A HISTORIC garden villa associated with the renowned Rong family in downtown Shanghai will open soon to the public for the first time, officials said yesterday.
The building at 186 Shaanxi Road N. in Jing’an District was the former residence of Rong Zongjing, a pioneer of one of China’s most renowned tycoon families.
His nephew, Rong Yiren, was vice president of China from 1993 to 1998. He set up the China International Trust and Investment Corp, or CITIC, in 1978.
The building has undergone renovations and will open to the public soon, featuring exhibition halls and a luxury products shop, said Zhang Yu, tourism bureau director of the district.
Zhang said luxury brand Prada has decided to rent the house as its offices and agreed to open part to the public.
The three-story house built in 1918 is one of the few well-preserved old garden villas in the city.
The 2,000-square-meter building with a 2,400-square-meter garden was rented by the China Economic Research Institute in 1990s.
In 2002, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch rented the villa as the office for his News Corp businesses.
Born in 1873 in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, Rong Zongjing and his younger brother Rong Desheng started out in Shanghai as juniors in a Chinese private bank, before opening their own bank in 1896.
The Rong brothers switched to manufacturing and opened a flour mill in 1902, then a textile mill in 1907. In the 1920s and 30s they owned 12 flour mills and nine textile mills.
They were dubbed the “kings of flour and textiles.”
The former Rong residence stands opposite CITIC Pacific Plaza on Nanjing Road, owned by CITIC Pacific, formerly headed by Rong Yiren’s son Rong Zhijian, or Larry Yung.
In addition to the former Rong residence, Jing’an government also plans to open more former homes of celebrities, said Chao Kejian, deputy governor of the district.
Chao said the government will also expand its tours to old residential buildings, letting visitors get a taste of the daily life of locals.
Shanghai has some 1,500 buildings that were homes to famous people from home and abroad, however, more than half are not well-protected, said Wang Anshi, an architecture expert and member of the city’s historic building protection committee.