Top 5 posts 2020!

1920s have a reputation to have been memorable years. The roaring twenties were called “Les années folles” in French, meaning the crazy years. The start of the 2020s did not disappoint in craziness, although definitely not is such a fun way. To close this year where I finally started to write regularly again, here is a the 5 most read articles in the Shanghailander blog in 2020.

1 – The rise and fall of the Majestic Hotel
The story of the star of Shanghai nigthlife in the 1920s, that disappeared in the 30s seems is a regular on the top search posts of the blog. The reason why I wrote this post in 2017 was my own interest and the lack of information available on the topic. Apparently I was not the only one searching

2 – China General Omnibus Company
It seems that I am also not the only one to be interested in Old Shanghai transportation, in particular the bus network of the International Settlement. This post from 2017 also includes a pretty unique map of the bus network itself from 1937.

3 – Old Shanghai tramways
Another post on public transportation in Old Shanghai. This topic seems to attract attention. This post from 2017 includes a map of the International Settlement tram network and a tram ticket from the 1920s.

4 – Sainte-Thérèse Church
First post of 2020 in the top 5. It is focused on the mysterious catholic church in the middle of the few remaining lilongs of JingAn district.

5 – Aquarius Water then and now
Published in the middle of a hot summer, this post tells the story of the Shanghai brand of mineral water Aquarius, and its famous Orange Squash. Through modern advertising, the brand became one the Shanghai favorite, that is being relaunched in a modern version in 2020.

Best wished from the Shanghailander blog for 2021! If you want me to share or publish information about Old Shanghai, people places, documents and other related topic, please contact me at hmartin@shanghailander.net .

The rise and fall of the Majestic Hotel

Shanghai has always been a city of fast paced life and constant change. One of the best example is the fate of grand hotel shooting star, the Majestic Hotel (大華飯店 or Dai Hua Jiu Dian in Chinese) on Bubbling Well Road (today Nanjing Xi Lu). As seen on a 1932 map below, the hotel was occupying an enormous plot, on what is today Nanjing Xi Lu, from Jiangning Lu all the way to Taixing lu.

The building and its park were originally the McBain residence, of a successful business man who represented Shell (among others) in China, and sold the property to Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels company.

Majestic Hotel Garden

Renovation and transformation of the building was given to Spanish architect Abelardo Lafuente in 1924. The inside yard was covered to be converted into the dining room, modern sanitary and heating system was installed and the facade was covered with marble. The garden remained despite the addition of a winter garden and a massive ballroom that became the center of Shanghai Social life for the upper class for a few years.

Advertising leaflet for the Majestic hotel

The Majestic hotel was the best and most luxurious in Shanghai and one of the leading hotels in the World from it’s opening in 1924, being the jewel of the Hong Kong and Shanghai hotels company. The gigantic ballroom became the place for most important official parties to take place, including St Andrew’s and St George’s, the Washington and the Russian ball as it was the largest venue in Shanghai, able to host more than 1000 guests.

The majestic hotel ballroom

The ballroom was also one of the main point where Shanghai dancing craze started, with a jazz band featuring, local stars such as Serge Ermoll and Whitey Smith. In 1927, the Majestic Ballroom was the location of a major event, the wedding of Chiang Kai Shek, the ruler of China then, and Song Meiling (See the Soong Sister for more information). In 1929, Hollywood star Douglas Fairbank and his wife Mary Pickford visited Shanghai and stayed at the Majestic, underlining its success on Shanghai scene.

The winter garder shows the opulence of the place

With all its grandeur, the Majestic Hotel proved to big and too luxurious to be really profitable, and the hotel was sold to developers in 1930 (source: Hong Kong and Shanghai hotels official website). At the same period, the Cathay hotel (today’s Fairmont Peace Hotel) opened on the Bund. The Majestic hotel ballroom finally closed in 1931 and the building was destroyed in 1932. The massive land was separated in several lots, including the one where Majestic Theater was built in 1941. The former location of the hotel is similar to the one of today’s Westgate Mall on Nanjing Xi lu.

Corridors of the Majestic Hotel