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 cafĂ© 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 hotels luggage labels

The mid 19th Century saw the emergence of tourism and palace hotels. Tourism then was not for the masses, but reserved to a happy few. Starting in places like Switzerland, Italy and the French Riviera, the new establishments spread all over the world. They were massively popular in the colonies, offering an oasis of “civilisation” and comfort, far away from “the locals”. In Shanghai, the major hotels were the Astor House, the Palace Hotel (today Swatch Peace Hotel), The Yantgze hotel , the Park Hotel and the most famous, the Cathay Hotel (today Fairmont Peace Hotel). Some of them raised to the top and then disappeared like the Majestic Hotel and the Hotel des Colonies in the French Concession.

Advertising for hotels and holiday destination, not yet called “Tourism marketing” became very active. In order to attract people’s attention, hotels started to produce labels that were sticked on the traveler’s luggages. In those time, trunks and suitcases were carefully handled for those high level guests who could afford them, very different from today’s airport luggage handling. The tourists of the time would compare their destination and show off their tours of the world using the labels. Those were also often used in scrap books made during or after trips. Those are extract from my own collection. For more information about the history of hotel labels, please refer to the excellent article on the topic: http://www.historia.com.pt/labels/general/history1/history1.htm

Shanghai Palace hotel luggage label

In one of the most modern cities of the time, Shanghai hotels created their own luggage labels. They followed the style evolution, the earliest probably being the Palace Hotel (1908) label displayed on the top of this post, which style matches the early German and Swiss hotel labels.

The Cathay Hotels Ltd label featuring the Cathay Hotel (1929) and the Metropole hotel (1931) is probably the most famous, having being reproduced in several books. There is definitely an oriental theme to this label with the dragons and the lettering used. The Cathay was the most upmarket of both, which is still the case today. The below label is a more detailed version of the Cathay Hotel symbol that was used in the decoration all over the hotel. I guess it is an earlier version of the label, prior to the opening of the Metropole hotel.

Shanghai Cathay Hotel luggage label

With art deco coming to the city in the late 1920’s and 1930’s, hotel labels followed the fashion. This modern style called for simplified design and highly geometrical designs were introduced, like on luggage label for the Yangtze hotel (see post “Yangtze Hotel, Shanghai”).

1930’s luggage label, Yangtze hotel, Shanghai

One of the rare but highly representative of the genre is left label from Park Hotel. The establishment itself was a symbol of Art Deco, designed by Hungarian architect Laszlo Hudec. The location is highly recognizable on the label, underlining the high of the hotel, the tallest building in Shanghai (and Asia) at the time. It also shows the main feature of the hotel, the panoramic view on Shanghai race course, making it the perfect place to attend (and bet on) the races, without mixing with the plebe. See post “Advertising Park Hotel” for more marketing material from the hotel.

Shanghai Park Hotel luggage label

For more Old Shanghai luggage labels, please go to post “More Old Shanghai luggage labels”.