On the trail of history

Yang Meiping
Walking tour recalls the city's efforts to safeguard China's treasures during wartime.
Yang Meiping

A walking tour following the trail of the cultural relics that were moved from the Palace Museum to Shanghai during wartime was unveiled on Saturday.

A large number of items from the Beijing museum — the Forbidden City — were moved to south China after the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression broke out in 1931.

Between March and July 1933, a total of 19,557 boxes of imperial artifacts and artworks were transported to the then Kinleeyuen Wharf in Shanghai in five batches, including “Kuai Xue Shi Qing Tie,” the only piece among famous calligrapher Wang Xizhi’s original works that still exists today. All the treasures were stored in the former quarters of the then Chinese Lester Hospital and warehouses of the Shanghai Land Investment Co. In December 1936, the items were moved to Chaotian Palace in Nanjing by train, which departed from Markham Road Goods Station, now Shanghai Railway Station.

While the relics were in Shanghai, the museum selected 1,022 treasured works to be displayed in London in an exhibition that attracted around 420,000 visitors from November 1935 to March 1936.

Around 20 people took part in the guided tour, one of the cultural activities launched by the ongoing China Shanghai International Arts Festival. They visited the sites where the objects arrived (now the junction of Xinkaihe and Renmin roads), stored (now near Sichuan Road) and where they eventually left the city.

“I spent half a year to track down the route because many old road names and house numbers 80 years ago don’t exist or have been changed. It needed a lot of research. This is the first time this kind of the route has been ‘recovered’ from history,” route planner Wu Jiali of V-Cité, a local walking tour organizer, said.

She said that walking in the footsteps of the safeguarded treasures would give people a chance to experience stories which had faded into history.

Wang Ge, a researcher at the Palace Museum, said the relics were culture carriers of the Chinese people and represented the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. “The walking tour is like a 'letter' from people today to history. It is a good way to pay tribute to all the people who escorted the relics in 16 years during wartime.”

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