Roots - Part 2

The Second Annual Chinese Blogger Conference will be taking place on October 28-29 in the city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China.  I won't be there, but I wish I could be in Hangzhou because I would like to visit a certain house.

The house is listed in the Hangzhou City Building Administration Department's list of historical buildings.  In this list, item number 55 is 春润庐 (Chunrun Cottage) located at Number 54, Beishan Road (北山路).  According to the listed information, the building was constructed from bricks and wood in 1931 (blogger's note: this is incorrect) and takes up about 837 square meters.  It is presently protected as part of the Beishan area of cultural history.

Here is the history of Chunrun Cottage as presented at

[in translation]

Chunrun Cottage is a famous villa by West Lake in Hangzhou.  Its address is Hangzhou Beishan Road Number 54.

Chunrun Cottage was built together by Song Chunfang (宋春舫) (blogger's note: this is the blogger's grandfather) and his good friend Zhu Runsheng (朱润生).  Insides the grounds, there are two villas with wall fireplaces.  The outer villa belonged to Zhu Runsheng and can be called the Run Cottage.  The inner villa belonged to Song Chunfang and can be called the Chun Cottage.  The name Chunrun Cottage is based upon the middle characters of the two owners.

Song Chunfang (1892-1938) is from Wuqing, Zhejiang.  He studied in France in his youth and he is a famous theater scholar and French literature expert in the early days of modern China.  He taught at Peking University and Tsinghua University.  He wrote the book <<Song Chungang on theater>>.  His family was wealthy, and he owned landed properties in Shanghai and Qingdao.  Zhu Runsheng was a relative of Song Chunfang (blogger's note: the maiden name of his wife is Zhu) and he was a banker.

At the time, if any of the famous professors at Peking University were visiting Hangzhou, Song Chunfang would invite them to stay at Chunrun Cottage.  Cai Yuanpei (蔡元培) was one of the earliest residents at Chunrun Cottage.  In 1927, two Peking University professors Ma Yinchu (馬寅初) and Tan Xihong (譚熙鴻) were teaching in Hangzhou.  Since both were good friends of Song Chunfang, he arranged for their families to stay at Chunrun Cottage.  Thus, Chunrun Cottage came to be the Peking University reception center without an official sign.  Xu Baohuang (徐宝璜), Lin Fengmian (林风眠), Zhang Xinhai (张歆海) and other famous scholars have all brought their families along to stay there.  As for regular visitors, there were many more: Zhang Taiyan (章太炎), Yang Xingfo (杨杏佛), Xu Zhimo (徐志摹), Jiang Menglin (蒋梦麟), Xiong Xili (熊十力), Ma Yifu (马一浮), Ding Xilin (丁西林), Liu Dabai (刘大白), Ku Yuxiu (顧毓琇), Li Ximou (李熙谋), Shen Dingyi (沈定一), Chen Bulei (陈布雷), Zhang Jingjiang (张静江), Hu Hanmin (胡汉民), Song Ziwen (宋子文), Li Shizeng (李石曾), Wu Zhihui (吴稚暉), ...

The following is an interview with an actual resident of Chunrun Cottage way back when.

(Zhengjiang Daily via Xinhuanet)  By Zhang Xueqin (张学勤).  December 8, 2002.

[in translation]

In the newly published "West Lake History," Chunrun Cottage was said to no longer exist.  But after some investigative work by the reporter, he was able to establish that number 54 Beishan Road was in fact Chunrun Cottage.

Based upon a map draw in 1929 of buildings on Beishan Road in West Lake drawn, the reporter established the exact position of Chunrun Cottage.  The final confirmation that the building at the location (Number 54 Beishan Road) was Chunrun Cottage came when the reporter contacted Mr. Tan Bolu (谭伯鲁) who stayed there from 1927 to 1931.

Chunrun Cottage was jointly built in the 1910s/1920s by famous Chinese drama scholar and meteorologist Song Chunfang who taught at Peking and Tsinghua Universities and his good friend Zhu Runsheng.  Thus, the cottage consists of two villas.  The one at the entrance belonged to Zhu Runsheng, while the one in the back belonged to Song Chunfang.  The name Chunrun Cottage was based upon the middle characters in their names.

After the cottage was completed, it was frequently vacant as the two owners worked elsewhere.  Based upon the available information, Cai Yuanpei was the first lodger at Chunrun Cottage.  In the early 1910s/1920s, Cai Yuanpei was not happy with the government and quit his job as Peking University president several times to live in leisure by West Lake instead.  While researching the historical documents, the reporter discovered: in the letter to Lu Xiaoman (陆小曼) from Xu Zhimo on July 21, 1926, he wrote about taking a boat to visit Cai Yuanpei at Chunrun Cottage by the West Lake shore.  This is the earliest mention of a Chunrun Cottage lodger that the reporter has come across.


局,如何可以混在一起?适之倒是乐观,我很感念他;但事情还是没有办法的,我无论如何不去。 ]

The person who lived relatively longer at Chunrun Cottage was Tan Xihong.  He had been the secretary for President Sun Yat-sen as well as Peking University president Cai Yuanpei.  Later, he headed the Biology Department at Peking University.  In 1927, Peking University professors Tan Xihong and Ma Yinchu both came to teach in Hangzhou.  Both their families stayed at Chunrun Cottage.  In less than a year, Ma Yinchu changed jobs and moved on to Nanjing.  So the only family living at Chunrun Cottage was Tan Xihong, who was the dean of the School of Agriculture at Zhejiang University.  

The son of Tan Xihong is Tan Bolu, who is presently with the Zhejiang Province Cultural History Museum.  When he received the photographs of Number 54 Beishan Road sent by the reporter, he was very delighted and excited.  Between 1927 to 1931, Tan Bolu spend five years of his childhood at Chunrun Cottage.  In my recollection, Chunrun Cottage was an unofficial Peking University hostel.  After Ma Yinchu's family moved out, one of the villas was vacant.  So if any Peking University professor was visiting Hangzhou, Song Chunfang would warmly invite them to stay at Chunrun Cottage.  Since the Tan family were the regular residents, they acted as local hosts and provided food.  So Tan Bolu said with humor: At the time, the Tan family were the managers of this unofficial Peking University hostel."

In Tan Bolu's recollections, Cai Yuanpei was a regular visitor at Chunrun Cottage during those five years.  Whenever he came to Hangzhou, he stayed at Chunrun Cottage.  Other famous people who have stayed at Chunrun Cottage included Xu Baohuang, Cai Shengwen and his wife; Lin Fengmian and his wife; Peking University professor Zhang Xinhai and Han Xiangmei even got married at Chunrun Cottage.  As for famous visitors, the list is even longer.  In 1929, Hangzhou held a West Lake Expo and the famous people of Chunrun Cottage figured prominently: Tan Xihong was the curator of the Agricultural Museum, Li Ximo was the curator of the Industrial Museum, and Lin Fengmian was the curator of the Art Museum.

Chunrun Cottage will need to be researched further.

(  At buildings like Chunrun Cottage, the gates are closed but one can see various clothing being hung out to dry in the courtyyard.  One can imagine how crowded it is inside.  According to the locals, this may be a cottage but there are many people packed inside and the conditions are bad.  The residents would prefer to be assigned to more spacious new buildings.

(QZdaily)  Places such as Chunrun Cottage are now civilian residences with signs that say: "Civilian residence.  Visitors not allowed."  From the outside, one can see the clothes and bedsheets that the residents hang out to dry in the courtyard.  

These residents have been here for decades, living in spaces assigned to them by their units.  There are also some recent arrivals whom the units gave single rooms.  But most of them grew up here when their parents were assigned here by their units.  The residents told the reporter that although they are still living there, they have been informed that they may have to move out of here.  Although they were obviously sentimentally attached to these homes, they realized that they will have to move.  "Although these houses are ancient, they are built of good quality.  The bricks are still brightly colored after 80 years.  It is cool inside during the summer."

Mrs. Liang has lived on Beishan street for more than 50 years in a house that his father got from the unit.  She, her younger brother and several relatives live here.  Their house has more than 100 square meters of area and they 100 to 200 RMB per month in rent.  If they moved out, they will not be able to find any satisfactory housing.  She heard that a small two-bedroom apartment at Sanliting costs more than 1,000 RMB in rent.  Although this is the typical price, it is a sharp contrast to those who have been living by West Lake for a long time.

"This is the most expensive section in all of Hangzhou.  I heard that a Taiwanese businessman came to look at our house and the price was around 100 million RMB.  But the deal did not go through," said an old man who has been living here for decades.

Related Link: Roots - Part 1