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Shanghai French Concession

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Established  1849
1932  478,552
Flag  Coat of arms
Disestablished  1943
Shanghai French Concession imagesshanghaihighlightscom201303bb8ab4ca98ee

Today part of  Huangpu District and Xuhui District, Shanghai Municipality
Similar  Nanjing Road, People's Square, The Bund, Xintiandi, Yu Garden

Shanghai french concession walk mov

The Shanghai French Concession (French: Concession française de Changhaï; Chinese: 上海法租界; pinyin: Shànghǎi Fǎ Zūjiē; : Zaonhe Fah Tsuka) was a foreign concession in Shanghai, China from 1849 until 1943, which progressively expanded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The concession came to an end in 1943 when the Vichy French government signed it over to the pro-Japanese puppet government in Nanking. For much of the 20th century, the area covered by the former French Concession remained the premier residential and retail district of Shanghai, and was also one of the centres of Catholicism in China. Despite re-development over the last few decades, the area retains a distinct character, and is a popular tourist destination.


Shanghai French Concession Former French Concession Shanghai China Top Tips Before You Go


The French Concession was established on 6 April 1849, when the French Consul to Shanghai, Charles de Montigny, obtained a proclamation from Lin Kouei (麟桂, Lin Gui), the Circuit Intendant (Tao-tai/Daotai, effectively governor) of Shanghai, which conceded certain territory for a French settlement. The extent of the French Concession at the time of establishment extended south to the Old City's moat, north to the Yangjingbang canal (Yang-king-pang, now Yan'an Road), west to the Temple of Guan Yu (Koan-ti-miao, 关帝庙) and the Zhujia Bridge (Tchou-kia-kiao, 褚家桥), and east to the banks of the Huangpu River between the Guangdong-Chaozhou Union (Koang'tong-Tchao-tcheou kong-hoan) and the mouth of the Yangjingbang canal. The French Concession effectively occupied a narrow "collar" of land around the northern end of the Old City, south of the British settlement. At an area of 66 hectares (986 mu), the French Concession was about a third of the size of the British settlement at that time. A further small strip of riverside land to the east of the Old City was added in 1861, to allow the construction of the quai de France, to service shipping between China and France.


Shanghai French Concession Shanghai A short break in China39s old French Concession Telegraph

The French Concession's first significant expansion was agreed in 1899 and proclaimed in 1900, allowing the French Concession to double in size. The area newly added to the concession sat immediately to the west of the original grant.

Shanghai French Concession The best things to eat see and do in the Former French Concession

In 1902, the French introduced from France London planes (le platane commun) as a roadside tree on Avenue Joffre (present-day Huaihai Road). Now popular as a roadside tree throughout China, because of its history it is known in Chinese as the "French plane".

Shanghai French Concession Selfguided walking tour Shanghai39s Former French Concession Area

Meanwhile, from 1860s, the French Concession authorities (like the other concession authorities) had begun constructing "extra-settlement roads" outside the concession. The first such road was built to connect the west gate of the Old City to the Catholic stronghold at Zi-ka-wei (Xujiahui), to allow French troops to quickly move between the concession and the Church land there. Controlled by concession authorities, extra-settlement roads effectively gave France and the other treaty powers a form of control over land extending outside their formal concessions. In 1913, France requested police powers over its extra-settlement roads, effectively meaning a further expansion to the concession. The government of Yuan Shikai agreed, giving France police and taxation powers over the so-called extra-settlement roads area, in return for France agreeing to evict revolutionaries from the area under its jurisdiction. This agreement, proclaimed in 1914, gave the French Concession control over a significantly larger area between the Old City and Xujiahui, 15 times the size of the original grant. As a nod to the more numerous Chinese residents in the new territory, two seats were given to Chinese members on the Administration Council. Encouraged by the successful expansion by the French, the International Settlement also requested the grant of administrative powers over its own extra-settlement roads area in 1914, but this was refused.

Shanghai French Concession ShanghaiFrench Concession Travel guide at Wikivoyage

By the 1920s the French Concession was developed into the premier residential area of Shanghai. In particular, the expansive and initially sparsely populated "New French Concession" obtained under the second expansion of 1914 became popular for foreign nationals of all nationalities, and later well-to-do Chinese residents as well, to build houses on larger plots of land than they could obtain in the more crowded original concessions. As demand grew, numerous apartment buildings at varying levels of luxury were built, as well as some shikumen residences to meet demand from the increasing number of Chinese residents. Vibrant commercial areas also developed, helped by the influx of White Russians after the Russian Revolution.

Demise and legacy

In 1943, during World War II, the government of Vichy France announced that it would give up its concessions in Tianjin, Hankou and Guangzhou. These were handed over to the Wang Jingwei Government on 5 June 1943, with the Shanghai Concession following on 30 July. After the war, neither Vichy France nor Wang's Nationalist Government were universally recognised as legitimate, but the new post-war government of France acknowledged that it was a fait accompli in the Sino-French Accord of February 1946. This accord, signed by Chiang Kai-shek's ruling Kuomintang led to Chinese troops pulling out of the northern half of French Indochina in exchange for France relinquishing all its foreign concessions in China including Kouang-Tchéou-Wan.

The former French Concession remained largely unchanged during the early decades of Communist rule in China. In the late 1980s and the early 1990s, however, largely unregulated re-development of the area tore apart many old neighbourhoods. For example, the London Planes that graced the former Avenue Joffre were removed in the 1990s, only to be later replaced after public outcry. The old French Club building and its gardens, which used to be a sports field in the early days, were gutted and became the base of the high-rise Okura Garden Hotel.

After the 2000s, the government enforced more stringent development and planning controls in this area.


From 1914 until its abolition, the French Concession covered the north-eastern part of today's Xuhui District and the western part of Huangpu District (the former Luwan District), occupying the centre, south, and west of urban Shanghai. A small strip extended eastward along the rue du Consulat, now the East Jinling Road, to the Quai de France, now East-2 Zhongshan Road, which runs along the Huangpu River to the south of the Bund.

To the south-east of the French Concession was the walled Chinese city. To the north was the British concession, later part of the Shanghai International Settlement. The British and French quarters were separated by several canals: in the east, this was "Yangjingbang", a creek flowing into the Huangpu River. These canals were later filled in and became Avenue Edward VII in the east and Avenue Foch in the west, both now part of Yan'an Road. To the south the French Concession was bounded by the Zhaojiabang canal (now filled in as Zhaojiabang Road and Xujiahui Road).


The chief French official in charge of the French Concession was the Consul-General of France in Shanghai. While the French initially participated in the Municipal Council of the International Settlement, in 1862 a decision was made to exit the Municipal Council to preserve the French Concession's independence. From then on, a day-to-day governance was carried out by the Municipal Administrative Council (conseil d'administration municipale). The council's offices were originally on rue de Consulat, the "high street" or rue principale of the original concession. In 1909, a new building was completed on Avenue Joffre. This building is now part of a shopping centre.

Security in the Concession was maintained by the garde municipale. Just as the British employed a large number of Indian police in the International Settlement, the French deployed a large number of personnel from its nearby colony of Annam. A militia, the corps de volontaires, was first raised in the 1850s to protect the Concession during the Taiping Rebellion.

As a treaty power which had been granted extraterritorial jurisdiction, France exercised consular jurisdiction in the French Concession. Cases involving French nationals were heard by the French consular court. Matters involving Chinese nationals, or nationals or non-treaty powers, were heard in the International Mixed Court for the French Concession, a court nominally headed by a Chinese official but "assisted" by French consular officials, and using an adapted version of Chinese procedural rules. The International Mixed Court was abolished in 1930 and replaced by Chinese courts under the judicial system of the Republic of China.


While the French Concession began as a settlement for the French, it soon attracted residents of various nationalities.

In the 1920s, with the expansion of the French Concession, British and American merchants who worked in the International Settlement often chose to build more spacious houses in the newer part of the French Concession. One legacy of this Anglophone presence is the American College on Avenue Pétain (now Hengshan Road), and the nearby Community Church.

Shanghai saw a large influx of Russian émigrés in the wake of the 1917 Russian Revolution. This raised the Russian population in the French Concession from 41 in 1915 to 7,000. This number increased to 8,260 by 1934 after the Japanese occupation of northeast China, where many Russians worked on the Chinese Eastern Railway. Two Russian Orthodox churches can still be seen in the former French Concession. The Russian community had a large presence on commercial streets such as Avenue Joffre, and contributed to the development of the music profession in Shanghai.

The Chinese population in the French Concession swelled during the Taiping Rebellion, reaching about 500,000 just before the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War. During World War II, Japanese forces initially occupied only the Chinese areas, leaving the foreign concessions alone. Residents of the Chinese areas moved into the French Concession in large numbers, reaching 825,342.


  • Lokawei (Chinese: 卢家湾; pinyin: Lújiāwān), "Lu's Bay", an area named after a bend on the Zhaojiabang creek. The main police depot and prison of the French concession was located here. Former Luwan District, today part of Huangpu District, was named after this locality. Since the 1990s, this area has seen high volume residential developments.
  • Zikawei ("Xu's Confluence", or "Xujiahui" in Mandarin), an area named after the family of Xu Guangqi and the confluence of two local rivers. While Xujiahui was technically not part of the French Concession (lying immediately west of the boundary of the concession), it was the centre of Catholic Shanghai, featuring St Ignatius Cathedral, the Observatory, the Library, and several colleges, all of which were French-dominated. Today, Xujiahui is a busy commercial district. Today's Xuhui District is named after this locality.
  • Avenue Joffre, now Central Huaihai Road, was a boulevard stretching across the French Concession in an east-west direction. The road was renamed after Joseph Joffre in 1916, with the new name unveiled by the marshal himself in 1922. Avenue Joffre was a tram route. Its eastern section featured Shikumen residences. Its western part featured high-end residential developments, including standalone houses and apartment blocks. The central section was – and is – a popular shopping area, with many shops opened by the Russian community. The former Avenue Joffre remains a high-end retail district.
  • Avenue Pétain, now Hengshan Road, was a major boulevard linking Xujiahui with the centre of the French Concession. It represented the centre of the French Concession's high-end residential district and featured a large number of mansions and expensive apartment buildings. Since the 1990s, some of the former houses have been converted into bars and nightclubs, making Hengshan Road one of Shanghai's premier night entertainment districts.
  • The French Concession is portrayed in Jules Verne's novel Tribulations of a Chinaman in China (1879).
  • The French Concession is where Adeline Yen Mah stayed in her autobiography Chinese Cinderella (1999).
  • The French Concession is portrayed in Lisa See's novel Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy.
  • The French Concession is portrayed in the 2015 Hong Kong TVB Drama, Lord of Shanghai.
  • References

    Shanghai French Concession Wikipedia