Then (1920s): Rue Massenet
A collection of 51 garden villas built in the 1920s on then Rue Massenet (now Sinan Lu), the area that we now know as Sinan Mansions was once a buzzing neighbourhood home to what Historic Shanghai calls 'a fabulous brew of the old characters of Shanghai' from all over, including revolutionaries, celebrities, politicians, spies and warlords.
Image: courtesy Katya Knyazeva (map of the neighbourhood, 1939)
Some of the biggest names of the 'hood included one of the 'Four Great Dan' of Peking Opera’s golden era Mei Lanfang and communist revolutionary Zhou Enlai, who later became the first Premier of the People’s Republic of China – the word is, opposite Zhou the nationalist secret service took a place to spy on him.
Things changed pretty drastically for the affluent neighbourhood after 1949, where many residents left or were forced to leave. By the 1960s, the mansions went from housing two families each on average to around 15 – a number of whom would live there for generations until the birth of Sinan Mansions.