Frenchtown Shanghai – Western Architecture in Shanghai’s Old French Concession


One of my obsessions is the architecture of Shanghai’s French Concession. I recently picked up this book at the Old China Hand Reading Room & Cafe in Taikang Lu. It is filled with pictures of gorgeous old buildings, many of which no longer exist.

Donghu Hotel

When we’re in town we stay at the Donghu Hotel – a cool old deco building formerly owned by Shanghai’s legendary gangster Du Yuesheng (although not his primary residence as it has been touted). When you drive around this area, you see many beautiful old villas and wonder – who lived there? This book answers some of those questions.

This is a picture of the Basset house (now the home of the Consul General). The family lived there from 1921 – 1931. How many servants did the house require? “There were twelve: boys, cook, coolies, chauffeur-gardeners, amahs and a laundress.”

Here is a picture of the Basset family dressed up for a costume party. How cute are they?

The author and historian Tess Johnston is a “new Old China Hand” – having lived in Shanghai since 1981. She and photographer Deke Erh have published a series of books on Western architecture in Shanghai – a great service since many of these building have since disappeared. Here’s a link to her website: She gives tours of the French Concession, and I’m hoping I can talk my husband into springing for one as birthday present this June.


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