Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / China / Society

Shanghai's Zhuang Yuan community to reopen

By Lin Shujuan in Shanghai | | Updated: 2022-11-27 19:49
Share - WeChat

Zhang Yuan, a community of hundreds of shikumen (a style featuring Western and Chinese elements) houses in downtown Shanghai's Jing'an district, will partially reopen to the public on Dec 1 after four years of protective renovation.

Reservation for visits to the newly renovated western part of the compound, which consists of 16 historic buildings that now house international brands including Arcadia club, Vacheron Constantin and Moet & Chandon, starts on Nov 27 through the WeChat mini program "Shanghai Zhangyuan".

Located just off Nanjing Road West at the corner of Taixing Road and Wujiang Road, Zhang Yuan - or Zhang's Garden - is widely known as Shanghai's largest, best-preserved and most diverse shikumen compound.

The compound was named after its founding owner Zhang Shuhe (1850-1919), a merchant from Wuxi in Jiangsu province. Zhang had bought a piece of farmland in Shanghai from a Briton named Francis Groom before building a garden home for his mother.

Zhang opened the garden to the public after his mother's death in 1885 and later built a Western-style mansion called Arcadia Hall, a place where people could enjoy a bird's-eye view of Shanghai. He also expanded the garden space to more than 4 hectares.

With the introduction of entertainment options such as a rollercoaster, circus performances and paddle boats, Zhang Yuan quickly became a famous public space and one of the few private gardens that were open to the public in Shanghai. Its other amenities included a dance hall, a theater for Chinese operas, a photography studio, a tea house and restaurants.

Before it became a residential compound, the location was dubbed the "No 1 public garden of Shanghai". It was the place where the first electric lamp in China was lit, the first bicycle race in China took place and where the country's first outdoor photo booth was opened. It was also the place where kung fu master Huo Yuanjia challenged Western boxers to prove to the international community that the Chinese were courageous fighters. Peking Opera maestro Mei Lanfang also made his debut performance at a private event there.

Yet after more than 100 years, the compound was reduced almost to a slum, with overpacked residents sharing kitchens and living without flash toilets.

In order to conserve the heritage of Shanghai, the city decided to relocate all the residents in 2018 and protect the buildings, according to Shi Yunlun, president of the Jing'an Real Estate Group, the State-owned enterprise responsible for the conservation and restoration of Zhang Yuan.

"Zhang Yuan is the first urban renewal project in Shanghai to implement a protective expropriation plan," Shi said. "Maintaining the cultural heritage and characteristics of the shikumen houses has been the top priority of this project," Shi said.

According to the district's plans for the compound, upon full completion of its renovation expected in 2026, all the houses in the compound will be restored and refurbished, underground spaces will be constructed, and a commercial compound over 150,000 square meters, along with a theater, a gallery and a boutique hotel, will be introduced.

"It's set to become a new cultural landmark where local residents can reminisce on Shanghai's past and yet with a new breath of modern life," said Mo Liangjin, director of the publicity deparment of the Jing'an district.

Zhang Kun contributed to this story.

Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349