Pudong’s refined side ― home to artists, writers, historic figures
By Qu Zhi
The Pudong New Area is famous for skyscrapers, broad avenues and Shanghai’s financial district, but there is a more refined side.
There are quite a few places with a long history and some residences and memorial halls of famous scholars, artists and political figures.
A memorial hall and residences are open to the public. They are the memorial hall of painter and seal carver Wu Changshuo (1844-1927), the residence of translator Fu Lei (1908-66) and the suburban residence of Party leader Zhang Wentian (1900-76).
Also open is the completely renovated building where several great figures lived — Soong Ching Ling (1893-1981), Hu Shi (1891-1962) and Huang Yanpei (1898-1965).
In the past, these buildings were largely ignored but now the district government is repairing and refurbishing — in one case almost completely reconstructing — them to commemorate important figures in China’s culture and history.
“Every year, I see many young people standing in front of the vacant area in front of Zhang Wentian’s old residence and vowing to be a CPC member of Youth League,” says Chen Zhongwei, director of Zhang Wentian’s old residence.
Neishidi, a 1,500-square-meter complex built in the Qing Dynasty in Chuansha Town (218 Xinchuan Rd, free admission), was once home to three figures in contemporary history, including Soong Ching Ling, wife of Dr Sun Yat-sen; Hu Shi, a philosopher, essayist and diplomat; and Huang Yanpei, an educator, industrialist and politician.
Former residence of Fu Lei
Fu Lei (1908-66) was one of China’s greatest translators from French and a well-known art critic.
Thanks to Fu, many Chinese readers get familiar with the works of Voltaire, Balzac and Romain Rolland. It is said that without Fu, there would be no Balzac in China.
Fu was born into a wealthy family in Hangtou Town of the Pudong New Area, where he spent four years. That childhood home, now open to the public, was built in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It fell into disrepair and today only 200 square meters of the 762-square-meter original residence remain, according to researcher Wang Shuhua.
Renovation of the residence is now underway and there will be a memorial hall; a small area is still open today.
“It’s good that Fu Lei liked taking photos so that we had many references when we built new rooms,” Wang says.
A new exhibition room will display original manuscripts and old photos of the translator.
“We aim to create the scene where Fu grew up,” Wang says.
Nearby is a small river and plans call for a dock for small vessels.
At a cost of 50 million yuan (US$8.2 million), the new structure will have 36 rooms, like the original. Carving on the high ceiling beams will be recreated.
“Fu Min (Fu Lei’s second son) calls every day about the progress,” Wang says. “We want to make this house a tranquil place that reminds visitors of Fu Lei, where they can reflect on his personality.”
The project is expected to be complete in 2016, the 50th anniversary of Fu’s death.
When Fu was four years old, his young father was persecuted and imprisoned; he would die in jail. Junior Fu, his mother, brothers and sisters left their home.
Their mother worked to support them, but she was so obsessed with reversing the unjust verdict against her husband that she neglected her children. Fu’s siblings died one after another.
Fu’s mother sold off pieces of the original property to finance Fu’s education. As a result, several people own the original property today, making the reconstruction project complicated, says Wang. Some asked very high prices or refused to move.
At the age of 18, Fu went to Paris to study, despite his mother’s bitter opposition. She only relented when he agreed to an arranged marriage with Zhu Meifu; they would eventually wed.
Fu studied art theory in France from 1928 to 1932 at the University of Paris. He associated with artists and writers and visited museums. He started translating some works from French.
“Getting a degree in art as a means of making a living might not be bad, and sometimes necessary, but it can never be a measure of one’s knowledge,” Fu wrote.
In 1931, he returned to China, teaching at Shanghai Art College, translating and writing art criticism. He and Zhu married.
Fu lived through a period of upheaval and continued to write until the end of his life.
He witnessed the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45), the establishment of the People’s Republic of China and the “cultural revolution” (1966-76).
In 1966 Fu and his wife were persecuted and imprisoned for several days by Red Guards. They later committed suicide together. Their home was ransacked.
After 1949, Fu focused on translating Balzac, despite suffering pulmonary ailments. His completed “Cousin Bette,” totaling 360,000 characters.
In his translation works and theory, he emphasized the importance of harmony between form and spirit in what was known as “Fu Lei Style” of translation. Many of his translations are considered definitive.
“After the ‘cultural revolution,’ nearly nothing of Fu’s was left, no furniture, nothing from his study, only photos and letters to his son,” Wang says.
Fu and his wife were buried in a cemetery in Pudong. The monument is inscribed: “When a man who retains the heart of a newborn baby, he will create a world.”
Address: Wanglou Village, Xiasha Town, Nanhui, Pudong
Wu Changshuo Memorial Hall
In the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Wu Changshuo (1844-1927) was a prominent painter, calligrapher and seal carver. He incorporated various artistic elements of the period into his work and pioneered a painting genre known as the Shanghai School (hai pai) that inspired many contemporary artists.
He was largely responsible for rejuvenating bird-and-flower painting, but introducing an expressive, individualistic style.
Wu headed the Xiling Society of Seal Art in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. The memorial hall in Pudong contains a range of his paintings and seals, as well as photographs and other items.
The 1,600-square-meter building used to be the residence of Chen Guichen, a wealthy merchant. Completed in 1922, it was known as Yinchuan Villa.
Wu stayed there frequently, meeting with other artists.
Address: 15 Lujiazui Rd E., Pudong
Admission: 10 yuan
Old Residence of Zhang Wentian
Zhang Wentian (1900-76) was general secretary of the Communist Party of China from 1935 to 1943 and made important contributions to political life and the economy.
Zhang was born in Nanhui County in then Jiangsu Province, today’s Shanghai, and studied engineering here. He also attended the University of California in the US. He later studied at Sun Yat-sen University in Moscow and went on the Long March (1934-36).
He held various posts and served as Chinese ambassador to the former Soviet Union. He was attacked and purged during the “cultural revolution” (1966-76).
He lived in Pudong during his teen years.
The rural brick residence was built in 1892 in the southern style, with two rooms facing south. It’s near a bamboo forest and river. There’s a vegetable garden in the front yard.