World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Shanghai French Concession

La concession française de Changhaï
Foreign concession of French Third Republic

1849–1943 (de facto)

Coat of arms of Shanghai French Concession

Coat of arms

Location of Shanghai French Concession
Shanghai in 1935, showing the French Concession in red
 -  Established 1849
 -  Disestablished 1943 (de facto)
 -  1932 47,8,552 
Today part of Huangpu District and Xuhui District, Shanghai Municipality

The Shanghai French Concession (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 the centre of Catholicism in Shanghai. Despite re-development over the last few decades, the area retains a distinct character, and is a popular tourist destination.


  • History 1
  • Extent 2
  • Governance 3
  • Demography 4
  • Localities 5
  • Cultural references 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


Avenue Joffre in the 1930s: one of the major commercial streets in the French Concession
The same location (now Huaihai Road) in 2007: many street front buildings have been preserved, and highrises also line the street
A house on Wukang Road (Route Ferguson), a well preserved example of a residential street in the former French Concession
A quiet, leafy street in the former French Concession

The French Concession was established on 6 April 1849, when the French Consul to Shanghai, Charles de Montigny, obtained a proclamation from the Circuit Intendant (Tao-tai/Daotai) of Shanghai, which conceded certain territory for a French settlement.

Its borders expanded twice, in 1900 and 1914, then during the 1920s the French Concession was developed into the premier residential area of Shanghai. 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.

In 1902, the French introduced from France « le platane commun » (London planes) 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".

The 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.


A house in the former French Concession
A mix of the old and the new in the former French Concession near Avenue Joffre: the gabled building on the left is the former Belgian consulate, while the taller buildings on the right are the 1930s Henry Apartments and Gascogne Apartments

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.


Official residence of the president of the Municipal Council
The French Municipal Council offices, c. 1908
Annamese police offices of the French Concession, c. 1908

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).

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.


Orthodox Cathedral of the Mother of God
An example of a building in the Shanghai French Concession

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 Manchuria. 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.


Clements Apartments on Rue Lafayette
Normandie Apartments, on Avenue Joffre
  • 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"), 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.

Cultural references

See also



  • Le Paris de l'Orient - Présence française à Shanghai, 1849-1946, ministère des Affaires étrangères français

Further reading

  • Maybon, Ch. B (1929) Histoire de la Concession Française de Changhai, Paris: Librairie Plon
  • Cady, J. F. (1942), "The Beginnings of French Imperialism in the Pacific Orient", Journal of Modern History 14 (1): 71–87 
  • Willens, Lilane (2010). Stateless in Shanghai. China Economic Review Pub. (HK) Limited for Earnshaw Books.  

External links

  • Shanghai/French Concession travel guide from Wikivoyage
  • Xuhui District government portal

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.