East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

The Italian Consulate in Shanghai, 1936


The building you see in this photo housed the Italian Consulate in Shanghai in the 1930s.


The climax of the first part of my book happens here.

Now, I know, I know, I can make things up – I’m a writer, I work in the business of creation – but…
Oh, drat – the big action sequence that tops the first third of my novel takes place in here.
And this is a historica place, it’s real.

So I wasted a few hours looking for the plans of the building.
So I got me a detailed description of the place where the building used to be (on the corner of Bubbling Well Road and Chengdou Road North).

Screenshot from 2014-10-09 15:25:37

5393_SikhsChina2I got the name of the British architects that designed the building – the same guys that designed the famous Astor House.

I found out that the Italian Embassy gardens bordered the Chengdou Police Barracks… yeah – nice place to stage a big brawl and a shootout and ninja-thon: next door of the place where a few hundred cops are sleeping.
And this being the International Sector, we are talking British Cops – as in tough, competent Sikhs.
Way to go, Dr Mana!
Oh, and yes – the actual Chengdou North Police Station was in front of the Italian Consulate.

I also have a full layout of the embassy garden, and a sketchy map of the out-buildings in the compound.

Screenshot from 2014-10-09 15:26:32

But I still missed the actual plan of the place – or at least a viable photo.
Searches with Google Images brought me photos of the Russian Embassy in Berlin and the German Consulate in Hong Kong, but no Italian Consulate in Shanghai, 1936.

Then my brother – who is, after all, the certified orientalist in this family – solved my problem.
We translated in Chinese the string “Italian Consulate Bubbling Well Road Shanghai” (“意大利驻上海静安寺” – thanks, Google Translate!) and then searched that string in Google Images.
And we got a hit – a Chinese page (thanks, Google Translate!) with photos and historical notes.

So now I have something to fuel my story – and I can do a description of the place that’s not just fluff.
Nice and smooth (well, mostly).

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

9 thoughts on “The Italian Consulate in Shanghai, 1936

  1. I know the bug. Insidious little fellow. Keeps gnawing at you, and whispers “Yes, but…”

    “But” there has to be something. And you could make it up, “but” how much cooler would it be, if you found the map? And sooner or later you’ll have to make do, “but” why not try a little more, a little harder? And who’s ever to know, yes, “but, but, but…”

    Once set on something, the little beast won’t leave you alone until you find your embassy/battle order/first edition year/whatever.

    Oh, the historical fictioneer’s life! An endless scavenger’s hunt – with a bitchy bug for a sidekick. 🙂


  2. Hi Davide, First of all i really like your works, both Strategie Evolutive e Karavansara are Amazing blog (even if the former is closed now).
    I guess the place you are looking for is Cheng Du North Road near Beijing west ( 成都北路 靠近 北京西路) in jing an district 静安寺区


  3. So I picked up an old trunk made of olive wood today at a moving sale, and under the lid is written in pencil in a very nice hand, “Italian Consulate, 555 Bubbling Well Road”. Fortunately, you had done the research so I could match this item with a time period and in the city where the consulate stood. Thank you.


  4. ps, if you lacked the actual address, then you have it now.


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