J.G. Ballard's Shanghai Haunts

Photographs By Andy Best, Rick McGrath

While much of old Shanghai has fallen prey to the incredible growth boom of the last 15 years, there still remains pockets of the city that would have been around during the 1930s and would have had an impression on the young JG Ballard.

As well as the day I spent exploring Ballrd's old home and its surrounding neighbourhoods, I also had an opportunity to photograph some of the other Ballardian areas of Shanghai.

Here's a four-minute video showing The Pudong, Huangpo River, the People's Square in the Huangpu District, The Bund, and the Palace (Cathay) Hotel:


Former French Concession

Shanghai American School on Avenue Petain (Hengshan Road).

Mansion on Avenue Petain (Hengshan Road).

Doorway off Avenue Petain (Hengshan Road).

Along Rue Lafayette (Fuxing Road).

Apartments on Rue Lafayette (Fuxing Road).

Balconies on Rue Lafayette (Fuxing Road).

Rue Lafayette (Fuxing Road and Shanxi Road).

Turning onto Route Cardinal Mercier (Maoming Road South).

Route Cardinal Mercier (Maoming Road South).

Route Cardinal Mercier (Maoming Road South).

The Cathay Theatre on Avenue Joffre (Huaihai Road).

Terrace on Route Herve de Sieyes (Yongjia Road).

Lane off Route Herve de Sieyes (Yongjia Road).

Hotel on Avenue Joffre (Huaihai Road).

Looking south on Route Cardinal Mercier from Avenue Joffre (Huaihai Road and Maoming Road).

Mansion on Route Herve de Sieyes (Yongjia Road).

Abandoned mansion on Route Herve de Sieyes (Yongjia Road).

Route Herve de Sieyes (Yongjia Road).

Route Herve de Sieyes (Yongjia Road).

Pebble dashed house on Route Herve de Sieyes (Yongjia Road).


Downtown Shanghai

St Joseph's Cathedral, built in 1861.

China Industrial Bank building, constructed in 1931 (Sichuan Road).

China Mutual Life Insurance Co, built in 1910 (Sichuan road).

Entrace hall of Sichuan Road bank.

Sichuan Road and Hankou Road intersection.

Looking south on Sichuan Road.

Joint Savings Society Bank, built in 1926 (Sichuan Road).

Sichuan Road building detail.

Nanjing Road and Sichuan Road intersection.

Abandoned building on Sichuan Road near Suzhou Creek.

Former Shanghai Central post office on Suzhou Creek.

Along the south side of the Suzhou Creek.

Factory building on the Suzhou Creek, built in 1929.

Building on north bank of Suzhou Creek

Looking down Jiangxi road from the Suzhou Creek

Shanghai Waterworks Company, built in 1921.

Jiangxi Road and Nanjing Road intersection.

Jiangxi Road and Beijing Road intersection.

Jiangxi Road and Beijing Road intersection.

Jiangxi Road and Hankou Road intersection.

Looking down Hankou Road away from the waterfront.

Jiangxi Road detail.

Entrance to bank on Jiangxi Road.

Metropole Hotel, built in 1934 (Jiangxi Road).

Entrance to art deco style Metropole Hotel.

Jiangxi Road and Fuzhou Road intersection.

Hamilton House, built in 1931 (Jiangxi Road).

Original doors of the Commercial Bank of China, built in 1936 (Jiangxi Road).

Looking south down Jiangxi Road from Fuzhou Road.

Hamilton House entrance.

The Bund

Japanese flag flies over the Bund.

Russia-Asiatic Bank (1901).


Shanghai Custom House, 1925-1927.

Façade of former Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Building. When it was built it was reported that it was the "most beautiful building from the Suez Canal to the Bering Sea"

Left to right: Yokohama Specie Bank (1924), Yangtse Insurance (1920), and Jardine Matheson (1922).

Left to right: Former Shanghai Club 1910, later Dongfeng Hotel and now a Kentucky Fried Chicken; Union Insurance Building (1922).


Left to right: Bangkok Bank (1907); China Merchant Steamship Co. (1901)

Lunghua Airport

The sign says "Lunghua Airport".

Looking south towards the Huangpo River.

Another angle looking south.

The airport had three old airplanes on display. See note below for technical information.

All three airplanes. They are not Chinese, but Russian.

The bi-plane.

Lunghua Pagoda

The Lunghua Pagoda in the 1920s.

Lunghua Pagoda today, after bering completely rebuilt in the mid 1990s.

Another view of the Pagoda.

1920s map of the area showing the location of the Pagoda. Note the Lunghua Airport has yet to be constructed.

Peace Hotel

The Peace Hotel, the former "Sassoon Mansion" and later renamed the Cathay Hotel, erected in 1926-1929.  On its right is the Bank of China Building, Shanghai Branch. 

Signage on the front of the building.

Art deco reliefs on the windows.

Window detail.

The rooftop bar, scene of much madness.

In all its glory.


Looking up from the Yuyuan Gardens in the Old City. A city of many contrasts. Still.

Typical building in the Yuyuan Gardens in the Old City.

Dragon carving in the Yuyuan Gardens.

Old City God's Temple Area. Again, a rebuilt area done in traditional architecture... but it's basically a shopping mall in disguise.

Looking across the Huangpu River to Pudong from in front of the Peace Hotel. In Empire of the Sun this is where JGB's father's factory is located

Looking south along the Huangpu River. These are the locations in Empire of the Sun where the Japanese gunboat attacked the British and American ships.


Country Clubs

Cercle Sportif Francais --The French Club. Ironically, they filled in the swimming pool that JGB said he liked best and created a high-rise which comes right up through the old club.

Cercle Sportif Francais, built in 1926.

French Club (detail).

Columbia Country Club as seen from Columbia Road.

Columbia Country Club. Clubhose as seen from high-rise.

Notes on the Identity of the Russian Aircraft:

"This is Y5 SVS-003, nearby the former airfield of Longhua in Shanghai (18Mar07). The registration is fake and I have no idea what the original serial ever was. There was also a Y7 (SVS-001) and an IL-14 (SVS-002)."

Aad van der Voet kindly provided the following information:
"The following information from the Soviet Transports team: SVS-003 is Y5 ex B-8100 c/n 232008. It was noted wfu at Longhua in Oct-1999 and Apr-2000. First noted as "SVS-003" in June-2005."

And on the other aircraft reported present:
"SVS-002 is IL-14P ex 674 c/n 14803052. Also noted wfu at Longhua in Oct-1999 and Apr-2000, then as SVS-002 in Jun-2005. SVS-001 is probably An-24B (not Y7) ex B-3406 c/n 17307105, but this is unconfirmed. Noted wfu as B-3406 at Longhua Apr-2000. SVS-001 was first noted there May-2005, and is probably the same aircraft."

Alexandre Avrane added: SVS stands for Shanghai Vocational School

A further update by Aad: "I just heard from the Soviet Transports team that all three aircraft were noted again on 17-Apr-2007. And the identity of Antonov An-24 SVS-001 now has been confirmed: it is indeed c/n 17307105 ex B-3406."