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

Lu Xun on the Rebuilt North Sichuan Road, September 1933

Posted: May 15th, 2019 | No Comments »

The North Sichuan Road, like today’s Sichuan Bei Lu, ran from Avenue Edward VII (Yanan Lu), the border between the International Settlement and Frenchtown, as far as the northern edge of the Settlement at Range Road (now Wujin Road). Beyond that it was in Chinese territory, though the Settlement had a lot of sway and the area became known as The Northern External Roads. Around the early 1930s the somewhat substandard Sichuan North Road between Range Road and Hongkou Park (now Lu Xun Park), where it ends, was upgraded with a better roadway, utilities and new housing. It became quite desirable, though a little way beyond the Settlement boundaries, and was on the trolleybus route. Further south Sichuan North Road had long been popular with foreigners and so the northern extension would prove to be while still retaining a very Chinese flavour.

The following is from a piece by Lu Xun called ‘Shanghai Children’ and published in Vol.2, issue 9 of the Shen bao Monthly in September 1933. This translation of the opening two paragraphs is by Andrew F. Jones and appears in the new Lu Xun collection Jottings Under Lamplight (edited by Eileen J Cheng & Kirk A Denton – Harvard University Press)…

‘The newly built section of Sichuan North Road just beyond the boundary of the concessions went quiet for the better part of a year because of the war (i.e. the Battle of Shanghai, Jan-March 1932), but this year (i.e. summer 1933) it’s as lively as ever. The stores have moved back from their safe haven in the French Concession, the cinemas have long since re-opened (including the famous Isis), and you often see lovers walking hand in hand in the vicinity of the park (Hongkou/Lu Xun Park). None of this was in sight last summer.

If you walk into the narrow residential alleys, you’ll see public toilets, cooked rice sold from carrying poles, swarms of mosquitoes flying through the air, groups of children making mischief, dramatic disturbances, richly developed obscenities. It is truly a chaotic little world unto itself. Yet once you come back out to the boulevard, what projects itself into your vision are the spirited and lively foreign children playing and walking down the sidewalk. Somehow it is as if the Chinese children are no longer visible. It is not that they aren’t there, just that with their shabby clothes and dispirited manner they have been reduced to shadows by the others and hardly catch one’s eye at all.’   

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