Century-old villa combining Eastern and Western architecture styles opens to public

A 98-year-old villa in Jing'an District, an exceptional example of the cultural fusion, opened to the public on Saturday.
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Cha House

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

The entrance portico is in Doric style originated in Athens in Greek.

A 98-year-old villa in Jing’an District, an exceptional example of the cultural fusion, opened to the public on Saturday with its inaugural exhibition after it was rolled to its new location.

The three-floor structure was built in 1920 as residence by brothers Qiu Xinshan and Qiu Weiqing, two paint industry tycoons, at 412 Weihai Road. In 2010, it was rolled 57 meters southeast on rail tracks to 420 Weihai Road.

After eight years of renovation, it has been restored to its original look about a century ago.

Its unique fusion of Chinese and Western architecture styles made it a standout in local historic garden villas, said Zhang Ming, an official in charge of the renovation.

It looks like an ancient European castle on the southern exterior, featuring two symmetrical towers with pinnacles on top. The entrance portico is in Doric style originated in Athens in Greek. The arched colonnades on the second and third floors are decorated with Ionic pilasters. On the top there is a pediment embodied a Baroque style.

It combines architecture style of southern China on the exterior corridors on the northern side.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A Western-style tower and a pediment which embodies a Baroque style.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

The arched colonnades 

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Chinese-style corridor 

Originally, there were two homes at the former address. The East Building of Qiu Xinshan and the West Building of Qiu Weiqing were separated by a garden where they raised a giant pet tiger, a crocodile and a pangolin.

In 1940, Minli Middle School, then one of the most reputable schools in Shanghai, bought the East Building from the brothers and renovated it to classrooms. In a fire in 1942, one of the towers was burnt, and the school pulled down the other to balance the height.

The school obtained the West Building from the government after 1949.

In 1990s, the West Building was demolished to make room for a modern class building. The East Building was turned into offices for teachers. It was granted the protected status by the city government in 1999.

In 2002, Hongkong-based HKR International Ltd won the contract to develop 62,800 square meters of land, including the campus of Minli Middle School. To make room for the commercial project, the school relocated in 2004.

Other buildings were pulled down, but the East Building survived the wrecking ball.

Relocation started on January 26, 2010. Fastened with steel straps and pushed on rail tracks, the 3,300-ton building was slid 2 centimeters every minute, controlled by computer. On February 7, 2010, it finished its 13-day journey to the current site. Then, renovation started.

“We managed to obtain the original drawings to restore its old look,” said Zhang, executive of Shanghai Zhangming Architectural Design Firm.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A side door 

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Exquisite stairwell with beautiful wood carvings

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Original wooden beams deliver rustic charm on the third floor.

Generally, the main structure was preserved. Workers reinforced the structures by erecting steel bars and restored the two towers. But it’s not an easy job to repair the interior decoration.

“The school failed to preserve the original layout and interior decorations. Luckily, exquisite stairwell with beautiful wood carvings and some of the old Spanish piles paved on the ground were basically preserved,” she said. “We took efforts to find similar materials and used traditional skills to repair the mosaics, doors and windows.”

Also, to meet today’s demands, modern equipment including elevator was installed, she added.

HKR International has named the villa as Cha House in honor of its founder Cha Chi Ming. Cha was born in 1941 in Haining, Zhejiang Province. He went to Shanghai in 1931 to study textile technology. He soon climbed the ladder to become a veteran in the industry. He and his family moved to Hong Kong in 1947. Two years later, he started his own textile empire. Later, he expanded his business to real estate.

According to the firm, there is a free exhibition telling Cha’s stories and the building’s history through June 30, from 10am to 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Visitors can register at the official WeChat of the company to make reservation. After the exhibition is over, the villa will be used as office and commercial venue. 

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Old items related to the history of the area are on display.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE
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