Probably the best day of our Shanghai trip came when we persisted in going out for a walk despite the pissy weather, having had the best laid plans of visiting the ghetto and other historically significant places dashed by the rain and not knowing beforehand that a Shanghainese wedding starts at 3pm.
We had just enough time for the old French Concession, and although we didn’t manage to complete all the waypoints recommended by our Fodor’s guidebook, our 8RMB visit to Dr Sun Yat Sen’s Shanghai residence made it worth the sore feet and damp clothes.
Inside the two structures on the former Rue Moliere (the current Xiangshan Road) were well preserved and well presented bits of Chinese history and almost startling us were letters written by Dr Sun’s wife and daughter, couched in formal tones one would expect of letters written in that era, but in English!
I suppose my limited knowledge of Chinese and Chinese history made for a really interesting excursion, and it was not till we got home (and had a decent internet connection) that I learned more about Dr Sun, and in particular, why he had so many different names.
Prior to this Shanghai trip, all I knew of Dr Sun was that he something like founded modern China, had many houses all over the world (including Singapore), and married someone my dad tells me was from Wenchang, Hainan, where chicken rice was invented. (She wasn’t from Wenchang, but her father Charlie Soong was, but that never stops my dad from making Hainanese connections as regards prominent people. E.g. Unbeknownst to many, the wife of the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is Hainanese. Very useful information).
It is just as interesting that any place in China associated with Dr Sun are the only places in China where the non-communist republican flag can be seen. Digging around in wikipedia also led me to learn that the first Chinese republic wasn’t founded by Dr Sun.
If there’s anything this little walk taught us, it’s that I really have to read and travel more, or else I’ll persist in believing that the Hainanese invented pork chops and Russian food, owned the Raffles Hotel and built the Forbidden City.
Picture of other places in the French Concession:
We had raised expectations about the pretty tree-lined avenues of the French Concession and I suppose photographs look better than real life, especially when you factor in pissy weather.
On the grounds of the Ruijin Binguan, formerly the Morris Estate
*Thank you David Sedaris