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July 1, 2011

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Tracing the footsteps of the Party

SITES around Shanghai mark the history of the Communist Party of China and memorialize the writers and intellectuals who helped inspire a people to work toward New China. Benedicte Burguet and Chehui Pei take a stroll.

Venue of the First CPC National Congress

Address: 76-78 Xingye Rd

Open: Daily, 9am-4pm

Admission: Free

Tel: 5383-2171

In 1919, a patriotic movement swept China, starting in Beijing on May 4 when students took to the street to denounce the Versailles Treaty, which allowed Japan to take over the German concessions in Shandong Province after World War I. The anti-imperialist demonstrations also denounced traditional Chinese values and evolved into the New Culture Movement.

Inspired by the Russian revolution, many educated Chinese began to embrace Communism. In August 1920, China's first Communist group was set up in Shanghai. In October another group was launched in Beijing. Later, more groups emerged across the country. They prepared to create a national Communist Party.

On July 23, 1921, 13 delegates from around China, including Mao Zedong from Hunan, met secretly in this Shanghai house belonging to the brother of Shanghai delegate Li Hanjun. The address was then 106-108 Rue Wantz.

A few days later the meeting was disrupted by a spy and everyone fled before a police raid. The remainder of the meeting was held on a boat in Nanhu Lake in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province, south of Shanghai. The meeting marked birth of the Communist Party of China and adopted the first CPC charter and objectives.

The first congress is reconstructed with life-size wax figures of the 13 delegates seated around a big table. But the actual meeting room is kept unadorned - just a table with 13 teacups and 13 chairs as it was in 1921.

Venue of the 2nd CPC National Congress

Address: Bldg 30, 7 Old Chengdu Rd N.

Open: Tuesday-Sunday, 9-11:30am, 1:30-4:30pm

Admission: Free

Tel: 6359-0984

Free audio guide in English

A year after the first national congress, the CPC held its second national congress in secret on July 16-23, 1922, in a house in Shanghai. It formulated the Party's action plan.

Only 12 people participated, representing a total of 195 Party members across China. They included Chen Duxiu, Zhang Guotao and Li Da. The meeting put forward a program for democratic revolution and the idea of a united front based on Lenin's theories.

The original brick-and-mortar house was renovated in 2008 as a memorial museum in a park-like setting.

The rest of the old neighborhood was demolished.

Inside the entrance stands a large bronze statue of a worker, a peasant, an intellectual and a woman, symbolizing the Communist-led proletarian movement in the 1920s. Exhibits include the personal items of early Party members, their documents and pamphlets.

The house was the home of Li Da, then CPC propaganda chief. The furnishings are replicas in 1920s style. One room shows a silent film documenting the old workers' movement and displays items used by railway strikers. There are also letters and documents. None is translated.

Former Residence of Mao Zedong

Address: Bldg 7, 583 Weihai Rd (entrance on Maoming Rd N.)

Open: Tuesday-Sunday, 9-11:30am, 1-4:30pm

Admission: Free (ID or phone number required)

This two-floor house in an alley is where Mao Zedong and his family lived for nearly a year in 1924 when he was the organization secretary of the CPC.

It was here Mao Zedong enjoyed happy times with his wife Yang Kaihui and two sons. His mother-in-law lived with them. Seven years later, Yang was killed by the Kuomintang who turned against the Communists and slaughtered many CPC members.

The house contains pictures of Mao, his family and friends in the 1920s through later periods. There is the living room where Mao received guests and a bedroom, simply furnished with replicated furniture. There are wax figures of Mao, Yang and sons.

Upstairs is a photo exhibition depicting Mao's life in Shanghai and his revolutionary activities from the 1920s to the Communist victory in 1949, with the founding of the People's Republic of China.

League of Leftist Writers Museum

Address: Bldg 2, 201 Duolun Rd

Open: Tuesday-Sunday, 9am-4pm

Admission: Free

Audio guide available in late 2011 and guides can be arranged in advance.

The League of Leftist Writers was a revolutionary organization that spread the literary theory of Marxism, advocating revolutionary literature of the proletariat and cultivating progressive writers. Lu Xun was its standard-bearer.

The old league building is hidden on what used to be Darroch Road, which during the 1920s and 1930s was a community of famous writers and artists such as Lu Xun, Ding Ling and Mao Dun - many of them joined the league.

On March 2, 1930, the league held its inaugural meeting.

In the backyard is a statue commemorating five members killed by the Kuomintang during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945).

The second floor is an exhibition of the league's history, the writers and their works. The league was founded at the China Arts College at 233 Duolun Road on the day of the inaugural meeting. It was dissolved in the spring of 1936.

National Anthem Gallery

Address: 151 Jingzhou Rd

Open: Monday-Saturday, 9-11:30am, 1:30-4pm (Monday for tours only)

Admission: Free

No audio guides, all signs bilingual.

The new National Anthem Gallery has recently opened. It is located where the famous film "Children of Troubled Times" was filmed in 1935. The movie's rousing theme song, "March of the Volunteers," became the national anthem in 1949. The movie was about young intellectuals joining the front lines in the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945) and the song is powerful and inspiring.

Inside is Anthem Memorial Square, dominated by an abstract sculpture of the Chinese National flag. The museum is filled with powerful paintings, strong visuals, multi-media and interactive exhibits. They revolve around the story of the birth of the anthem in tumultuous times. Outsized photos are covered with virtual dust, which when brushed away by hand, bring stories to life. Fifty multi-media screens show people talking about what the anthem means to them. The film "Children of Troubled Times" is screened.

Lu Xun Museum

Address: Inside Lu Xun Park, 2288 Sichuan Rd N.

Open: 9am-5pm

Admission: Free

Known as the "father of modern Chinese literature" for helping to develop modern Chinese prose, Lu Xun (1881-1936) is one of the most famous writers in 20th century China. He was called a political revolutionary figure and hero by Mao Zedong and considered one of the fathers of Communism though he never joined the Party. His works exerted a powerful influence after the May Fourth Movement in 1919 and attracted many Chinese to Communism. Lu Xun also headed the League of Leftist Writers during the 1920s to 1930s.

Lu Xun moved to Shanghai in 1927 and lived in the city until his death. He devoted himself to writing satirical essays. The museum and memorial hall is a beautiful Shaoxing-style house in a park as Lu Xun is a native of Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province.

Due to renovations, only the ground floor is open. Its exhibits cover Lu Xun's life, his works and views on society. Excerpts of famous works such as "The Story of Ah Q" and "Diary of a Madman" can be found.

Nearby, a bookstore sells English versions of his famous books. Lu Xun's tomb is at the north end of the park; his former residence is a few blocks away.


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