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Following footprints of writers

EVERY city has its own aesthetics shown in every aspect of its life, including architecture, fashion and literature. Shanghai, the city on which Western culture has had such a huge influence, was a flourishing international metropolis more than 150 years ago after it opened its port to trade.

In the process of mingling the Western and Eastern cultures, Shanghai developed its own culture with the characteristics of elegance, modernity and refinement. Shanghai literature is imbued with the unique style of this city, and is distinct from other styles.

Writers are a very special group in society. They observe and think, recording with their stories the characteristics of their era. Shanghai was once home to many of great writers, including Lu Xun, Xu Zhimo, Eileen Chang, Mao Dun and Qian Zhongshu. Some were fascinated by the city's invigorating vibe; some found this city unbearably shallow. Shanghai witnessed their struggles and achievements and they left with us the vivid image of this Oriental city, along with the splendors and miseries of their own personal lives.

The exotic atmosphere in Shanghai provides numerous inspirations for city writers. Western and Eastern cultures met and merge in this city, giving rise to a special writing style called "Shanghai style." Writers with "Shanghai style" depict the fast speed of urban life and the mindset of ordinary citizens.

Contemporary Chinese literature would be unimaginable without Shanghai and Shanghai would be colorless without the writers. The mutual influence left lots of room for imagination. Exactly where did they write those stories? Were the stories real? In order to answer the questions, let's follow their footprints.

Residence of Xu Zhimo, Poet

Xu Zhimo (1897-1931) was well-known to Chinese people for many reasons. As a modern poet, his works are among the earliest romantic poems in Chinese literature. He celebrated love, freedom and beauty and his poetry had a huge influence on young people. His attitudes and lifestyle resembled those of Western poets of the Romantic period.

He was a close friend of Indian poet Tagore, whose works Xu helped translate into Chinese. But it was difficult to be a free spirit at the time when strict convention and responsibility were valued. Xu lashed out at arranged marriage and divorced his first wife after they already had two children. Xu then moved into a home on Yan'an Road with his second wife Lu Xiaoman - that's where Tagore stayed when he visited Shanghai. Xu died in a plane crash when he was 36.

His physical residence no longer stands but is marked with a plaque at a residential community.

Address: 923 Yan'an Rd M.

Residence of Lu Xun, Writer

The great writer and thinker Lu Xun (1881-1936) is considered by many to be the founder of modern Chinese literature. He employed both traditional Chinese conventions and the 19th century European literary forms and his essays are incisive social commentary. In 1927, he shifted to the more liberal city of Shanghai.

He first lived on Hengbin Road, Hongkou District, and later moved to The Continental Terrace on Shanyin Road (formerly Scott Road) which was built in 1911. The building's historical features and original layout are basically unchanged, with old-fashioned lanes and houses in different styles. House No. 9 tucked in The Continental Terrace is a three-story red brick and tile house - Lu Xun's last residence where he stayed from April 11, 1933, until his death on October 19, 1936. He died at home, aged 56. Personal belongings, everyday items and furniture are arranged as they were in his lifetime. The entrance fee is 8 yuan (US$1.20).

Opening hours: 9am-4pm

Address: No. 9, 132 Shanyin Rd

Residence of Hu Lancheng, Editor

Mei Li Yuan on Yan'an Road is a quiet, refined neighborhood in the center of Shanghai and the home to writer and editor Hu Lancheng (1906-1981). His name would be unknown to most people if it not for his brief marriage with China's legendary writer Eileen Chang. Hu was considered a controversial figure because he served briefly in the Japan-controlled puppet government in China during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) and fled to Tokyo after the war.

This also led to intense controversy regarding the value of his works, including those that were non-political. But none of these things mattered to people in love, least of all to Chang. They were married in 1943, when she was 23, he was 37, and divorced in 1947. The couple liked to discuss art and literature in his living room in the house. If you visit Mei Li Yuan today, you can still feel the romantic air among the red bricks and small lanes. A trip to Chang's own home in the Changde Apartments (195 Changde Road) is also recommended as most of her books were completed there.

Address: No. 28, 379 Yan'an Rd W.


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