“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Revisiting the Settlement-Paoshan Borderlands

Posted: April 25th, 2011 | No Comments »

The borders of the Shanghai International Settlement were always contentious – gangsters scuttled across them to evade capture and police argued over territory (heads up – Earnshaw Books are about to reprint EW Peters autobiography Shanghai Policeman from the 1930s which has several fascinating cases of cross border jurisdiction “issues”). To further complicate matters some roads extended from the Settlement to the north and west into Chinese territory – often these properties were owned by foreigners who paid the Shanghai Municipal Council rates for water and electricity. If trouble occurred they could arguably call upon the ratepayer funded Municipal Police too. Therefore, unsurprisingly, the borderlands of the Settlement became areas attracting a vast array of interesting characters – to the west the External Roads Area became better known as the “Badlands” while to the north-east some streets became The Trenches, home to some rather dubious bars and clubs and not a few low-end brothels.

There was also the border, close to the original railway station, between the north of the Settlement and Paoshan (now Boashan). Though, of course, destruction and redevelopment has been extensive around this area the strip of the former border road known as Range Road (now Wujin Road) still contains some great architecture and well-preserved buildings, though to the north of Range Road the destruction is almost total – so probably best to go see Range Road fairly soon if you’re at all interested!!

These lovely apartment buildings along Range Road between Wusong Road (Woosung Road) and Zhapu Road (Chapoo Road) were all constructed in the 1920s to an excellent standard. They still occupy both sides of the block and are in good condition still. Sadly the corner with Sichuan Road North (Szechuan Road North) has been cleared now on all four corners but was once apparently very impressive and the main road out of the Settlement into Paoshan.

Of course if you were a wanted criminal in the Settlement getting in the front door of these buildings and out the back and into Chinese territory basically meant you were free.

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