Taking a stroll through historic Sinan Road

By Xu Jingyi in Shanghai Source:Global Times Published: 2011-8-14 19:37:00

Sinan Gongguan's row of archetypal houses was built in the 1920s. Photo: CFP

Shanghai's two-kilometer Sinan Road has long been overshadowed by its intersecting Huaihai Road. Free from the neon lights and dazzling shops, the tree-lined Sinan Road seems a little bit shy compared to its neighbor.

Built in the 1910s, it was originally named Rue Massenet, in honor of the French musician. During the turbulent 1930s, the city's French Concession became the safest place in Shanghai for the Communists and the plain-looking houses on Sinan Road their favored meeting places.

Walking through Sinan Road today takes up to 40 minutes, but even one day is not enough to catch the lifestyle of Old Shanghai by exploring the historical sights, romantic cafés and the "Number One Noodle House in Shanghai," among other attractions.

If you have a day to spare, begin at the West Gate of Fuxing Park, which is close to Sinan Road. As the only French-style park in Shanghai, it was built in 1908 by a Gallic designer with the originally Chinese name of Gu Jia Zhai Park, but was later entitled Fuxing Park during World War II.

Within an area roughly the size of 12 football pitches, Fuxing Park provides a combination of Eastern and Western garden design Its rose garden is a well-known site for attracting wedding photography, where a joint statue of Marx and Engels reminds visitors of the country's current intellectual and political font. There is a a wide-open space in front of it that attracts badminton lovers, lotus ponds - with kids netting gold fishes and grandpas playing Go (Chinese chess) - and a rockery, dotted by gray-hair choirs singing revolutionary red songs like it was 1949.

The park is like Nikita: A decent lady with an invariable schedule at daylight, generous, tolerant, always elegant. But when night falls, she is a smokin' hot babe in a tank-top and miniskirt, wandering in Park 97, waiting for a hook-up. Want to know who she's looking for? Go find her.

Now stop daydreaming and let's move on. 20 meters south of Fuxing Park sits Sun Yat-Sen's (1866—1925) former residence. Dr Sun, the first leader of the Kuomingtang (KMT), helped overturn the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and was elected acting President of China in 1912. Dr Sun and his wife, Soon Ching Ling, lived here from 1918 to 1924.

An overseas Chinese gave the two-storey European-style house to Dr Sun to help support his revolutionary activities. Here, Dr Sun made the important decision to cooperate with the Communist Party of China (CPC).

The layout was done under the instruction of Soong Ching Ling and the furniture, books, glasses, manuscripts all belong to Dr Sun. This place is of historical importance not only to Sun himself, but also to the KMT, CPC and the whole of China.

After a walk in Fuxing Park and a brainstorm of modern Chinese history, maybe it's time for lunch? A Niang's Noodles (literally "Grandma's Noodles") claims to be the best in Shanghai.

During meal times, you will see cars lining up along the road (some with parking-tickets). Step closer to the 20 square-meter noodle house and look through its small, greasy windows: people are eating cheek by jowl, belly to back, wiping away the sweat. Their specialty is noodles with small yellow croaker and salted vegetable plus a marinated egg. Haoche!
After swallowing down and sipping clean the last drop, you may be feeling a little sleepy under the midday sunshine. Well, there's an optimum place to kill that afternoon laziness. Enclosed by a two-meter- high fence, the former residence of late premier Zhou Enlai is fully covered by luxuriant Japanese creepers. The best seat is on the second-floor balcony.

Sit on a wicker chair, French windows wide open, facing a delicate back garden, a meadow in the center, surrounded by waist-high bushes and plane trees more than 20 meters high: the illusion of time standing still seems just for you.

A few steps up is an attic hall with two bedrooms opposite. Look West: the French-style wooden frame extends floor to the ceiling. The Japanese ivy creeps like a curious kid, crowding the edge of the window but not daring to come in, unless a zephyr gives them a gentle push.

As the last streams of sunlight die out, it's time to wave goodbye to and say hello to the night's master. Roaming along the sidewalk lined with Chinese parasols, a shadow tails behind you. Head's up: The street lights are on. Now you can enjoy the whole thing again at night.

Places of interest

Fuxing Park, No.2 Gaolan Road

Admission: free

Open: 24 hours

Park 97, No.2A Gao Lan Road,

Admission: Varies

Open: From 9 pm

Dr Sun Yat-sen's house:

Admission: 20 yuan

Open: 9:00-16:00, Monday through Sunday

Ai Niang's Noodles , No.36 Sinan Road

Admission: Meal around 20 yuan.

Open: 7:00-9:00, 11:00-13:30, 17:00-19:00

Former residence of Zhou Enlai, No. 73 Sinan Road

Admission: free

Open: 9:00-16:30

Posted in: Feature, Metro Shanghai

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