Zi-Ka-Wei (autres noms: Siccawei, Zica Wei et maintenant Xujiahui)


A visit should be made to Siccawei, a large Jesuit settlement, and Lunghua, where the only pagoda in the vicinity of Shanghai can be seen. Both places can be reached by a short motor trip via the French Concession. Siccawei. Siccawei has an important place in the history of Shanghai on account of its association with Hsu Kwang-ch'i, friend and pupil of Matteo Ricci, the Jesuit Missionary. Hsu was born at Siccawei in 1562, and it was from his family the Jesuits acquired their present property in the village, which since 1848 has been a centre of Roman Catholic mission work. Among the features of the settlement are a Meteorological Observatory, a museum, industrial schools, and orphanages for boys and girls. Various handicrafts are taught in the schools and workshops, from which come beautiful examples of carved wood furniture, lace and embroidery, printing, and metal and stained glass work.

The Observatory has achieved world-wide fame as a result of its researches. It is linked up with a network of seventy stations spread over a zone that includes Irkutsk at the northwest extremity, Nemura (Japan) in the northeast, Cap St. Jacques (Indo-China) in the southwest, and Guam in the southeast. By keeping track of typhoon and storm centres, and giving advance warning of their approach, the Observatory has contributed immensely to the safety of navigation on the China coast. The Observatory also maintains an astronomical station at Zo-se and a seismological station at Lo-ka-pang.

One other historic place, Siccawei, might be mentioned, although it belongs to a much later period. The correct spelling of the name in the Shanghai dialect would be Zi-ka-wei, and from this Siccawei has been derived. The Chinese characters mean, "the residence of the family Zi." Here was born, in 1562, HsO Kwang-ch'i, or as he was afterwards called Paul Hsu (Hsti is the mandarin pronunciation of Zi). He was one of the first of the high Chinese officials to enter the Christian Church, being pupil, convert, and friend of the great Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci. He was a great scholar and the author of several important works, among them being a tract written in 1616 in defence of the Christian Religion. His family property was afterwards acquired by the Jesuits and became the site of the large work now carried on at Siccawei. His grave may be seen at Siccawei at the south-west corner of the Church of St. Ignatius.

C'est aux jésuites que l'on doit la création d'un véritable Centre d'art et d'artisanat occidental, avec les activités qu'ils développent dans le cadre de l'orphelinat créé en 1865 , à Zikawei. Les religieux et leurs élèves y réalisent des tableaux, des travaux d'orfèvrerie, du mobilier, des vitraux pour divers établissements laïques ou missionnaires, tandis qu'une imprimerie édite ouvrages savants et gravures populaires.

Des artistes chinois peuvent y suivre des cours de dessin et d'anatomie, rompant ainsi avec la tradition de la peinture nationale. Un fonctionnaire, Zhou Xiang, qui a fui en France après l'échec du mouvement réformiste des Cent Jours, fonde, à son retour, en 1910, sa propre école qui formera les pionniers de l'occidentalisme shanghaien. L'un de ses élèves, Liu Haisu, crée à seize ans, en 1912, dans la concession française, l'ancêtre des écoles modernes des Beaux-Arts, une académie dont les méthodes d'enseignement s'inspirent de celles en vigueur à Paris. Par ailleurs, le système "travail-études" mis en place sous l'impulsion de Cai Yuanpei, futiur ministre de l'instruction publique, promeut l'envoi de jeunes étudiants chinois en France, entre 1911 et 1930, et leur apporte un soutien financier et moral.


Xujiahui is the most prosperous business area and the busiest intersection in the southwest of Shanghai, where 5 major roads converge and a number of large scale famous department stores are clustered.

In 1992, Shanghai government decided to list Xujiahui among the city's five major commercial centers. Since then, the development of Xujiahui has been going on rapidly and successfully. Now a number of high class shopping centers are gathering there, e.g. Orient Shopping Center , Pacific Department Store , Shanghai No.6 Department Store  and Grand Gateway Plaza  (namely Ganghui Plaza).

In the vicinity are lots of restaurants and hotels. On warm days, those restaurants would have their tables set up outdoors. The big colorful umbrellas and well dressed young people sitting and drinking at the tables make up a very attractive picture. Xujiahui is also a place for tourists and local people to hang out and taste Chinese, American, Japanese, Korean, Italian, or even Greek and Thai food. After dinner, if tourists like to see a film, there is a well equipped cinema called Paradise Film City on the 6th floor of Grand Gateway Plaza. Just 10 minutes' walk away form Xujiahui, there is another very good cinema Shanghai Film Art Center. When strolling Xujiahui, people should have a careful look at Hengshan Road , a very notable leisure street known to all China, even all the world. At the east end of Hengshan Road stands the famous Community Church, built as early as 1906, and to the west of Xujiahui stands Xujiahui Catholic Cathedral , which looks very magnificent and imposing.

Xujiahui Cathedral
St. Ignatius Cathedral of Shanghai

Designed by English architect William Doyle, and built by French Jesuits between 1905 and 1910, it is said to have once been known as "the grandest cathedral in the Far East." It can accommodate 2,500 worshippers at the same time. In 1966, at the opening of the Cultural Revolution, Red Guards vandalized the cathedral, tearing down its spires and ceiling, and smashing its roughly 300 square meters of stained glass. For the next ten years the building served as a state-owned grain warehouse. In 1978 the cathedral was re-opened, and the spires were restored in the early 1980s.

The foremost Jesuit cathedral in Shanghai, Xujiahui also goes by the name of St. Ignatius. Built in 1906, the Gothic structure is adorned with gargoyles, stained glass windows, and paintings of the Last Supper and Stations of the Cross. It has the capacity to fit over 2500 worshippers

Once known as St. Ignatius, this is Shanghai's great cathedral, opened by the Jesuits who'd had a church here as early as 1608 (today's structure dates to 1910). The Jesuits were invited here by a local high-ranking Ming Dynasty official, landowner, and scientist, Xu Guangqi (the district's name, Xujiahui, means "Xu Family Village"), who was himself converted to Catholicism by the Jesuits' most famous missionary to China, Matteo Ricci (1553-1610). Xu is buried in a public park named after him on Nandan Xi Lu, southwest of the cathedral. As a missionary center, the cathedral grounds once included a library, an orphanage, a college, a publishing house, and its own weather station. Today only the church, part of the school, and the recently reopened library remain. This largest of Shanghai's cathedrals, with space for over 2,500 inside, sports a gargoyled roof and twin red-brick spires which were destroyed in the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) and rebuilt in 1980. Its vast interior of altars, stone columns, Gothic ceilings, stained glass windows, and paintings of the Last Supper and Stations of the Cross, is yet another chapter in Shanghai's living history of European architecture, though there is currently a multi-year project underway to replace the traditional Western-style stained glass with glasswork imbued with Chinese motifs and characteristics (for example, using a phoenix, the traditional Chinese symbol for rebirth, to signify the Resurrection).

Finally, in 1871... an observatory was established in Zicawei (Xujiahui), near Shanghai, where the Jesuits had established a boarding college, a seminary, a house for Jesuit students and two orphanages. The observatory building of one story with a central tower of two stories was begun in 1873.

In the "good old days" before the Siccawei Creek silted up so as to make it impassable to all but the lightest and shallowest boats, it was quite a common practice to take a houseboat to Zo-se, to enjoy a bracing walk along the creek- bank and to spend a comfortable night in the quiet creeks beside the Hills before the return journey. Spurred on by the enjoyment of such trips it jbecame quite common for hardy walkers to attempt the whole journey on foot, while others did the same on bicycles in the days when that vehicle, now used only by the humble, was a popular means of transport. Then came the turn of pony riders and I have told elsewhere how a bold company of the S.V.C. Artillery set out at dawn to make the double journey in a day; how all but one fell out at various stages and how that single hardy Warrior made his triumphant return at about 2 p.m.

With the silting up of the Siccawei Creek and the consequent popularity of destinations further afield the Hills were almost forgotten and for many years none but a few enthusiasts (who said little or nothing about it) ever paid them a visit. Since I have no doubt that such a few did actually exist I can claim no particular originality for reviving public interest in the Hills, but the fact remains that lured on by a sight of the Hills from the top of a Bund buildig, I did set out to establish something of a record by making the return journey possible in the short hours of daylight afforded by a winter's day. To start not later than 8 a.m. and to return not later than 5 p.m. was my original object and I did actually make the return journey on more than one occasion in eight hours, including about half an hour for lunch on the Hills.