Major historical roadway celebrates 100 years
In 1992, a new Minhang District appeared in Shanghai through a combination of the old district and Shanghai County. Vast changes have taken place as the district went through its urbanization process. As an artery that connects Minhang with downtown Shanghai, Humin Road, with its patriotic origin, helps the district adapt to urban prosperity. The district sticks to traditional and unique elements. Use this column as a guide to explore Minhang, its changes and what remains the same by tracing along Humin Road.
The inauguration ceremony of Fu-Min-Nan-Cho Road's Minhang-Downtown Shanghai section took place on January 1, 1923. Li Yingshi (1881-1933), the initiator who raised funds for building the road, recalled the course of paving the road.
"We founded the bus company and started to raise funds for the road in July 1920. By October 1921, all the preparation work was completed, and we set up a committee to arrange construction affairs.
"Today, as the 23-kilometer-long Fu-Min-Nan-Cho Road's Minhang-Downtown Shanghai section opened to traffic, I look back on how I sought approval and support from local men of insight and purchased land to initiate the project. I might exhaust all my ink to record the experience, which I described as like 'walking on a melting icy surface and stepping on a tiger's tail. But in spite of all these, I feel grateful for the successful operation of the new road," said Li.
Next month is the 100th anniversary of Humin Road, the evolvement of Fu-Min-Nan-Cho Road's Minhang-Downtown Shanghai section. The road is now an artery that links Minhang District to Xujiahui and an essential section along Expressway 320.
Li, born into a scholarly household in Minhang on November 3, 1881, was a youthful prodigy who also specialized in martial arts.
A last tribute
A graduate from the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in Tokyo, Li once led an expendable army of 700 soldiers to conquer the Jiangnan Manufacturing Bureau and the feudal government office in Shanghai during the Revolution of 1911.
After Shanghai was liberated following the success of the uprising, Li was appointed as a minister of military affairs and a land force commander in Shanghai.
When Dr Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) was inaugurated as the interim president of the Republic of China (1912-1949) in 1912, Li was appointed as a reserve commander in Nanjing, then the country's capital city.
Later, rejected by his political dissidents, Li resigned from his post and led a life of a recluse in his hometown in Minhang.
He was deeply concerned with the lag of traffic conditions in Minhang. It would almost be impossible for the area to introduce commercial resources from downtown Shanghai by relying on water transport alone.
Then he came up with the idea of building an artery road to connect Minhang with downtown Shanghai.
The plan caused sensation at that time. The public questioned how they would be able to finance the road.
A retired bean counter at a private money house in downtown Shanghai was Li's staunch supporter, saying "We should be confident in Yingshi. He is highly respected. He will lobby men with resources. Then they will contribute efforts and capital, and we will make it."
Li was inspired by the old man's words. He spent months rushing between Minhang and downtown Shanghai to seek financing. Local squires were convinced and some even gave land along the road for free.
Finally, construction of the motor road, starting from Minhang's Huangpu River ferry station and going through Beiqiao, Zhuanqiao, Qianliang Temple, Zhujiahang, Meijia Lane and Caohejing, and finally arriving in Tushanwan in downtown Shanghai, was completed on December 2, 1922.
The folks suggested they name the road "Yingshi Road," but Li refused.
"I am not asking for profit or fame from the road. I think 'Fu-Min' will be a better name," said Li.
Soon the business license of the Fu-Min-Nan-Cho Motor Bus Co was approved.
As its 12 buses purchased from the United Kingdom would arrive in half a year, a realty industry tycoon in Shanghai offered two spare buses to Li for free.
Due to this gift, the bus line opened to traffic ahead of time on December 30, 1922.
An auspicious road
The Humin bus line benefits the entire region.
Since the road opened to traffic, a dozen of its suburban towns along the line, including Maqiao, Beqiao, Zhuanqiao, Xinzhuang, Meilong, Caohejing and Longhua, developed tremendously.
Factories, schools, markets and even cemeteries mushroomed along the line.
Taking a Humin bus, the folks in Minhang said they went to downtown Shanghai to baq siang (白相, Shanghai dialect meaning having fun), and farmers were likely to sell their agricultural products at a good price in the downtown, while having fun at the Shanghai Great World entertainment center, City God Temple and along Nanjing Road.
Likewise, the downtown people also visited Minhang more frequently thanks to the road. Every March and April, many of them paid visits to Minhang to taste its Huangpu River crablet omelets (蟹糊皮).
As industrial zones in Minhang developed, Shanghai urban construction bureau spent 11 million yuan (US$1.58 million) in renovating the road, starting from November 1958. Some of its sections were expanded with its middle section straightened at a previous curve that allows the road to pass through Xinzhuang Town. Humin Road therefore became the longest and most spacious high-grade asphalt road in Shanghai at that time.
In 1965, the road was equipped with streetlights, and camphor trees were planted on the roadside every 15 meters.
After 1980, bicycle lanes and greenbelts were added along the road. An overpass was built at the crossing between Humin and Hongmei roads in 1996.
At the beginning of the 21st century the road had become an artery in southern Shanghai, offering a dozen bus lines for passengers to transfer and with a traffic flow at thousands of vehicles per hour. Infrastructure facilities along the road also developed tremendously.
In 1993, Shanghai residents witnessed the city's first Metro line connected to Jinjiang Amusement Park. The new Minhang District government quickly decided to introduce the Metro from its Jinjiang Amusement Park to its Xinzhuang Town. Metro Line 1 soon became one of the busiest subway arteries in Shanghai after being put into use.
The district made another daring resolution in 2003 by self-funding the Metro Line 5 light rail in the region.
Passengers in the district are now able to transfer between bus and Metro or light rail services.
According to the Minhang District Five-Year Comprehensive Traffic Development Plan (2021-25), Minhang will give its current artery network a facelift before 2025, including addition and renovation of four express roads, four artery systems, the Yindu Road cross-river tunnel, the Airport Express Line, Jiamin Line, Metro Line 19 and 23, and the Metro Line 13 west extension section, Shanghai-Suzhou-Huzhou High-speed Railway and Shanghai-Hangzhou Passenger Railway south connecting line.
One road, one city and 100 years. The artery Humin Road reintroduced its history and some necessary historic figures to us imperceptibly but inexorably at its 100-year-old birthday.