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February 18, 2021

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A tale of rebirth for two historic buildings at Fudan University

Two nearly century-old buildings at Fudan University are being renovated to their original appearances, along with construction of a station named after the university on Metro line 18.

The project on the No. 100 and No. 200 buildings on campus began in 2017 when the construction of the Metro station in front of the university was expected.

The top of the No. 100 building has been sealed and the No. 200 will be capped soon. Also, construction of the university’s Chinese civilization resource center will be completed this year.

The No. 200 building, between the No. 100 and No. 300 buildings known as Xiangbo Hall and the Choi Koon-shum Humanity Center, was built in 1922. Li Denghui, the first president of Fudan, traveled to Southeast Asia to raise funds and received a donation from two brothers — Chien Chao-nan and Chien Yii-chieh — founders of Hong Kong’s Nanyang Brothers Tobacco Company. In their honor, the two-story brick-wood building was originally named Chien’s Hall.

Designed by American architect Henry Killam Murphy, it was the university’s largest construction project, featuring a Chinese roof, overhanging eaves and Western walls. Li and Murphy were alumni of Yale University. Murphy designed many buildings at Chinese universities.

In 1937, the building’s roof was blown off and a dorm and an indoor stadium were razed by Japanese warplanes.

Later, the university moved to Chongqing and the campus was seized by Japanese invaders and the puppet government led by Wang Jingwei. The building was repaired with simple tiles.

The university’s faculty and students moved back to Shanghai in 1945 after the Japanese were defeated. The next year, the building was renamed the Chao-nan Building in honor of a donor. Following the city’s liberation, the university renamed every building on campus and the building was numbered 200.

According to archive photos, the No. 100 building was built in a similar style to No. 200 but was also destroyed by Japanese bombs. Though repaired several times, it was no longer as splendid as its original design.

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the two buildings became important venues for teaching and scientific research. Their interiors were renovated several times, most recently in the early 1990s with funding from the National Cultural Heritage Administration.

In 2005, Fudan’s 100th anniversary, university officials planned to renovate the school’s historical buildings and transform the area into a grand museum.

Lu Jiansong, dean of the department of cultural heritage and museology, proposed the university designate the area with old buildings as an exhibition space for historical relics.

“This is the root of Fudan,” Lu said. The university accepted his proposal and authorized him to guide the renovation of building No. 750, an office building for the school of economics and now the university’s museum of history.

That year, Choi Koon-shum, a member of the university council, donated funds for the renovation of building No. 300.

Metro line re-routed

But buildings No. 100 and No. 200 were still ageing, so the university decided to rebuild the structures above the Metro station when the city launched the first phase of construction on Line 18.

Lu said the Shanghai Planning and Land Resource Administration Bureau organized two rounds of discussions to sort out the project’s challenges.

The planned route of Line 18 passed beneath the historic protection zone around Xianghui Grand Lawn, which would have affected Xianghui Hall, the Zibin Building and the university’s history museum — all of which are under protected status in Yangpu District. The route was changed to protect the area and buildings.

“Actually, the two buildings were no longer as they originally appeared after Fudan moved back to Shanghai from Chongqing,” Lu said. “Only the wall base and some of the walls were original while the roof and the interior had already been changed.”

He proposed rebuilding the buildings according to their original appearance, and exhibiting photos of them during different periods.

“We’ve tried our best to restore their original look by checking historical photos, documents and structures built during the same period,” said Lu Tan, senior engineer with the university’s infrastructure department. Workers carefully dismantled the buildings and stored walls, roofs and other parts for re-use during construction. The old walls will be used to decorate the outer walls of the new buildings to maintain their historic appearance.

The university also altered the function of the area in its development plan. Originally, the buildings were used for teaching and logistical support. They will become a Chinese civilization resource center.

“We wish not only to respect history and restore the original appearance of historical buildings, but also let them serve new functions in the new era,” said Lu.


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