Yongjia Road's century of cultural change
This week’s City Scene column takes a gentle stroll down memory lane to celebrate the 100th birthday of Yongjia Road.
The 2 kilometers’ stretch of road has seen many social, economic and cultural changes over the past century — and it’s still going strong today.
The road was built in 1920 as Route Herve de Sieyes, named after an employee from a French cruise company, before it was renamed as Yongjia Road in 1943. It runs parallel to Yongkang Road and connects Ruijin No. 2 Road of Huangpu District and Hengshan Road of Xuhui District.
The road has been inhabited by some of the most famous names in Chinese political and artistic history and been home to many of the metropolis’ high- end shops, restaurants and cafes.
In 1928, Chinese poet Tian Han (1898-1968), who wrote the lyrics to China’s national anthem “March of the Volunteers,” founded Nanguo Fine Arts College at No. 371-381 Yongjia Road. The ground floor of No. 371 building is also the former residence of Tian.
Renowned Chinese painter Xu Beihong (1895-1953), author and poet Xu Zhimo (1897-1931) and Peking Opera artist Zhou Xinfang (1895-1975) taught here too.
Not far away from the college lies the Shanghai Film Dubbing Studio. The studio has dubbed over 1,500 foreign films into Chinese since its establishment in 1957. In 1976 it was relocated to No. 383 Yongjia Road from Wanhangdu Road.
Meanwhile, many famous figures lived on Yongjia Road in the 20th century.
T. V. Soong (1894-1971), a financier and diplomat, lived at No. 501 Yongjia Road, a German-style garden villa. His three sisters were all married to Chinese politicians: Soong Ai-ling to Kung Hsiang-hsi, Soong Ching Ling to Dr Sun Yat-sen, and Soong May-ling to Chiang Kai-shek.
Renowned translator Luo Yujun (1907-88) lived at No.555 Yongjia Road in the 1960s, a French-style garden villa built in 1932.
Architecture and photography lovers can explore a diversity of styles along the road. For instance, a detached garden house in a Tudor-style designed by Laszlo Hudec in 1929 is located at No. 628 Yongjia Road.
Today, Yongjia Road is home to businesses of all kinds, ranging from traditional dim sum (Shanghai-style) restaurants, cafes, barbershops, shared workplaces, florists and more.
You can find several traditional breakfast restaurants along the route, such as A Da Scallion Pancake. It’s not uncommon to queue for a pancake here regardless of what time of the day it is.
If you prefer to sit and enjoy a proper breakfast or meal, try Qiaojiashan, which offers a wide range of local dishes like noodles and traditional dim sum.
Liangmianhuang (pan-fried noodles), a dish which originated from Suzhou of Jiangsu Province, is very popular among local families. The freshly fried noodles are normally topped with another dish of your choice, such as prawn stir-fry. If stir-fry is not to your liking try fried pork chop and dip in the local’s version of Worcester Sauce.
Several cafes and restaurants are scattered along the road. Many of them are really popular, which means waiting for a table. You may be familiar with O’MILLS ARTISAN BAKERY. It is best known for its brunches but its avocado egg toast, truffle chips and beef panini are highly recommended.
It is interesting that a few Beijing coffee brands have set up Shanghai branches on this road, such as VOYAGE COFFEE and Metal Hands. The latter now has two joints on Yongjia Road — its second store faces the back of the Shanghai Culture Square.
The greens surrounding the performance venue offer a great view for guests visiting Metal Hands. Try to get an outdoor seat and enjoy the autumn breeze. VOYAGE COFFEE is located opposite the former residence of Soong Tse-vung.
New cafes and bars are springing up like mushrooms along the road, such as HASHTAG#cafe#space#shop, a combo cafe and exhibition site, newcomer VANILLA, pocket pocket and Tap That where you can get a craft beer.
VANILLA’s popularity is down to its neutral decor and nice presentation of deserts and drinks.
The small cafe offers a selection of espresso-based beverages and signature drinks alongside some adorably presented desserts.
Vanilla Dirty is a whisky-infused milk coffee. The milk is a mixture of normal cow’s milk with Eisbock milk, a type of milk extracted from frozen cow’s milk to achieve a sweeter taste. It’s hard to taste the whisky but the milk mixture sweetness is outstanding, providing a sharp contrast to the espresso shot bitterness.
Pocket pocket is a coffee shop hidden inside Pocket Park, a newly built community area. It offers both indoor and outdoor seats. The camp chairs and mini tables are really cool. If you are lucky, you may be able to enjoy some live music with a cuppa. Don’t worry about getting wet, the design of the park provides a shade for you just in case it rains.
There is so much more variety to explore along Yongjia Road, including several florist shops and a Hugo Husky House, a cafe inside a three-story villa, which has an eye-catching facade surrounded with flowers.
Why not take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the ambience of the road, you will undoubtedly enjoy it.
A Da Scallion Pancake
Address: Ruijin No.2 Rd crossing Yongjia Rd
Time: 6am-6pm (Closed on Wednesday)
Address: Xiangyang Rd S. crossing Yongjia Rd
O’MILLS ARTISAN BAKERY
Address: 110 Yongjia Rd
Address: 37 Yongjia Rd
Time: 8:30am-7pm (Monday-Friday); 8:30am-7:30pm (Saturday-Sunday)
Address: 502 Yongjia Rd
Time: 8am-6pm (Monday-Friday); 8:30am-6:30pm (Saturday-Sunday)
Address: 380 Yongjia Rd
Address: 370 Yongjia Rd
Time: 10am-6pm (Monday-Thursday); 10am-8pm (Friday-Sunday)
Address: 309 Yongjia Rd
Address: 697-2 Yongjia Rd
Hugo Husky House
Address: 227 Yongjia Rd