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

The Shanghai Restaurant, Rue Cujas, Paris 5arr, 1930…

Posted: February 1st, 2019 | 2 Comments »

I’m currently reading Phyllis Birnbaum’s biography of the Japanese painter Tsuguharu Foujita (below) who lived in Paris for many years – Glory in a Line. And this intriguing snippet pops up…

In the summer of 1930 the surrealist poet Robert Desnos, Foujita, Foujita’s wife Youki (actually a French woman) and his nephew Tomonobu, headed out of Paris to tour the Burgundy region. A confirmed Parisian Desnos listed the many things he would miss about the city while away for the summer including the Shanghai Restaurant on rue Cujas. It was a rather fraught summer holiday as Foujita and Youki’s relationship was in a state of collapse and she would end up married to Desnos (with Youki below) soon after.

Rue Cujas is a smallish street in the 5th arr, close to the Sorbonne, and was apparently popular with Chinese students in the city and French students looking for cheap, and apparently quite authentic, Chinese food before the war. I’m afraid I can’t find a photo of it, or any details of its ownership, menu, prices etc. Apologies, my Paris history researching skills are a bit basic! A French restaurant in Shanghai in 1930 and I’m your man; a Chinese restaurant in 1930s Paris and….well….

I do however know that the restaurant was still there in 1965 as it gets a brief mention in the (and anyone who ever Inter-railed back in the day will remember this book) Let’s Go Student Guide to Europe – ‘one of the best straight Chinese restaurants on the left bank’. Sadly no street number is given, but a slightly earlier French guide to Paris says it was at No.9. Street numbers do sometimes gets changed though. Dr Google tells me there is a Chinese restaurant at No.18 today – The Mandarin Sorbonne – could this be the inheritor of the Shanghai’s premises?

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2 Comments on “The Shanghai Restaurant, Rue Cujas, Paris 5arr, 1930…”

  1. 1 Andrew Park said at 3:42 pm on February 2nd, 2019:

    Dear Mr. French,

    I am a PhD student at HKU in Hong Kong and follow your blog from time to time. I was interested in your recent post about the Restaurant Shanghai in Paris, and as I am somewhat familiar with French historical resources, I thought I would tell you about Gallica, which is a great online tool from the French National Library, and has a very good searchable range of journals, newspapers etc. If you need to do any initial research on French/Paris related things it is a great resource.


    I did a few quick searches myself about Restaurant Shanghai, 9 rue Cujas and found a few interesting results, which I will link below.






  2. 2 Paul French said at 10:33 pm on February 4th, 2019:

    thank you Andrew – amazing – I will blog a follow up – cheers, Paul

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