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January 29, 2018

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Hongkou plans to be a center of cultural heritage by 2021

HONGKOU District will build new museums and art facilities, and open up many of the former residences of celebrated personalities to the public.

The district aims to become the “heritage and promotion hub” by 2021 for Haipai that combines traditional Chinese with Western culture, the local government said in an industrial guideline that was released over the weekend.

Haipai, or Shanghai style, originated in Shanghai in the 20th century. It is often used to describe theater, paintings, novels and architecture with a strong Shanghai angle. Like the city, Shanghai style is considered inclusive and diverse.

Hongkou was the birthplace of contemporary Haipai culture as a large swathe of migrant population lived in the district after 1920s. Among the settlers were those from Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, and also the earliest expatriates from the United States and Japan, according to Xiong Yuezhi, a historian with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

The local culture became more diverse after about 23,000 Jewish refugees arrived in the city between 1933 and 1941 to escape the Nazis during the World War II. Most of them lived in Hongkou, said Xiong.

The century-old Astor House Hotel near the Bund housed big names like physicist Albert Einstein, actor Charlie Chaplin and writer Edgar Snow. The hotel is currently closed and will reopen as an exhibition and education base for China’s capital market. President Xi Jinping once called Hongkou as the birthplace of Haipai and was the gathering place for cultural celebrities. 

Part of the plan involves expanding the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum and building new museums, art galleries, exhibition halls and book stores over three years. Most of them will come up at the North Bund area, or the Huangpu River waterfront.

Historic venues, mainly along the Sichuan Road N., will be renovated to showcase China’s revolutionary and cultural history of the 1930s.

The area near the commercial road has 57 historic sites. They include the Memorial Site of the 4th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the League of Leftist Writers Museum, and homes of renowned writers and intellectuals from early last century.

The old league building is hidden on what used to be Darroch Road, known as Duolun Road now, which during the 1920s and 1930s was a community of famous writers and artists such as Lu Xun (1881-1936), Ding Ling (1904-1986) and Mao Dun (1896-1981) — many of whom joined the league. Many of their works were typical representatives of Haipai literature.

The public will now have access to some of these writers’ former residences. Jing Yun Li, for instance, which is listed as the “No. 1 Celebrity Lane,” will be restored and developed for exhibitions, the guideline said. Lu Xun, Chen Wangdao (1891-1977), Mao Dun, Ye Shengtao (1894-1988) and Rou Shi (1902-1931) were some of the famous Chinese writers and scholars who lived in typical shikumen buildings in the lane.  

In October 1927, Lu Xun and his wife Xu Guangping moved to No. 23, Lane 35 Hengbang Road and lived there for three and a half years. Their eldest son Zhou Haiying was born there in 1929.

The district government also aims to highlight the culture and history of the Chin Woo Athletic Association. The association was founded by Huo Yuanjia (1868-1910), who is regarded as a hero after defeating foreign fighters in kung fu bouts.

A Chin Woo cultural development center will be built here to promote martial arts culture worldwide.


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