The French Municipal Council built Hengshan Park in August 1925. During construction, they took 5000 tonnes of mud from XuJiaHui River. They used the mud to fill out the low-lying channel to the north of the park. Afterwards, they built a pavilion on top and planted many arbour trees. In May 1926 they opened the park to foreign visitors only, like many other parks in Shanghai at the time. It had the name Beidang Park until October 1943 when they renamed it to Hengshan Park.
Hengshan Park Layout
Over the years the landscaping hasn’t changed much. Hengshan Park has a size 10,855 square meters. 3 camphor trees over 150 years old are preserved inside. Two are on the west side of the park with a bench beneath each. The third is on the far eastern corner. Arbor trees, bushes and flowers complete the scenery in this small park. Like many other parks in China, there are exercise machines on the north side.
Shen Jun Ru
In the centre of the park is a statue of Shen Jun Ru. In 1936, the Chiang Kai-shek government arrested Shen and 6 others. This caused a national crisis known as the Seven Gentleman Incident. It wasn’t until after the Japanese invasion in the Summer of 1937 that they were released. Later in 1949 Shen would attend the first Chinese People’s Consultative Conference (CPCC). Here, he would be appointed as the first President of the Supreme People’s Court. He held this position until 1954. Shen would also hold several other important positions in his later life. He died in 1963.
This park lies hidden away on Hengshan road, near Guanyuan road, in Shanghai. It is one of the many small places in Shanghai that you could walk past and never even know it was there.
There are many varieties of the infamous hotpot in China. In general they all consist of the same basic idea: dipping cold things into soup and boiling the flavour into them. In Shanghai it is possible to get many of them, so over the course of a weekend we tried a couple.
Beijing Hotpot. Again
We had already tried Beijing Hotpot, but we were wandering around Shanghai looking for food and Yi really wanted to have it again. We spoke to one of the people who worked there and they said they had a spicy sauce that would taste different to the one we had in Beijing.
This time we ordered a soup that contained sheep’s spine, so we had a bit of meat and the soup actually had some stock in it. The sauce was still sesame sauce, but was spicy. Sesame sauce is starting to grow on me – I found that as long as I didn’t use too much it actually tasted quite nice.
After finishing up we went to a bar. Yi said that she knew of another place where we could try some ‘mystery food’ and that she would take me there the next day. After a couple of cocktails we headed home.
The next day Yi took me to a place near West Yan’an Road station that served Guangzhou style chicken hotpot. Before we put anything into the pot some of the soup was scooped up into our bowls. This is typical Guangzhou thing – they always drink soup before they eat. The stock was a peppery chicken soup and was much to my liking.
Next we dumped some bright orange mushrooms into the soup. This was to add flavour to the soup that would affect everything we ate afterwards. Once the soup started bubbling we were able to eat the mushrooms. We also took more bowls of soup which had taken on an entirely different taste.
After this we had a typical hotpot experience – boiling the various meats, mushrooms, tofu and vegetables we had ordered and dipping them in sauce. We also had rice which came in the Cantonese style I was used to from back in England. Once it was all over we were still able to take more soup, which had now been enriched with the flavour of everything we had thrown into it.
I would say this was my favourite style of hotpot, but it was actually my second favourite. I decided that the next day I would make what I thought was the best hotpot in the world.
When I first started dating my girlfriend she told me she really wanted to go get some hotpot. I was surprised that a Chinese girl was craving the Lancashire Hotpot that was infamous in my home county. I was almost insulted when she wouldn’t believe that I could cook it. A few days later she took me for my first ever Chinese hotpot and I learned that China has a much more famous dish that is also called hotpot.
After this weekend of hotpots I decided I would finally prove to her that I was capable of cooking hotpot and so set about gathering the ingredients needed to do so. Beneath were I live is a great market where I can get fresh fruit and veg for next to nothing. The local import shop provided the meat and the herbs I needed.
Unfortunately I realised too late that we were out of salt, and that the meat wasn’t as juicy as it could have been. This meant the stock ended up pretty flavourless. I also found that the casserole dish was nearly too large, and our oven too small, so I burnt my fingers when it finally came time to pull it from the oven.
It wasn’t the best hotpot I had ever made, but it still did the job.
The Midi Festival runs every year in Pudong in Shanghai. Some of our friends from the Mansion were running one of the stages, so we donned our raincoats and followed them there.
The festival was a lot less busy than any we’ve been to in England. There were no official campsites at the festival, but this didn’t stop people from camping near the stages.
The dance tent being run by the Mansion had DJs playing electronic music and, due to the rain, was probably the busiest part of the festival.
We wandered around and ended up in a tame mosh pit dancing to a Mongolian metal band called “Nine Treasures” (九宝). Their music was based on traditional Mongolian music, and it reminded me a lot of Celtic metal.
Other bands we saw were a variety of Chinese and Western bands, including Israeli metal band Orphaned Land.
After seeing several bands and getting not-too excessively drunk we wandered back to the Mansion’s tent and danced until we were ready to drop.
In its third year running, Shanghai has been running a beer festival on Wharf 86. With a great view of the Bund you can listen to live music and drink the best beer China has to offer. You will be surprised not only at the import beer, but the home brew beer that can be found here. Most of the beer tends to come from local Shanghai pubs, however there are some Beijing pubs with stands here as well.
One of my favourites this time was the Pochos stand – they had a good atmosphere going and were serving beer mixed with tequila and lime (or tequila and spice if you’re really brave).
After having drank enough beer you can dance the night away and hopefully remain sober enough to stumble into a taxi on the way home.
A small tip: the nicer beer tends to be the locally brewed beer. I decided to get some London Pride for nostalgia purposes and it tasted awful.
One night we were wandering around Xintiandi and found ourselves on NonChang road, where we almost walked past the Petit Cat Cafe. A sign on the road points the way into a small alleyway. We wandered in and we found the cafe surrounded by cats (most of whom scarpered as soon as they saw us).
Inside the cafe was only a single cat. This was probably due to it being late – anyone who knows cats understands that they are nocturnal and tend to go out at night. The place serves coffee and beer.
The owner let us look upstairs. The second floor seemed like more of a lounge area, with a few cages with cat beds inside. Our exploration seemed to upset a cat because we suddenly heard a constant meowing from the cupboard.
Inside was a small kitten locked in a box. The owner explained that this was a rescue kitten, and they were keeping it in here away from the other cats until they could have it deflead, wormed and get its injections up to date. He said he was currently looking for someone to adopt it.
We finished our beers and went on our way. The Petit Cat Cafe can be found on Nanchang Road in Shanghai, near Maoming South Road and Ruijin Road. Go there during the day if you want to see more cats than we did.
There’s a dive bar near my place of work in Shanghai known as C’s (not sure what the C stands for…). In my first month in Shanghai I went there with my girlfriend where she taught me the infamous DICE GAME that rattles across many pubs in China. It was your typical dive bar: low maintenance, cheap alcohol, and plenty of graffiti scrawled across the wall in marker pen (mostly black).
Recently the bar has decided to redecorate, and has adopted a brilliant idea for doing this with minimal effort: once a month they buy a bunch of paint and provide paintbrushes and people turn up and paint the walls. The bar gets redecorated, people get to express themselves, and there’s plenty of cheap alcohol. Everybody wins.
We decided to go ourselves and contribute our creativity to the walls of this dive. Unfortunately I had a kind of stage fright, but my girlfriend was quick to gather some paint and pick up a brush. So I wandered around drinking cheap beer and observing what others were painting, whilst my girlfriend created this masterpiece:
That’s her pet fish on the right. It has legs.
C’Scape runs the second Tuesday of every month at C’s. See you there.