There’s nothing better to heat up the atmosphere on those cold Shanghai nights than some spicy food for thought! That’s why today we will focus on Shanghai’s notorious villains who built the city’s certain reputation.
Ok, we know that nobody is perfect and every city has its share of historical renegades. Yet, Shanghai is like a good and pretty school girl, that usually attracts those guys with more than just questionable background.
The truth is that while it has always been a meeting place for international thoughts and ideas, ahead of others at least a few steps forward, it also had the other, less glamorous side. Shanghai in the early twentieth century was filled with opium, prostitution, vice, corruption and any less or more fathomable forms of debauchery. Could all this be caused by one or two people? Obviously not! Here’s the list of the distinguished culprits whose deeds significantly contributed to Shanghai’s notorious image.
1. The green gang – Three Bosses of Shanghai – 三大亨 sān dà hēng - Du Yuesheng “Big Eared Du”, "Pockmarked" Huang Jinrong and Zhang Xiaolin
From 1930 to 1936, around 20 percent of the city’s three million residents were jobless and many men joined criminal gangs ( (in Chinese 拆白党 chāi báidǎng - which means ‘divide and eat without paying or 呵炸党 hē zhà dǎng- threaten and bomb). Most rickshaw boys and dock workers belonged to a gang for their own protection.
That was the exact story of Big Eared Du who moved to Shanghai at the age of 14 and worked at an innocent fruit stall. In no time, young Du met the well-respected local – Huang Jinrong - a detective in the French Concession’s Police station - whose powerful guanxi included both other police stations and many small-time gangsters.
Soon, the student bested the teacher and became the biggest laoban of the gang. His ‘duties’ included overseeing their operations in everything from gambling and opium dens, to prostitution and protection rackets. What brought Du unquestionable fame, though, were his signature ‘gestures’ of sending coffins to the houses of people that - in today’s world - he would most probably unfriend and block on Wechat. As every decent gangster, Du also had a soft side that showed when he wrote off dozens of loans to his friends, founded a school for boys in the Former French Concession and served as president of the Chinese Red Cross during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
While Du and Huang Jinrong ( aka Pockmarked Huang Jinrong) ruled French Concession, the one in charge of British Concession’s underworld was Zhang Xiaolin.
The military academy graduate from rural areas of Zhejiang had two main ‘achievements’ in his record that granted him a position on this list: assisted the Imperial Forces to crack down on anti – Japanese activities in Shanghai and fed his 小三 xiǎo sān (mistress) to a tiger.
2. Chen Yi
Sichuan native, who marched the Long March, resisted the Japanese and commanded the decisive Red Army victory over the KMT at Huaihai. The first communist mayor of Shanghai, who had enough guts to tame the chai bai dangs and eradicated prostitution, gambling, opium and organized crime. In August 1960, Chen Yi attempted to ease tensions with the Soviets, declaring on one instance to the Soviet Ambassador to Beijing that Moscow should stop "severing the friendship between the two nations," and two weeks later to the Soviet deputy foreign minister that Moscow and Beijing should both try to save the alliance. The Communist party didn’t fully appreciate Chen’s achievements, so he was not admitted to the next politburo. Chen was a guy with quite an attitude - during a Red Guard interrogation when asked what was Mao’s wisest saying, his reply was “Chen Yi is a good and loyal comrade.”
Some sources say he was demoted from China’s top diplomat to a janitor, cleaning toilets in Beijing for the rest of his life but according to others, he was restored to favor, although not to his former power. Mao Zedong attended Chen's funeral in 1972. This was Mao's last public appearance and his first appearance at anyone's funeral during the Cultural Revolution. If you stroll the Bund today, don’t forget to stop by his statue, which thousands of tourists mistake for Mao.
3.Frederick Townsend Yard
Rebel from early years – to that degree that his father decided to remove him from school(possibly on his own demand) in 1847 and found him a position as second mate on the Hamilton, a clipper ship commanded by a family friend. Although Ward turned out a valuable officer, his bossy attitude wasn’t welcome by many ‘old salts’ so Frederick went on to pursue his adventurous career elsewhere. His ‘resume’ included pirate-hunting in Asia, "Filibustering" - raising private mercenary armies and leading them into other countries to advance either [one's own] schemes or those of wealthy sponsors and in Mexico, where he worked for the ‘King of Filibusters’ – William Walker - and learned how to recruit, train, and command mercenary troops. His adventure with Shanghai started in 1860, when he arrived with his brother originally for the purpose for trading. However, this kind of business definitely lacked the dose of adrenaline so Ward took up customary employment as the executive officer on the Confucius, an armed riverboat commanded by an American, employed by the “Shanghai Pirate Suppression Bureau.Prominent men of Shaghai quickly took notice of his bravery and initiative on the board of Confucius. His exploits, previous military experience, ability to rise above racism and empathize with local populations, and his stated mercenary intentions, made him an attractive candidate to lead a force of foreign nationals in defense of Shanghai against encroaching Taiping forces. And so he did – twice! What’s more – in the summer of 1861 Ward trained an increasing numberof Chinese in western small arms, gunnery, tactics, customs and drill and ceremonies. By March 1862, Ward's force would be officially named by the Qing government, and to history, as “The Ever Victorious Army”, and Ward himself would be made first a 4th-rank, and then a 3rd-rank mandarin, high honors from the Manchu court for a "barbarian".
4. Yun Bong - gil
Yun Bong – gil was a young zealous soul born in at the time when Korea had been made a protectorate within the Japanese empire in 1905. Yun became a Korean Independence Activist who already the age of 20 organized a reading club and published several pamphlets. In 1930, after establishing two rural athletic associations for the nationalist movement, Yun decided to go to China because of the Japanese crackdown. On arrival in Shanghai he joined a nationalist group, the Korean Patriotic Corps, that was organized and led by Kim Koo.
On 29 April 1932, restless Yun took a bomb disguised as a water bottle to a celebration hosted by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) in honor of Emperor Hirohito's birthday at Hongkew Park, Shanghai (one contemporary news report states Yun threw a hand grenade but they also say he was killed at the scene). The bomb killed and seriously injured a few Japanese officials. Trying to avoid the inevitable Japanese execution, Bong tried to kill himself but the attempt failed and the Korea’s ultimate patriot was executed by the Japanese at the end of the same year.
5.William E. Fairbairn
Fairbairn was a British Royal Marine and police officer who developed hand-to-hand combat methods and anti-riot squad for the Shanghai Police during the interwar period. He also developed numerous firearms training courses and police equipment, including a special metal-lined bulletproof vest designed to stop high-velocity bullets from the Mauser pistol. In the course of this prolific 33-year career on the Shanghai Municipal Police Force, he was involved in 600 recorded combat situations and created his own fighting system known as Defendu. Allegedly, this included innovative pistol shooting techniques and the development of the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife.