Discover Shanghai's rich literary history with the former homes of writers synonymous with our city Lu Xun and Eileen Chang, as well as the city's rarest library
The Bibliotecha Zikawei (pictured above) at Xujiahui is one of the city’s most important buildings, both in historic and literary terms. Built in 1867, it now houses 540,000 volumes of rare books in 20 languages, all published before 1949. The oldest, bequeathed by the city’s Catholic community, date back to the 1500s.
The rare collection is available to academic researchers only, but tours of the library and St Ignacio Church next door by the deputy director of the Xuhui Cultural Bureau, Mr Song Haojie, run every Saturday. Bookings are essential.
Novelist, socialite and Shanghai cultural icon of the ’40s, Eileen Chang (Zhang Ailing) was born into a distinguished family in Beijing, but moved to Shanghai when she was eight. The art deco apartment where Chang lived still stands on Changde Lu. Here she wrote Love in a Fallen City (1984) and Record of a Golden Yoke (1950).
While her room, number 65, is now occupied by a family, you can still sneak up in the lift and knock at the door or check out her books in the period-style L Café below.
This three floor, red-brick townhouse is a memorial to the final years of one of China's most celebrated literary figures Lu Xun – he lived here from 1933 until his death in October 1936.
Having taken part in revolutionary activities organised by Sun Yat-sen,as a student in Japan in 1902, Lu became a key figure in post-imperial China and founded the influential Chinese League of Left-Wing Writers in Shanghai in 1930.
Sparsely decorated and dotted with faded sepia-toned photographs, the house remains mostly unaltered since the writer’s demise, and has not been converted into a glossy museum like some of the other dwellings on this list. The cupboards and cabinets still contain the books, bowls and bottles of medicine he left behind, with the smell of dust adding to the air of authenticity. The guided tour (in Chinese only) takes only a few minutes as you’re taken through the historical house at breakneck speed, barely pausing for breath beside the exhibits.