Shanghai Walks: The Kuomintang's New City

Explore the former seat of the Shanghai government

Walking time: 1.5 hours
Starting point: Xiangyin Lu metro station, Line 8

1. The old Shanghai Museum

This part of town formed the centrepiece of the Kuomintang’s ‘grand plan’ to create a new city centre away from the foreign concessions of central Shanghai in the early 1930s. As you take Exit 4 from Xiangyin Lu metro station and turn left up the dusty, dirty Zhongyuan Lu, it’s tempting to think the area is still one big construction site. Fortunately it gets better, with some of the most interesting buildings from that era still standing on this route. At Changhai Lu, turn left and continue until you see the main gate of Changhai Hospital on your left-hand side. Head in and follow the row of fountains leading to a giant golden magnolia before turning left toward building 10. Although now part of the hospital, this building was formerly the Shanghai Museum, built between 1934-5. Today, the old museum’s grand central hall is merely a waiting room for patients needing scans, but much of the original paintwork has been preserved and the doctors don’t seem to mind you wandering in to take a look.

Question: Which architect, responsible for all of the 1930s buildings on this trail, designed the former Shanghai Museum?

2. Art Deco shapes

Upon leaving building 10, turn left and head towards building 12, just viewable on the other side of a small construction site. This building is part of The Second Military Medical University and the small gardens that surround it have a number of magnolia trees in bloom.

Question: What is the building shaped like (hint: the sign in front of the main entrance will help)?

3. The old Shanghai government seat

From building 12, retrace your steps back to Changhai Lu, turn left and shortly cross the road to find the entrance of Shanghai University of Sport, which is on the opposite side of the street to the hospital. Follow the main road into the campus past the football pitches toward the grand building directly in front of you. Built in 1931, the palace-like structure is the former seat of the Shanghai government and was the first building to be completed as part of the ‘grand plan’. Today it’s an administrative building for the university, and visitors are still free to wander its long, brightly decorated corridors and to head upstairs for views back across the campus toward the former museum and its sister building, the old Shanghai Library (see below).

Question: What is at the centre of the ground floor corridor (hint: it’s behind ropes beneath a grand chandelier)?

4. The decaying Shanghai Library

Once you’ve headed through the former government building to the Sun Yat-sen statue in the gardens out the back, head west (left if you’re looking at Sun Yat-sen) and exit the campus. Turn left outside the university gates and head up Hengren Lu. Just south of the crossroads with Changhai Lu, you’ll see the former Shanghai Library on your right. Unfortunately, the once-ornate building is now behind railings and seems to be falling into disrepair. Nevertheless, it’s still an imposing structure and it’s possible to make out the fading Maoist slogans daubed on the former library’s stone walls.

Question: On the decaying basketball courts in front of the building is the familiar logo of which sports brand?

5. Utilitarian church

Follow Hengren Lu south to the end and turn right onto Zhengli Lu, following the edge of the former library’s grounds. Continue past Heishan Lu on to the crossroads with Guohe Lu. On the north-west corner of the crossroads sits East Shanghai Church, which was originally built on Ningguo Lu near Yangpu Bridge, but moved here in 1997.

Question: Look at the circular window near the top of the church, which is a utilitarian take on a Gothic rose window. How many ‘petals’ are there?

6. East Asia’s (once) biggest stadium

Head south on Guohe Lu to the entrance to the Jiangwan Stadium grounds on your right, just past the crossroads. The buildings here all date from the same period as the stadium, which was the largest in east Asia when it was completed in 1935. They still house sports facilities including the Jiangwan Swimming Pool (on your left just inside the main entrance) and the Jiangwan Gymnasium opposite, and there’s a small park in the main grounds. If you veer to the right of the stadium as you circle it, you’ll not only catch a glimpse of a new mosque on your right up Shiguang Lu, but also pass a number of Chinese-language bookshops before arriving at a pleasant plaza on the other side, with patches of grass to rest on.

Question: What is the capacity of Jiangwan Stadium (hint: plaques on either side of the stadium should help)?

Getting home
From the plaza on the far side of the stadium, head away from the stadium past Starbucks and Coffee Bean towards Songhu Lu, then turn left over the bridge. Jiangwan Stadium station on Line 10 is less than a minute’s walk away.

See walk four: Hidden French Concession

See all Shanghai walks