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March 28, 2010

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Diverse styles in Yuyuan Road

MOVING along Yuyuan Road from the intersection with Zhenning Road, there are numerous different housing areas dotted along the street.

Yuyuan Road, to the west of the former International Settlement boundary, was predominantly developed in the 1920s and 1930s and even today retains its residential style. However, you will be surprised to discover new establishments sprouting up along the way, attracting not just neighborhood residents but visitors from other districts. The following four highlights will give you a good understanding of the road's progress. So before you dismiss this avenue as just another Shanghai street, take a walk on a Sunday afternoon and spend two hours appreciating the rich diversity of the metropolis.

History linked to Changning Children's Palace

If you wander around the narrow lanes on Yuyuan Road, you will discover old houses in a variety of styles hidden behind the phoenix trees. One of the most unexpected buildings on the road was built inside Lane 1136. It is a stunning Gothic mansion used as the Children's Palace of Changning District. The impressive four-story, concrete framework house was built in 1930s by Wang Boqun, the Minister for Transportation in the Kuomintang government. Wang built this house for his second wife Bao Zhining, who had asked Wang to make three promises before the marriage -- to give her a large sum of money, send her overseas to study and build a grand house. However, their love story did not last long. Wang was accused of corruption and fell from power. He died in 1944, leaving four small children and a pregnant Bao who later moved her family to New York. Wang Jingwei, who headed the Japanese-supported Chinese puppet government based in Nanjing, lived in the building when the Japanese troops occupied Shanghai's International Settlement.

Address: No. 31, Lane 1136, Yuyuan Rd

Chun Zai's unconventional ways

You will be forgiven if you step into Chun Zai and wonder if you've found a teahouse or furniture store. With a Zen-like atmosphere and Ming influenced furniture strategically arranged, it is difficult to figure out if visitors are here for tea or to buy furnishings for their homes. But, that is the strategy adopted by the people behind this brand. Their unconventional furniture designs often leave us thinking if it is only suitable for display. Hence, by letting customers use the furniture in its intended setting, it allows them to appreciate the aesthetic and practical values of the designs. Although their main collection is at Fanghe Road, visitors can drop by this teahouse-cum-showroom to sample East-meets-West nibbles such as Pear topped with Kumquat Jam and Cheese (25 yuan/US$3.66) or Biscuit topped with Foie Gras Cheese Mousse and Spicy Sausage (35 yuan). Offering only Oolong tea and Tieguanyin, you can also enjoy Jia-shuan Oolong Tea from Mt Ali, 2009 Spring (35 yuan/person) or High-Mountain Tieguanyin Tea from Mt Li, 2009 Spring (80 yuan/person).

Opening hours: 11am-9pm

Address: Rm 102, Bldg 1, 1107 Yuyuan Rd

Tel: 3430-7266

Art from the Steppes carpets

Although less well-known than their Persian counterparts, Chinese carpets with strong symbolic designs and intricate wool work are an art themselves. The origins of the craft are still debatable as there are no comprehensive historical records of these fine pieces of floor covers. Although many Chinese antique carpets were made from wool, a common material used by tribes in the northwest, one cannot say that they all from Inner Mongolia or Tibet. After all, it was the looms in Ningxia that exported these exquisite pieces to the rest of China and Europe world in the mid 1800s. Nonetheless, with this carpet gallery located at Yuyuan Road, one can request a replica of their favorite tapestry. Offering customized carpets, the rugs are made to measure in factories located in Guangdong Province and Shanghai. Unlike handmade carpets, which usually come in standard sizes and require an indeterminate waiting time, this company only needs 40 days to produce the carpet of your choice. Prices range from 700 yuan (wool) to 5,000 yuan (natural silk) per square meter.

Opening hours: 9am-6pm

Address: Rm 101, Bldg 1, 1107 Yuyuan Rd

Tel: 5239-0061

Fu 1039's old style ambience

To find Fu 1039, you first need to turn into a nondescript lane on 1039 Yuyuan Road, then go left into a surprisingly beautiful early 20th century garden house. It's like returning to 1930s' Shanghai, with old wooden floorboards, Art Deco furniture, gorgeous chandeliers and table settings. Opened four years ago, Fu 1039 has attracted discerning food lovers with its authentic Shanghainese cuisine and nostalgic ambience. The three-floor restaurant has four main dining rooms and 10 private rooms, each with its own decoration and character. First time guests are recommended to taste the signature dishes: Old fashioned Shanghai smoked fish (42 yuan), marinated drunken chicken topped with Shaoxing wine shaved ice (40 yuan), stewed pork in sweet soy sauce (66 yuan), baked cod fillet with pastry crust (68 yuan) and sauteed fresh river shrimp (128 yuan). Minimum charge per person is 150 yuan in the dining hall and 200 yuan in private rooms.


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