Facelift honors father of modern Chinese literature

Yang Jian
An historic neighborhood where the "father of modern Chinese literature" spent the last three years of his life before death in 1936 is to be given a facelift.
Yang Jian
Facelift honors father of modern Chinese literature
Ti Gong

An artist’s rendition of the lane where the former residence of Lu Xun is located on Shanyin Road

An historic neighborhood where the “father of modern Chinese literature” spent the last three years of his life before death in 1936 is to be given a facelift.

Work on a lane at Continental Terrace, built in 1931 on Shanyin Road in Hongkou District, will preserve new lane-style buildings while celebrating the man of letters.

Lu Xun, whose real name was Zhou Shuren, influenced the thinking of many 20th-century Chinese people with his often biting short stories, poetry, translation works, essays and literary criticisms. Chairman Mao Zedong called him “the saint of modern China.”

Lu lived in the No. 9 building at 132 Shanyin Road between 1933 and 1936 with his wife Xu Guangping and son Zhou Haiying. He wrote many influential essays in the three-story apartment, as well as meeting Communist Party leader Qu Qiubai (1899-1935) and other left-wing writers.

The former residence is open to the public as part of the Shanghai Lu Xun Museum exhibitions, in Lu Xun Park, about 500 meters away.

During the renovation, a stereograph of Lu’s bust and his famous books will be painted on the wall at the end of the neighborhood, while new lighting will make it more convenient for visitors to see the residence at night.

The ground of the neighborhood will be paved with red tiles, while the life and times of Lu will be biographically marked on the tiles.

Uniform awnings and hanging flower boxes will be installed at other residential houses.

“The facelift aims to involve more elements about Lu and improve its modernity,” said an official with the Sichuan Road N. Subdistrict.

The neighborhood, initially built by a Chinese-owned Continental Bank, has six rows of new lane-style houses. It hasn’t been renovated for decades and some of the structures are damaged.

The corridor leading to Lu’s former residence is often occupied by bicycles, while the appearance of the buildings have no uniform decoration or designs.

The cultural exhibition is also out of date and more exhibitions are needed to remind visitors of the building’s history, the official said.

The former residence, opened to the public in January 1951, was the original site for the Lu Xun museum and the first memorial site honoring Lu.

Preparatory work on the museum began in June 1950, with many of the participating government officials either friends or students of Lu. Premier Zhou Enlai assigned Xu Guangping, Lu Xun’s widow, to serve as a deputy secretary-general of the State Council in Beijing to guide the preparatory work.

The three-story home was restored under Xu’s guidance and she moved the original furniture back to the house.

As the number of visitors exceeded the capacity of the former residence, the government decided to renovate a nearby former navy warehouse to house the museum in 1999.

The new project is part of an ongoing campaign on Shanyin Road, which is an open-air museum of the city’s old residences.

The first road built in Hongkou in 1911 (formerly known as Scott Road) features houses and villas in English, Japanese and shikumen, or stone-gated, styles.

The street was once home to literati and revolutionaries, including famous writer Mao Dun (1896-1931). It also housed Qu in the late 1920s and Zeng Liansong (1917-1999), designer of China’s national flag.

Renovation is also ongoing on the nearby League of the Left-Wing Writers’ Memorial Site in Shanghai, which was established in the 1930s with the guidance of Lu to fight Kuomintang at home amid a worsening international situation.

The British neoclassic-style garden villa, a listed heritage structure, was built in 1924 and converted into the exhibition site in December 2001. The renovation mainly repairs leaks, eliminates termites and fixes many broken parts to restore its original look. The third floor of the building, which is currently used as offices, will be open to the public. Many new exhibits donated by descendants of left-wing writers in recent years will be displayed in the expanded exhibition space.

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