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Picture by Christal Ding; Madame Guo - 6th generation of the Guos

Alright, we feel like we have told you quite a lot about the most significant events of the early 20th century Shanghai  (and one day we will check how well this knowledge sank in – because we believe that those who don’t know the history, won’t be able to improve the present!).

Today, let us take you even further back in time . To be precise, to those times when the Puxi side of Huangpu River was just a steadily growing, small market town and Pudong -   a humble farmland.

In those chapters of Shanghai’s history, it was the town’s wealthiest families that called all the shots and we want you to finally meet those historical KOLs and the heritage they left behind.

The Lus

Picture sourcr: wikipedia; Lu Xun

The Lu Clan gained its power thanks to the spectacular victories of General Lu. In the 3rd Century CE he became the Lord of Huating (today whole City of Shanghai and surrounding areas). As a result, the Lu family were the most prominent landowners in the region for over 1000 years. By 1400s, their grip had weakened and their property contained only the riverside corner of Pudong.

Fortunately, another  prominent member of the clan - prodigious scholar Lu Shen – helped the family bounce back. He became the highest ranking official ever to hail from Shanghai and restored the family fortune.

In 1524 famished Pudong farmers threatened Lu’s peaceful retirement in his gated villa in Lujiazui so he  moved across the river to the walled city of Lujiazhai Lu. His new compound comprised of surrealist rocks, bowed bridges and lofty pavilions, and became the model the model for opulent garden residences that would soon flourish behind the city walls.


In 1970,along Dongchang Lu workers accidentally unearthed Lu’s long-forgotten tomb. It turned out that In the depths of the Old Town, a part of Lu Shen’s city residence has been unknowingly preserved for centuries. Stone ornaments adorn three sunken doorways along the wall of No. 54-60 on Lujiazhai Lu, according to government records. Beyond the main gate is an elegant building with a sloped roof - likely the family’s ancestral hall -now used by migrant workers as a tool shed. Above the jungle of power tools and bamboo ladders are epic carvings, elaborate joined beams and bowed ceiling brackets that reveal Ming Dynasty craftsmanship and extraordinary antiquity.

And something that probably very few are aware of – Shanghai’s signature Lujiazui took its name from…Lu Clan, as it means "The Mouth of the Lu's Family".

Picture source:pinterest

The Guos

Picture; the inner courtyard of the Guos' residence

The novou-riche merchants from Fujian.In 1880s they bought the he Qing dynasty 书隐楼 (Shu Yin Lou — ‘The Secluded Library’ or ‘Hidden Book Building’ – the remnants of the lavish garden complex. It was built by a scholar Chen Suoyun in 16th century.

During the Cultural Revolution, a toy factory and workers’ dormitory came to occupy this former regal courtyard. When the revolution was over, Guo Jun Lun (who belonged to the 5th generation of the Guo family) reclaimed the secluded library. He studied Civil Engineering at Shanghai Jiaotong University and specialised in garden/landscape design. Mr Guo worked at the Shanghai Civil Design Institute and published a notable article about the landscape design of the famous Yuyuan Garden — the most complete documentation of the garden’s design

Picture by Christal Ding

Sadly, all the family wealth vanished,  so it was impossible to bring the historic compound back to its glory.

Today, the timeworn Shu Yin Lou has only one resident – Guo Jun Lun’s daughter – Madame Guo. She lives in a single room in the center of the compound, and the other 37 rooms are locked and dark. It’s Shanghai’s only protected property that is privately owned and therefore Madame Guo struggles to maintain the 2000 square meters property  singlehandedly.

Picture by Christal Ding

It is located in 77 Tiandeng Nong, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai, 200010. According to Chrystal Ding – documentary photographer/writer and an author of an extensive article about Madame Guo - If you are interested in paying a respectful visit to Madame Guo and Shu Yin, better make an appointment in advance. She is fond of chocolate, so long as it isn’t too sweet.

Picture by Chrystal Ding

Shanghai's sea trade magnates - Shens


In the Qing Dynasty, Shanghai’s waters were under the reign of a few powerful clans but the ones that left the most impressive heritage were the Shens.

The father of the clan was a marine merchant Shen, from Fujian. In 1860 he built his ample mansion To pay homage to the genesis of his fortune, the residence faced east, toward the sea. It was is a unique piece of architecture, a parade of styles, from ancient Anhui to Western neoclassicism.

Picture source:

Regrettably, Shanghai Municipal Authorities decided to raze the house of Shen to the ground and therefore deprived the city of  the last physical manifestation of the great merchant family .

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