CHINA / Travel in Shanghai

Garden of love
By Xu Jitao (Shanghai Star)
Updated: 2004-10-26 09:38

The building at No. 675 Julu Lu, which houses the office of the Shanghai Writers' Association, is known for its delicate and exotic design, attracting many visitors. But the building's name, "Eros' Garden", also draws people curious about its history.

The former owner of the garden, Liu Jisheng, was the chairman of the board of the Hong Kong Matchstick Factory, the China Bank of Enterprises, Shanghai Cement Company and other businesses in the 1920s. His success helped him become one of the most influential businessmen at that time and accumulate enormous wealth.

In 1921, Liu built a two-floor villa on Julaida Lu (No.681 Julu Lu today). In 1924, he bought the land at 674 Julu Lu neighbouring his villa . He then prepared to build his ambitious and luxurious garden on the connected land.

In 1926, Liu requested the famous Hungarian architect L.E. Hudec, designer of East China Hospital, the International Hotel, Mu'en Church and the Grand Theatre, to design the garden. Because of his deep affection for his wife Chen Dingzhen, Liu wanted to present this garden as gift for her 40th birthday.

In 1931, the garden was finished. Hudec designed it in Italian Renaissance style. The interior decor of the building includes reliefs and decoration patterns which depict the romantic story between Eros and Psyche.

When Hudec was designing the garden for Liu and his wife, he was deeply moved by the love and affection of the couple. For him, only the story of Psyche and Eros could express such a deep love. He even ordered a statue of Psyche from Italy as a present for Liu and his wife. The statue was installed on the fountain of the garden. People can easily find the influences of Frederic Leighton's "The Bath of Psyche" in the layout and construction of the garden, with its Ionic poles, steps and fountain. All of these elements are harmoniously distributed around the statue.

In 1947, Liu left Shanghai for Hong Kong and never returned. His "Eros' Garden" was taken over by the government in 1952. During the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), the statue was well-preserved, hidden somewhere in the garden.

After those turbulent times, both the garden and the statue were recovered. People can still find traces of the romantic story of Eros and Psyche in the garden today, but the real hero and heroine of this story rest in the earth in Montreal, Canada, where Liu, who died in 1962, and Chen, who died two years later, are buried.