Art Deco is spread throughout Shanghai but no area can claim more than the former French Concession.
In the 1800s, Shanghai’s importance in international trade led to the creation of British, American and French settlements. Initially, these districts remained sovereign Chinese territory, but Shanghai’s Qing government traded them away in exchange for foreign support against the Small Sword Society Uprising of 1853-1855.
With that, Shanghai’s foreign enclaves literally became concessions. The Chinese would go on to make other concessions (see Wikipedia article on the Century of Humiliation) but for foreigners in Shanghai, life was good.
The French Concession, in particular, enjoyed a building boom in the 1920s-30s, much of it in the new modern style popularized at the 1925 Paris exhibition. Today’s French Concession has a bit of everything, having survived a Japanese takeover and a Communist takeover, finally coming to rest as a place that is seen as both historic and trendy–which is another way of saying people will pay a premium to live there. No doubt this bit of capitalism has played a part in the area’s survival and revival.
There are books filled with photos of the French Concession, and covering just the most important buildings would make a very long post (the French Club-Okura Garden Hotel dicsussed in the Day Three post is in the French Concession, to take one example.)
So I’ll just show you some of my favorite things.
For further reading:
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