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Mapping literary Shanghai- From Eileen Chang's cafe to Ba Jin's residence

LITERARY Shanghai was a place of ferment in the 1920s and 30s, and many great writers left their mark throughout the years. Han Jing walks in the footsteps of Lu Xun, Ba Jin, Eileen Chang and others. Marcel Proust wrote in "In Search of Lost Time" that the true voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes but in seeing with new eyes.

"The eyes of another, of a hundred others" are also necessary to really see and rediscover the city you are already familiar with.

A walking tour of literary Shanghai reveals another bygone city of artists, writers and intellectuals who flocked to the international city in the days of fashionable old Shanghai, and days of ferment and turmoil.

To date, however, there are no organized walking tours of literary Shanghai - you have to make your own way. Next week, Luwan District is expected to organize tours of historic spots, including some connected with the arts.

In the mid-1910s and 20s, Shanghai was a cradle of China's New Culture Movement, when pioneering scholars called for a new Chinese culture based on global and Western standards, especially democracy and science. Millions of young people were passionate about new ideas and drawn to the movement.

Literary Shanghai reached its height in the 1920s and 30s with a boom of influential literary societies, newspapers and periodicals. The major figures in contemporary Chinese literature lived in Shanghai, for part of their lives, and penned some of their masterpieces here. They include "The Diary of Madame Sha Fei" by Ding Ling, "Dayan River My Babysitter" by Ai Qing and "Fortress Besieged" by Qian Zhongshu.

Some of the buildings where they lived and their neighborhoods remain today and tours provide an opportunity to see where and how the writers lived and perhaps gain an insight into their works.

Changde Apartments

Eileen Chang (Zhang Ailing, 1920-1995) has been in the news when her semi-autobiographical novel "Little Reunion" was released on the Chinese mainland last month.

The writer never wanted it to be released, but it created a buzz in Taiwan and Hong Kong and prompted new interest in her convoluted life.

Chang, born to an aristocratic family in Shanghai, left footprints around the city and wrote during the Japanese occupation. She lived in Hong Kong and the United States and wrote in both Chinese and English. She was known for traumatic loves and died alone in Los Angeles in 1995.

"Lust, Caution" and "Love in a Fallen City" are among her many well-known works.

She once lived in the Changde Apartments at the intersection of Changde and Yuyuan roads, adjacent to Jing'an Temple. It was a pilgrimage site for her ardent fans.

The seven-story Art Deco building was built in the early 1930s. Chang once shared Room 51 with her mother and aunt, and after 1942 spent five years in Room 65 where she wrote 25 essays, 18 novels, two film scripts and one play. They included "Love in a Fallen City" and "Record of a Golden Yoke."

The building was recently renovated completely to restore its appearance of 70 years ago, even down to lamp shades, door handles and mailboxes.

The writer, known for unhappy loves and for becoming a recluse, said that apartments represent a retreat from the daily bustle. She based her works, written in the apartment, mostly on her own experiences and she described the sounds of trams running near the building.

Chang also wrote in the cafe downstairs in the lobby. The just-opened Colorful cafe is a place where readers and coffee drinkers can peruse Chang's works, which are ranged on a shelf, and listen to old Shanghai music on a gramophone.

The house where Chang was born and lived for 20 years, on the corner of Kangding Road E. and Taixing Road in Jing'an District, will open as a community center in August. It will become headquarters for an Eileen Chang fan club and will offer space for education, fitness, conferences and official receptions.

Changde Apartments

Address: 195 Changde Rd

Colorful cafe

Address: 1/F, Changde Apartments

Opening hours: 10am-10pm

Eileen Chang's former residence

Address: Bldg 3, 87 Kangding Rd E.

Ba Jin's residence

Ba (1904-2005), whose real name was Li Yaotang, was one of the most important and widely-read writers of the 20th century.

He wrote and translated 13 million words including novels, short stories, prose and essays. His major work was "The Torrent Trilogy: Family, Spring, Autumn" (1933-1940).

From 1955 to 1999 he lived in a Spanish garden house on Wukang Road, in Xuhui District, where he wrote the masterpiece of his late years, "Random Thoughts."

Wukang Road is one of the city's 64 historical roads that are preserved and are never to be widened. It was home to many celebrities, such as revolutionary pioneer Huang Xing during the Republic of China (1912-1949), high-ranking Kuomintang officials Chen Kuo-fu and his brother Chen Li-fu.

Address: 113 Wukang Rd

Xu Zhimo's residence

Xu (1897-1931), a celebrated early 20th-century poet, promoted modern Chinese poetry and pursued love, freedom and beauty. His best-known poem is "Farewell to Cambridge Again."

Xu and his wife, Lu Xiaoman, lived in the old-style residential complex of longtang or lane houses on Fuxi Road. It was demolished to make way for Yan'an Road M. A plaque remains at the entrance to the lane.

The couple's lifelong friend, Rabindranath Tagore, the famed Indian poet and Asia's first Nobel laureate, visited Shanghai in March 1929 and stayed with Xu.

Address: 913 Yan'an Rd M. You can also visit:

Duolun Road Culture Street

The L-shaped pedestrian street in Hongkou District (originally Darroch Road) is a peaceful walkway behind busy Sichuan Road. In the early 20th century, prominent writers, including Lu Xun, Guo Moruo, Mao Dun, Ye Shengtao and Wang Zaoshi, lived in the area.


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