After the Opium War ended in 1842, Shanghai opened her ports to foreigners. The English first established their concession, followed by the Frenchmen. In 1990, there were approximately 600 Frenchmen living in the French concession, and by the time of 1920s, the number rose up to over 3500. In 1926, on the main boulevard of the French concession, Xiafei Road (now the well-known Huaihai Middle Road), a French club with full Parisian style was established.
The Sleeping Beauty Woke Up
The sculptures were covered
with wood boards
The Sleeping Beauty Woke Up
The bathing girls stand on the pillar
The French Club gained its fame due to its bold adoption of early French decoration approaches in the building interior. The staircase of the East Hall, in particular, vividly reflected the then popular artistic style, whose metal handrails are so elaborate as to impress any visitor instantly at first glance. The nude relief sculptures on 2F was once works of art the French Club felt much proud of, but in the years of revolutionary period, they narrowly missed a fate of total destruction due to their aesthetic tastes. Fortunately some people of insight covered up the sculptures with wood boards so as to keep them intact till today. In early 1985, when workers carefully removed the wood boards from the wall, these exquisite sculptures finally saw the light. The elegant posture of the bathing girls in the relief sculpture, plus white and plump skin were still clearly visible, looking true to life. This is the last batch of nude girl relief sculptures in Shanghai left by colonial culture.
Grand Ballroom — The No.1 Ballroom of the Fareast in old times
The Grand Ballroom on the second floor was known as the No.1 ballroom of the Fareast, with the largest dome ceiling and spring floor. The ceiling in the center of the dome is embedded with large sheets of colorful glass to form a boat bottom pattern, the oval dance floor in the center of wooden floor sinks by 20 cm, with rarely seen spring floor, the oval dance floor set off the colorful glass ceiling in boat-bottom pattern in delightful contrast. When the Grand Ballroom was renovated, the colorful glass on the ceiling was covered by tar and dust. Since the colorful glass was the product of complicated baking process, there was no way to find substitute glass with so gorgeous colors, the renovation personnel had to clean up the glass sheets one by one, and in this way they roughly restored its original glamour. Today the spring floor is fixed with wood blocks, the dance floor was also leveled.
Big events in small rooms — Giants in history shook hands here
Giants in history
shook hands here
The small banquet room
with continental style
The arched doors
connect small rooms
The French Club was a club for foreigners since it was established. Most Chinese people didn't have the chance to be near or in it. After the P. R. China was founded, it was a meeting place for Party leaders to meet with important figures. On May 27, 1960, Mao Zedong shook his hands with Montgomery in the Jasmin Room. When the Club was first established in 1926, these small and medium-sized banquet rooms were connected by arched doors, but later they were separated completely by walls. The wavy stripes were decorated after the P. R. China was founded for cultural activities, as a metaphor of the “the waves behind ride on the ones before”. These banquet rooms were preserved as they were as much as possible, added only with carpets, curtains and chandeliers made in Vienna.
Patio turns into a romantic pavilion
The history picture of two
arched pavilions on the patio
The romantic pavilion in the garden
There were two arched pavilions on the patio. They were removed when needed space to lighten the building in 1949. In 1959, a copy of the old pavilion was established in the center of the garden. Hidden among green trees, the white pavilion still stands out in its elegance and nobility. It is a perfect romantic stage, completely merged in its surroundings. Nowadays the pavilion is a beloved place for garden weddings and serves as the altar for couples to memorize their vows and sweetest moments of life.
Swimming pool — predecessor of the lobby bar
In the 1920’s when the French Club was completed, there was an indoor swimming pool at the site of the current 1F Oasis Lobby Bar, in 1939 the French Club was expropriated by the US Army, who added another outdoor swimming pool in the northwest side, followed by a movable rooftop. During Chairman Mao’s stay here, he often used this swimming pool, yet for the sake of safety, the movable rooftop was sealed, and could no longer move. The 1F swimming pool was dismantled when building the Okura Garden Hotel, the current swimming pool was built on the top of annex building in the southwest side, and the rooftop was again movable.
Entrance hall — a witness of social life and delicacies
The entrance hall was once a restaurant, attached with outdoor seats outside. The French Club allowed women and Chinese to become members, making it an international socializing venue for wider population coverage. In the 1920’s, the garden was used as sporting ground. At weekends, social celebrities crowded here to play tennis or bowling, visitors were also able to enjoy authentic French cuisine. Each season, the Club would introduce different activities, the weekend tea party in winter was the favorite of ladies, whereas the garden party and picnic activity in summer offered the best chance for gentlemen to show off their skills. Meanwhile, the place was also the preferred venue for both official and private banquets.
Rose Coffee Shop — The First bowling room in Shanghai
In the past our Rose Coffee Shop accommodated several bowling alleys. The numerous pillars which supported the above Grand Ballroom floor also served to separate the bowling alleys. The Rose Coffee shop today has undergone renovations twice, but still the layout vaguely reminds you of the past. Please do not miss the original wall decoration patterns surrounding you!
In the movie “Little Age 3: Thorn Golden Age” directed by young director Guo Jingming, the Grand Ballroom of the Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai was transformed into the birthday banquet venue for protagonist Gong Ming. In an atmosphere closely resembling the setting of an European palace, Gu Li (starring Taiwanese actress Amber Kuo) and Gong Ming staged a graceful dance, which leaves behind a classic scene in the memory of the audience.click for details
The movie “New York New York”, scripted by well-known author Lu Nei, narrates the story about a Shanghai youngster chasing the dream in the 1990’s. The protagonist Lu Tu (starring Taiwanese actor Ethan Ruan) is a captain of a 5-star hotel. With its rich historical atmosphere, Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai provided the essential background stage for this movie.click for details
Continuing in the Drama genre, “Midnight Taxi”, starring the original cast of “Midnight Diner”, and directed by Koji Hagiuda, relocated the story site from "diner" to "taxi". A taxi running in midnight is like a mobile human theater. Shown through the eyes of a taxi driver who only worked the midnight shifts (starring Cheng Taishen, Best Actor of The Festival of the 3 Continents), it presents the phenomena of worldly life, one of the scenes in the movie took place at the Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai.click for details
The “Century Hotel”, a documentary produced by China’s CCTV, contained a special issue “Mysterious Garden – The French Club” to introduce the history of Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai, in which it invited a number of witnesses to narrate many wonderful anecdotes in the past.click for details
Blossoms, a novel authored by Jin Yucheng, winner of the Mao Dun Literature Awards 2015, depicted a scroll of social vicissitudes from the 1960’s till today. The stories are told in the old Luwan District, previously the French Concession. Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai, a landmark building in this area, also shows up in the novel and its illustrations.
Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai has always preserved its unique and elegant baroque style. In turn, distinguished guests, from all over the world have added glamour, sophistication, style and grace.
Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai has witnessed Shanghai’s great changes, yet always preserved its unique and elegant style. In turn, distinguished guests have made it possible to look back on many wonderful memories, each of them a flower in our blooming garden.
Welcome to the Garden
Located on South Maoming Road, Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai is a key component of Huaihai Road business circle known for its prosperous elegance in the central part of Shanghai downtown area. The hotel is easily accessible via Yan’an Elevated Road in the north, close to the West Nanjing Road business circle; in the south it is connected with Middle Huaihai Road, and adjacent to well-known department stores iapm Mall, Parkson Shopping Center, and UNIQLO Global Flagship Store.
A cultural landmark, Okura Garden Hotel is also regarded as a particularly noteworthy geographical location. As a classical case of Shanghai’s outstanding historical buildings, the annex building of the former French Club, standing amid historical building clusters of the former French settlement, features rich European Continental cultural atmosphere. Guotai Theater and Culture Square are performance sites for international film festival and international theatrical troupes. Quietly tasteful small avenues, street shops of assorted themes, bookstores and cafés, everything is fascinating in its own way.
There are a lot more pleasant surprises waiting for your discovery in the surrounding of Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai!
Overall View of hotel’s garden
Neighborhood street view
Overlooking view in the day
Overlooking view in the night
Night scene of Huaihai downtown