Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Washington Post: A Granddaughter Returns to Her Lost Shanghai Home

Maureen Fan's memoir, in today's Washington Post style section makes for interesting reading:
I come from a family of architects, and so the buildings matter to us. My grandfather was one of the most prominent architects in Shanghai, and designed the Nanking Theater, now the Shanghai Concert Hall; the Rialto, Astor and Majestic movie theaters; the YMCA building on Xizhang Road South; numerous university buildings and private residences; and the Railway and Health ministries in the southern city of Nanjing. But the buildings that drew me most were the ones my family once lived in.

In particular, I kept returning to the house at 1292 Huaihai Rd., the last house my grandfather Robert Fan (or Fan Wenzhao) owned before he left China in 1949, just as the Communists took power. He and my grandmother lived here with their four children, including my father, and a handful of servants.

I first visited this house in 1986, just after college, and again in 2002. I stand before it now, trying to read the history of my family in its sprawl.

My father and mother are also architects, retired from their San Francisco practice since the 1990s. I'm a journalist, raised in suburbia with only an academic understanding of China until I came back in 2005 to study Mandarin and work as a correspondent for The Washington Post.

Fifty years after he left, my father came back to the house he lived in on Huaihai Road, but he refused to go inside. He stood on the sidewalk staring at the house, his eyes red. He didn't want to change the meaning it held from his childhood.
You can also watch a video: