Experience Shanghai at the Sinan Open-Air Museum

(study-shanghai.org) | Jan 04, 2017


The red-brick pathway is an exhibit of the Sinan Open-Air Museum. [Photo from WeChat account shanghaitourism]

Sinan Road, an avenue in the French Concession lined by old trees and spectacular pre-war villas, has rested quietly in the heart of Shanghai for over 100 years.

Thanks to its special location and profound cultural background, Sinan Road has now been dressed up as China's first open-air museum.

The museum is quite approachable – no walls, no vitrines and no tickets. Visitors can appreciate the exhibits in whatever way they like.

The museum is also fun to explore, as it may take time to locate the exhibits. The first collection of exhibits, such as ancient architectures, street lights, old trees, red-brick pathways and cobblestone walls, are in complete harmony with the environment.

The easiest way to identify them is to look for QR codes decorated with a shield-shaped logo on the exhibits. After scanning the codes, you can listen to the introductions through your mobile phone. The audio, all recorded by enthusiastic local residents, covers some really famous topics, such as "the General and Man of Letters", and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith in the Republic of China era (1912-1949)".

Let us take a look at the three exhibits in the museum!


London plane trees planted in the Sinan Open-Air Museum [Photo from WeChat account shanghaitourism]

London Plane Trees
London plane trees were only planted as border trees in the city's French Concession in the Republic of China era. They were hence misunderstood by local residents as a French species. Now the towering trees have become a symbol and memory of the old times.


An ancient villa built with cobblestone walls in the Sinan Open-Air Museum [Photo from WeChat account shanghaitourism]

Cobblestone Walls
Though cobblestone decorations are quite common nowadays, an entire wall of cobblestone is rare as such building techniques were lost or abandoned. Hidden under more than 20 exterior wall layers, cobblestone walls once more see the light of Shanghai, as well bring back memories of the 1920s.


The former site of the Sine-French Sodality in the Sinan Open-Air Museum [Photo from WeChat account shanghaitourism]

Former Site of Sino-French Sodality
Walking into this classical red-brick building, you are brought back to the lively scenes of the 1940s – boys heatedly discussing the French Revolution, while girls read poems or talk about the fashion trends.


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