both in English and in Chinese characters on the chocolate wrapping paper.

Bianchi chocolate was advertised as “the Home of Tasty Dainties”. The founder of the company, Attilio Ferrari, resided in Shanghai since 1907. He started Bianchi on Nanking Road in 1918 and operated it until his death at the age of sixty, in 1938 (he was among the oldest Italian residents in the city). (Thanks to Katya Knyazeva @ https://www.facebook.com/mapoldsh/ for the info).

Paul French, author of the China Rhyming blog, found adds for Bianchi shops located at 76 and 154 Nanking Road (http://www.chinarhyming.com/2013/03/25/bianchis-of-nanking-road-ice-creams-and-sodas/). Either the shop moved down the road, or they opened several branches. They were particularly well known for their palmier cake (see post “Tasting Old Shanghai” for more details).

Pastry and chocolate shops were a rarity when I reached Shanghai in 2004, having disappeared along with many western style luxury in the previous decades. They have now come back in force, with bakery, pastry and café having popped up in many places in the city (See post “Shanghai Coffee culture“).

The Bianchi chocolate shop does not exist anymore of course, but just finding this piece of the old times was wonderful. I can picture myself going to buy my chocolate near the riverside, walking those busy streets, full of a mixture of trendy office workers, vendors of all kinds shouting to advertise their products and dockworkers. I get to the Bianchi shop, push the glass door. I look at all the chocolates in the shop, talk to Mr Bianchi about his chocolate, good food, life and other topic. It takes me a few minutes to wake up from my dream, holding my 80 years old chocolate paper in my hands. This old relic is so powerful that I still feel the taste of this chocolate created and eaten many decades ago.

Old Shanghai short movie

Movies about Old Shanghai have been very rare and difficult to see in the early years of this blog. In the last years, more and more old movies have been found on internet videos website. This has allowed some of the 1930s Shanghai original amateur movies to be viewed again, after all those years.

One of the easiest to find on Youtube is “Old Shanghai 1930s”, on the StephendelRoser account. This is a 8 minutes movies depicting street scenes in Shanghai, probably early 1930s as judged from the cars and vehicle pictured. Scenes are mostly filmed on Nanjing Road and on the Bund, including in front of Astor House hotel. They include a number of road traffic scenes, with cars and rickshaws including the Sikhs policemen of the International Settlement.

The movie also includes a long part that was filmed on a small boat on the Yangpu river, as well as the Suzhou Creek, which was really crowded then. Final scenes include a short part in an airfield and a long stretch filmed from a tramway.

It was probably shot by a foreigner and also includes some family fun scenes. The movie quality is not the best, but it is rare enough to make interesting to watch if one is interested in Old Shanghai. It can be found at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dba67SLBQzM&t=171s
A short part of about 1:40 can also be found on Chinese video sharing website Youku: https://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNTA5MjQ4NTIwOA==.html?spm=a2h0c.8166622.PhoneSokuUgc_1.dtitle

Silas Hardoon’s garden

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.

Silas Hardoon

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.

Hardoon’s garden former location

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.

Bubbling Well Road (today Nanjing Xi Lu) 1910.

The garden was used as base by the Japanese army from December 1941 and mostly destroyed by fire in 1943, 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/

Saint Therese Church

This church is hidden in the labyrinth of lanes from 370 Da Tian Lu, currently in Jing An district. When I first found out about it, it was really difficult to see from the outside as the whole are area was surrounded with blocks and block of lane. This area has now changed tremendously, with most of the blocks now transformed with tower blocks and sometimes a park. This picture from my friend Shi was a good opportunity to write a post about Saint Therese Church.

There is very little information about Saint-Therese of the Child Jesus (or Sainte-Thérèse de l’Enfant Jésus as it is known in French) to be found. The Catholic Church was built in 1931, on the spot of former Saint-Joseph Church damaged during 1927 fights. It is of neo-roman style, with double front columns. Construction started on 30th Octobre 1930 and the Church was consecrated on 3rd October 1931 by Mgr Auguste Haouisée, who later became the first bishop of Shanghai.

Saint Therese de Lisieux was a French Catholic Discalced Carmelite nun who became widely venerated in the 20th century. She was canonized in 1925, and named co-patron of the missions, with Francis Xavier by Pope Pius XI in 1927. As Saint-Therese was highly venerated at this period, the dedication to her was an obvious choice. Mentions of several Churches dedicated to her in Asia around the same period were found during the research for this post, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Hangzhou and Saint Theresa Cathedral in Changchun.

What makes this Church special in Shanghai is that it is a Catholic Church located in the International Settlement, where Christians missions where mostly seated. It is away from the French Concession, where Catholic Church was predominant, as well as away from Xu Jia Hui Jesuits area. It is also in a area that was mostly Lilongs, the local style of accommodation, away from the areas where most foreigners lived, so probably aimed and maybe financed by the local population.

City of devils, a Shanghai Noir

British author Paul French has lived in Shanghai for many years, and is vastly knowledgeable about Old Shanghai. Known for his in-depth research, he is also the author of The Old Shanghai A-Z , a reference book for anyone researching Shanghai history. French turning to crime solving inquiry in previous book Midnight in Peking, turned to be really interesting. Being passionate of both crime novels and Old Shanghai, I could only be interested in his new book, City of Devils, a Shanghai Noir.

Just like Midnight in Peking, City of Devils is not a novel. French takes a character that attracts his interest and research it in all directions possible. City of Devils is the story two characters of the Shanghai underworld. Jack Riley was the king of the slot machines in Shanghai, while Joe Farren was running entertainment shows at the top places like the Canidrome ballroom and the Paramount. Their course in Shanghai crime met numerous times, while they became allied, fell out and got in business again. The stories of both characters is really fascinating, showing the opportunities and the lawlessness of Shanghai in that period.

Little was known about the two central characters before French started his research. Information from a great many different sources have been put together, starting the local press of the time, North-China Daily News, JB Powell’s China Weekly Review and (never heard of before) blackmailing newspaper Shopping News. Although the book does not include a bibliography, they are references to many books about the period or written by people who lived through it, including Ralph Shaw’s Sin City, Bernard Wasserstein’s secret war in Shanghai, Frederic’s Wakeman The Shanghai Badlands and many more. He also search the official records from the Shanghai Municipal police, and other Shanghai institutions as well as archives from foreign countries consulates that are stored in their home country. A number of well known Shanghai researchers have also contributed sometimes unpublished information that have been incorporated the book, including Prof Robert Bickers, Russian researcher Katya Knyazeva and many more authors on the topic. The amount of information and the number of sources is quite extraordinary. Researching this books must have been like a real police inquiry, with attention to all possible details.

Beside those larger than life characters, the most interesting part is the description of Shanghai foreign underworld including numerous people or location that are mentioned in books of the period but on which little was known. This creates a great picture of the darker side of Shanghai that mixes well with French detailed knowledge. From the known facts he create an entertaining story, by bridging the missing parts with very plausible and well informed details. City of Devils is an entertaining read about a side of Shanghai that is lesser known. It is also a very deep research that is presented in a very entertaining way.

Old Shanghai full bus schedule 1931

In previous post “China General Omnibus Company“, I got interested in Old Shanghai bus networks in the former International Settlement. After some more research, I found the complete list of the bus network in all three parts of the city.

This is an extract from a 1931 short guide to transport in Shanghai. The tourists guides did not really address buses network, as I guess tourists of the time were travelling in luxury. This particular guide was dedicated to service men, published by the Navy YMCA. Route N1 was following a communication line of Shanghai then, and of Shanghai today: Bubbling Well (Jing An Temple today) to Hongkew Park (today Hong Kou Gong Yuan). It went down Nanking Road (today Nanjing Road), the Bund, North Soochow (today Bei Suzhou Lu) and North Szechuen Road (Today Sichuan Bei lu), to reach Hong Kou Park.

Bus Routes and Express Routes

Others roads included a few surprises. First of all, there was a bus line driving up Hong Qiao road, ending close to Hong Qiao airport. This route 4, from Siccawei (today Xu Jia Hui, English spelling, French spelling was Zikawei) to Monument road (today Suining lu, next to Hong Qiao airport). Although Hong Qiao Road was already lined with villas in the 1930s (including Eve the one of Sir Victor Sassoon, see post “Shanghai Grand” for more details), it is still surprising to see public transportation go that far West.

The other interesting part is that there was Express Route for buses, on the top of the normal routes. The four of them were ending at the Bund, starting from Jessfield Park (today ZhongShan Park) or Brenan Piece (in the North of the international settlement). They took the main West-East roads of Shanghai, being today’s  Nanjing Road (Bubbling Well Road followed by Nanking Road), and today’s Yannan Road (Avenue Foch, followed by Avenue Edouard VII). Express Route A was competing with a tramway track (see post “Old Shanghai Tramways” for more details) and is very much following today’s metro #2.

French Concession bus route

The most interesting bit of the guide was surely the most unexpected, the French Concession bus routes. As explained in post “China General Omnibus Company“, buses in the French Concession were operated by the “Compagnie de tramways et d’éclairage électrique de Shanghai“. There were only 2 bus routes, along with 4 tram lines.

Bus N21 was going from the very East to the very West of the French Concession, from the French Bund to Zikawei (today Xu Jia Hui, French spelling). It had the same start and finish than the main tramway line of the French Concession (see post “Old Shanghai Tramways” for more details).

Bus N22 was loop route from the French Bund and back to it. I went through the small street of the French Concession including Route des Soeurs (today Ruijin Lu, see post “Brooklyn Court, Route des soeurs“), Route Lafayette (today Fuxing Lu), Route Frelupt (today Jiang Guo Xi Lu), Route Dufour (today Wulumuqi Nan Lu, see post “Shanghailander Cafe and Bakery“). This is probably the stop where the original inhabitant of my former home, or rather their staff, would take the bus (see post “Leaving route Kauffmann” for more details). The bus would then go back on Avenue Pétain (today Hengshan Lu), Route Pottier (today Baoqing Lu, where my first home was located, see post “first home in Old Shanghai” for details) and then back to Route Lafayette all the way to the Bund.

Most residence at the furthest point of this loop were built in the late 1920s or 1930s creating need to transport people from and to an area that was previously not really developed, so the line must have been pretty recent in 1931. Cars and buses were driving left-hand side (this changed only in January 1946), so a number of road the bus took are now one-way streets, in the wrong direction. Similarly, Route Lafayette was driven in both ways, when it is now mostly a one-way-street. Traffic direction and driving side may have changed, but the main lines of communication in today’s Shanghai are still similar to the ones in Old Shanghai.

China General Omnibus Company

Riding newly opened trolley 71 from the west of Shanghai to the Bund is very practical, and always makes me think about Old Shanghai. Tramways were installed in Shanghai first in the International Settlement in 1908, then in the French Concession and the Chinese city (see post Old Shanghai tramways for more details). If tramways were the most modern urban transport in the 1900s and 1910s, by the 1920s and even more the 1930s, they were taken over in modernity by buses.

First Shanghai buses in 1924

The China General Omnibus company was incorporated in Hong Kong in 1923, like many companies in Shanghai at that time, to operate bus services in Shanghai. Part of the Sasoon group, it ran bus routes in the International Settlement and beyond. The first routes were opened in 1924, to increase to about 20 lines in the 1930s. Those routes mostly followed main roads and are quite similar to today’s bus line. Buses in the French Concession were separately operated by the “compagnie française de tramways & d’éclairage électrique de Shanghai” which was also operating the tramways.

China General Omnibus Company stock

Picture left is a list of some of the bus routes (the second page is missing), with some being very familiar, starting with Route 1 from Jessfield Park (today Zhong Shan Park) to the Bund. This is actually pretty close to parts of today metro line 2, and was also following Tram route N2 (see post Old Shanghai Tramways for more details). Route 9 had the same beginning and end, but was going Avenue Foch and Avenue Edouard VII (both streets are now Yannan Lu). This is quite similar the eastern part of today’s 71 bus line. As the road was the border between the International Settlement and the French Concession, there was no tramway line.

Above map is a full route map of the China General Omnibus Company. The network was very extensive, allowing to travel all over the international settlement and other areas controlled or managed by the Shanghai Municipal Council. It is a very rare map, hardly seen online. Although edges are missing, it gives a clear view of the bus network. According to documents found with it, it is from 1937.

A few samples of the precious tokens

Another feature of the CGOC that attracts today’s collectors, are the bus tokens issued by the company in the 1920s and 1930s. As Shanghai coins value was fluctuating a lot, the bus company created token that could be purchased in advance and used to pay the bus fees. There was several issues of various token in 1924, 1926 and 1939. They have now become collection pieces highly sought after. For more information about them, best is to have a look at the China Mint website (see following link for more information). Although they have now been replaced by a electronic card, taking the bus at night through the streets of Old Shanghai still feels like a bit of a time travel.

Poy Gum Lee’s lost building

Today’s Nanjing Xi Lu in 1910

I have often heard or read that in Old Shanghai, the business district was in the International Settlement, and the higher class residential in the calmer streets of the French Concession. Although most of it has now disappeared, the International Settlement although had its select residential district. Bubbling Well (today Nanjing Xi lu), was originally a countryside road with large mansion along with their massive gardens on its side, including the former Majestic Hotel. In the 1920s and 1930s, these large properties were sold and new buildings were erected in a much denser fashion. The residential streets moved up North, along Avenue Road (today Beijing Xi Lu). Although this part of Jing An has been massively built over in the last 20 or 30 years, a few villas have resisted in this area, they include the Laszlo Hudec Hu Mansion (the Green house), the former Pei Mansion and a few houses around the corner of today Changde Lu and Beijing Xi Lu.

Hidden Art Deco on Wuding Lu

Another street further North with a number of large villas was the Western section of Wuding Lu, although very little information available about them. Large houses seem only to have been in that section of the street as opposed to the (now gone) shikumen and factories that lined the more Eastern section. This stretch of a few hundred meters really feels like other residential streets in the French Concession or around Yu Yuan Lu, making it a pleasant stroll. Although each house is a different style, they all seem to have been built in the 1930s. From a neighboring rooftop, I could see them all and noticed one in particular, an Art Deco mansion, behind a modern school building. Although I could only see part of it, I always thought this house was special.

It’s only a few years later, while visiting the Ordinary Metropolis exhibition in 2016, that I discovered the true identity of this house, in a section dedicated to Chinese modernist architects. One of them was American architect Chinese Poy Gum Lee / 李锦沛 (see in-depth article about him on Shanghai Art Deco blog). He worked, among others, on the Chinese YMCA building in Shanghai (today Marcopolo Hotel on people square), on Sun-Yat-Sen memorial in Nanjing and later on buildings in New York’s China Town. I first heard about him during 2015 Shanghai Art Deco World Congress. Blue prints of a house designed by him were used as an example of Chinese modern design in the exhibition.

The revealing rendering

I thought the design looked familiar, but did not really knew from where until seeing the rendering. The Yan Mansion designed by Poy Gum Lee and built in 1934, is actually the house I saw from the rooftop. This was further confirmed by an old picture, although original balconies have been glassed over and the ornamental doors and windows are long gone. Lastly, a map of the location was provided showing it located on “Wuting Road”, today’s Wuding lu.

Original picture of the Yan Mansion

Although there is no historic plate on the building, it is without a doubt, the Yan Mansion designed by Poy Gum Lee, located on today’s 932 Wuding lu. Unfortunately, most of the garden has been eaten by a new building masking it from the street. Being a school also makes it off limits for most people. Funny enough, the exhibition showed its blue print but did not show any current picture, nor mentioned that the building still stands. Hopefully, one day it will be recognized and protected. In the meantime, its current use should keep it standing for long.

 

Gordon Road Police Station

IMG_4168Although I now have spent nearly 12 years in the city, Old Shanghai still offers surprises for me. One of the latest one was my recent rediscovery of Gordon Road Police Station on Jiangning Lu (former Gordon Road). A walk in the North part of the International Settlement, looking for a famous new restaurant (The Commune Social) took me there. This is when I ran into what is called “The Design Republic Commune“, a major design store and display. The colonial style of the building was quite clear, surely a former colonial administration building, in the former Shanghai International Settlement. The style different, but the overall look is pretty similar to Hong Kong Central Police Station, currently under renovation. Like for many renovation in Shanghai, the interior of the building has been totally gutted to make space for the new usage of the space. In any case, the external cleaning makes it stand out in the area.

Gordon police station was a special place in the Shanghai municipal police organisation, as it was the place were all freshly arrived police officers were sent for training after arrival in Shanghai. The plate on the building mentions “about 1910’s” as a construction date., however the Shanghai Municipal Gazette of 20th March 1908, shows the completion of the “Police training school” Gordon Road to be completed in February of the same year. Since the area at that time was not densely urbanized, this massive police station and the police training school were probably the same building. It is mentioned in Robert Bickers'”Empire made me” (2003) as “Gordon Road Training (or Western) Depot”. As explained in the book, the building had a “large parade ground”. The training and drilling ground is long gone,  but at construction and during the 1920’s the area was pretty much countryside, with factories and houses being built around in the 1930’s. Sikhs and Chinese police officers were also stationed there for training, staying in dorms that have long disappeared. It is difficult to imagine the size of the ground surrounding the police station, but it was surely massive.

British Police ShanghaiFrom 1909, all police force arriving in Shanghai was sent to the Gordon Road Depot for a few months of training before being sent the operation. This was a new organisation, pioneered by the London Metropolitan, opening it’s first depot a year before. The training was close to military training, along with class about the city, police procedures and the Shanghai dialect. Free time as only allowed after diner, until the 1 am curfew. Learning Shanghai dialect was done using “Lessons in Shanghai dialect” by F.L Hawks Pott, president of Saint John University and author of “A short history of Shanghai“. Mastering Shanghainese was essential for promotion as most of the population that the police dealt with did not speak English… nor Mandarine Chinese.

After training, the police officers were sent to various police station around the International Settlement. Wearing the same uniform as in England, the “bobbies” were a familiar sight of Shanghai, with Sihks policemen as subordinates. Although pictures of the later are pretty common, the pictures of English policeman on the Bund is pretty rare.

Classic cars on the Bund

1920's Packard on the Bund
1920’s Packard on the Bund

The very special history of China and Shanghai has been essential at preserving 1920’s and 1930’s architecture, making Shanghai one the world Art Deco hotspot (with the World Art Deco congress coming to Shanghai in 2015). As late as the 1990’s, most original Shanghai buildings had remained pretty much untouched. With clever restoration, the remaining ones have taken back a new life as private mansion, company’s headquarters or bars and restaurants. Old Shanghai dresses have also been coming back, either as part of classic parties (see pictures for my own 40’s birthday party in 2012) or as part of today’s fashion brand such as Shanghai Tang. The only thing really missing is classic cars, as most of them were either taken by owners when they left Shanghai, or destroyed during the war or later. Bringing classic cars back in Shanghai is the aim of the Bund Classic event, for one weekend at least.

BundClassic started in 2013 and the 2014 edition was really nice, under a fantastic weather. As the only classic car event in mainland China, it attracted collectors and classic cars admirers. It was a unique opportunity to actually see cars from Bund building’s  period on this location. Due to Chinese regulations on old cars, they could do not really be driven (apart from a short parade), but the photo opportunities were great.

Not all cars were pre WW2, but a few of them really looked just at the right place in front the former British Consulate building. I particularly like the beige Packard that looked pretty much like 1920’s pictures of the Bund, before the Cathay Hotel (Peace hotel today) was built. I am not sure this actual make was ever on the Bund, but it clearly had close cousins right here.

Hudson Terraplane
Hudson Terraplane

The 1930’s Terraplane coupé was also just in the right place. It is clear that this particular make was imported in Shanghai, as the brand was really popular in the 1930’s in America. Coupé were also seen in Shanghai, a symbol of money and modernity for the youth of rich Shanghainese. I also liked the French Traction Avant, which was surely imported to China, at least for the administration of the ” Concession Française de Changhai”. Although the one on display was red and white, the original color for this model was black only, until the 1950’s.

shanghai-girlThis short trip to Shanghai glorious past was really enjoyable, sometimes feeling straight out old Shanghai movies or Beverly Jackson’s book ” Shanghai girl gets all dressed up”. Classic cars collection seems to a be trend amongst China’s superrich, so more cars will surely being brought in. However, there is little hope of ever seen one driving down the streets of the former French Concession as they are way too old to be allowed on today’s roads.