As the biggest city in China, Shanghai has played a key role in the country’s modern history. It witnessed China sinking to its lowest point and the progress of its revival.
Of course, it also bore witness to the birth and growth of the Communist Party of China. That history has left its marks on the city, and they remain in place to tell stories.
As yesterday was the 93rd anniversary of the founding of CPC, follow Shanghai Daily to see the places and hear the stories.
• The site of First National Congress of Communist Party of China
The typical Shanghai shikumen house is the cradle of the Communist Party in China. When it was first built in the 1920s, two brothers, Li Hanjun and Li Shucheng, rented the houses, then 106 and 108 Wangzhi Road, as their residence. They removed the wall between the two houses and named the combined, newly decorated house “Li’s Residence.”
Both brothers were revolutionaries. On July 23, 1921, representatives of “communist groups,” including Mao Zedong, from all around the country gathered in the residence. Hence the CPC was founded.
On July 30, the last day of the conference, a man suddenly broke into the house, glanced at the attendees and said he “came to the wrong place.” The participants realized he was likely a government spy. The conference was halted and the attendees, except for two representatives, including Li Hanjun, evacuated from the house immediately and moved to a boat on Nanhu Lake in Zhejiang Province to continue the meeting.
As expected, police from the then French concession besieged the house soon after the meeting broke up. Although they didn’t find any evidence in the residence, they spied on the house continuously.
After the Li brothers moved out, the house soon became just another part of the shikumen complex. The first floor was redecorated as stores and no one knew it served a key role in the history of China. In 1952, the place was finally restored to its original look when the First National Congress of the CPC was held.
Now the house has been adopted as a museum in the Xintiandi area. The museum not only displays the history of the conference, but of Shanghai in general before 1949. Relics and pictures tell the stories of common people’s lives, foreign invaders’ sovereignty in Shanghai and revolutionists’ rebellion.
Address: 76, 78 Xingye Rd
• The site of Second National Congress of Communist Party of China and Shanghai Citizen Female College
The site is another shikumen house in Fude Lane. It was the residence of Li Da, one of the founders of the CPC. Mao Zedong was not on the list of attendees to the conference, which took place in July 1922. Mao told American journalist Edgar Snow in 1936 that he was in Shanghai during the meeting but didn’t know the exact address and couldn’t find any “comrades,” so he missed it.
In fact, most First Congress attendees didn’t show up at the meeting. Disagreements had emerged among representatives, and some of them, including Li Da, quit the party soon after the Second National Congress took place.
The conference, however, still voted to approve the Party Constitution of CPC. All the different editions of the CPC Party Constitution are now one of the key exhibits in the memorial site. The wall makes for an impressive display, showcasing the different covers of the small booklets.
Five months before the conference was held, Li set aside part of the residence as the schoolhouse of the Shanghai Citizen Female College, a school to cultivate female CPC members. Li was the headmaster while his wife, Wang Huiwu, was in charge of administrative work. More than 20 students ranging from 12 to 30 years old were recruited. Among the more well-known was Ding Ling, a writer who would go on to affect generations of readers.
The students studied Chinese, English, math, economics, physics, education theory, sociology and public speaking arts. Apart from lectures, students also worked in factories as a social practice. The college, however, had to shut down after a year due to financial difficulties. The schoolhouse has been restored to its original look, including a classroom, a dormitory and a kitchen.
Address: No. 30, Lane 7, Old Chengdu Rd N.
• Former Residence of Zhou Enlai
The former residence of Zhou Enlai, the first premier of the People’s Republic of China, was actually a liaison office of the CPC in Shanghai. The house, of both French and Spanish style, once belonged to a French businessman.
In 1946, Zhou led a CPC delegation to Nanjing to negotiate with the Kuomingtang. They decided to set up a liaison office in Shanghai and rented the house. Zhou spent two years in the house while it served as an office and dormitories for CPC members coming to Shanghai. Meanwhile, journalists, writers, actors and foreign government officials were guests at the residence.
Canadian missionary James Endicott was a frequent visitor. He came to talk about the national issues and international situations with Zhou and he polished English documents written by Chinese CPC members.
Now it has been restored as a museum to show Zhou’s life in Shanghai. Bedrooms, dorms, offices and living rooms have been restored.
Address: 71, 73 Sinan Rd
• Former Residence of Mao Zedong
Kerry Center in Jing’an District is a modern landmark in the city but the developer set aside its central area for a “red mark.” A former residence of Mao Zedong is surrounded by the skyscrapers, standing with its short, weather-beaten look. On the side walls of the traditional Chinese style building, two rather fancy-looking English signs read “Mao Space.” They are quite eye-catching and give the place a slice of fashion.
Mao stayed in the house in the 1920s. At that time, the house was located on a lane called Minhounan Lane on Hardoon Road, which was developed by British businessman Silas Hardoon.
Mao was not the only VIP to have lived in the house. Several influential writers, including Tian Han, the lyric author of China’s national anthem, were also tenants there.
When living in the residence, Mao was still young and single, and he admired Chen Duxiu, another founder of the CPC. The two met in the house and discussed Karl Marx. Several months later, Mao wrote to other communists, saying that he had accepted Marxism fully.
Now the first floor of the residence is open to the public. It displays replicas of Mao’s poems and a collection of his tea sets.
The second floor is still under restoration.
Address: 63 Anyi Rd
• The memorial site of “People's Commune” of Fengjing Town and Mao Zedong Statues and Badges Exhibition Hall
As the outcome of a planned economy in the 1950s, “People's Commune” was the basic unit of government in both the countryside and cities. People working in the commune could receive credits (gong fen) and their salary would be distributed according to the credits.
There was also a canteen in many communes, in which people could have meals for free. The canteens, however, died out in three years because the communes couldn’t afford the cost.
After the late 1970s reform, the communes were finally canceled with the end of the planned economy.
Fengjing Town of Qingpu District keeps the only site of a People’s commune office in Shanghai. Set up in 1958, the office served for 26 years. The original decoration is still well preserved. At the gate, visitors can still see the faded slogans which are picked out from “Mao Zedong’s Quotations” — “CPC is the core strength to lead us” and “Marxism-Leninism is our theoretical basis of our guiding ideology.” Another slogan “Serve the People” in Mao’s calligraphy is painted on the door header.
The exhibition hall for Mao’s statues and badges is in the backyard of the site. As early as 1945, CPC congress conference attendants have started to wear Mao’s badges. The products of extreme personality cult reached an climax between 1966 and 1969, the first three years of “cultural revolution.(1966-76)” During the years, more than 8 billion badges were made. The collection exhibited, with badges of different shapes, colors and themes, is quite an eye opener.
Address: 85 Heping St
Admission: 12 yuan
• Former residences of Dr Sun Yat-sen
As founder of the Kuomingtang, Dr Sun Yat-sen is always regarded the forerunner of democratic revolution in China and a friend of the CPC. He played an instrumental role in the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). He is not just a diplomatic parlance as Sun did try to seek cooperation with CPC in the 1920s, when China was split up under endless civil wars among warlords.
There are three former residences of Dr Sun in Shanghai, but the one on Xiangshan Road, his last residence in the city, is the best preserved. He moved into the house in 1918 and lived there for six years, until 1924, when he decided to move to Beijing to fight for the union of the country. In 1925, he died in Beijing of liver cancer.
The life of Sun’s last stay in Shanghai was quite tough because both China’s future and his career were at low ebbs. His ideal of a democratic China was practically an illusion. Under such circumstances, he turned to the Communist International and CPC for a way out. But Sun did not live to see the Chinese people’s victory. In his death bed, among his last words were, “Revolution is not yet successful, and the comrade still needs to make great efforts.”
His wife, Soong Ching Ling, lived another 12 years in the residence. In 1945, she donated the home to the Kuomingtang government as a memorial site. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the communist government took over the site and restored it. Now the site is divided into two portions — the exhibition part and the residence part. The relics, including Sun’s letters to the Communist International, showed his struggle while the residence part is well-restored.
Address: 7 Xiangshan Rd
Admission: 20 yuan (US$3.20)
Where to buy the “red souvenirs?”
Products with imprints of the red history are popular again recently. Caps, purses, wallets and mugs printed with red stars, slogan, head portrait of Mao and the heroic soldier Lei Feng are like a punk fashion among young people and foreign visitors.
The gift market at Yuyuan Garden is the best option to buy such products. The souvenir store of the site of First National Congress of CPC also sells such products, but the prices are much higher than that in Yuyuan Garden.
People expecting to buy Mao’s badges and other relics can go to antique markets in the city. The market on Dongtai Road in Huangpu District can provide a good bargain.