Walking Tour: Jìng’ān

  • Start West Nanjing Rd metro station
  • Finish Ohel Rachel Synagogue
  • Length 1.7km; 1½ hours

Begin by walking through the Bubbling Well Road Apartments (静安别墅; Jìng’ān Biéshù), which you can enter off West Nanjing Rd. One of the most delightful surviving new-style lǐlòng housing complexes in Shànghǎi, with three-storey red-brick houses built between 1928 and 1932, it’s a great spot to catch daily residential life – people walking their dogs, playing cards or hanging out laundry to dry. Note how the architecture blends Chinese motifs with European-style terraced housing. Exit at the south end of the complex, which faces Sun Court, a 1928 apartment block, and turn left onto Weihai Rd. Continue right onto North Maoming Rd and explore the lovingly preserved shíkùmén (stone-gate house) architecture of the Former Residence of Mao Zedong, where the 30-year-old Mao lived for several months in 1924.

Retrace your steps and return to Sun Court, continuing west down Weihai Rd and passing a tea shop at No 686, with a fabulous collection of aged pǔ’ěr cakes lining the walls. Turn right onto North Shaanxi Rd, where you’ll eventually get a glimpse of an enormous garden residence (1918) at No 186, which once belonged to Wúxī native Rong Zongjing, one of Shànghǎi’s most powerful industrialists. Rong Zongjing’s nephew, Rong Yiren, was one of the rare individuals with a capitalist background to succeed in communist China, becoming vice mayor of Shànghǎi in 1957 and later vice-president of the PRC from 1993 to 1998.

Follow Shaanxi Rd north, past Grace Baptist Church (怀恩堂; Huái'ēn Táng) at No 375, which was moved here in 1942. Continue north till you reach the Sassoon-built Ohel Rachel Synagogue from 1920 at No 500, the first of seven synagogues built in Shànghǎi (only two remain). It is currently closed to the public but can be visited on tours with Shanghai Jews (www.shanghai-jews.com).