A corner of Lu Kang’s “Shanghai Drawing Room”
By Gu Li
Calligraphies and paintings of celebrities, Shanghai-style antique furniture, Han-brick ink-stones, ancient pottery fous (a kind of wine vessel with big belly and small mouth), Taihu-Lake rocks and stone-carving statues – you can find them all in the elegant “drawing room” lately opened at the first floor of Shanghai Mansion. Lu Kang, a famous calligrapher and seal-carving artist as well as the eldest grandson of Lu Dan’an known as the “Giant of South Society”, established this so-called “Shanghai Drawing Room” Studio. He said, the drawing-room culture epitomized the Shanghai-style cultures and was also injected into fresh spirits of the time.
Nostalgia urges the traveler to return to Hongkou.
“I was born in Hongkou and have a special feeling of this land. I would spend about ten minutes strolling from Shanghai Mansion to Liyang Road and can recognize every view, even every rubble, along the street.” Lu Kang said. Back to over 50 years ago, plenty of cultural celebrities used to dwell on Yiyang Road including Lu Dan’an, Lu Kang’s grandfather. No. 1219, Liyang Road, mentioned by Lu Kang repeatedly, is where he was born and his first memories of this world happened.
He said, the drawing room was a fantasy to him as a child, because it was the most gorgeous room inside the garden villa, where accommodated volumes of calligraphies and paintings, piano, fashionable phonograph and western-style sofa. It was as well mysterious to him, since the doors would remain closed when no one was visiting, and children weren’t allowed inside when guests arrived. Thus, naughty boy as Lu Kang was, he would press his body against the French window in the garden, watching adults’ lips moving when talking. Not until he got older did he realize that the guests his grandpa received there were all cultural celebrities back then, including writers of the Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies School like Yan Duhe and Cheng Xiaoqing. For this reason, since young, Lu Kang always has the belief that a fancy drawing room must be provided to receive guests, and the one at No. 1219, Liyang Road is his prototype of the furnishing.
In 1980, as Lu Dan’an died of illness, Lu Kang left for Macao on his own in search of new space for artistic development. The “Drawing-room Culture” was nowhere to be found in Hong Kong and Macao, which prompted him to reshape his childhood dream of a fancy drawing room. After 37 years, now he finally realized his dream by settling his “Shanghai Drawing Room” Studio in Shanghai Mansion, Hongkou.
Cultural Celebrities gather in the Shanghai-style drawing room.
Settled in the first floor of Shanghai Mansion, this studio isn’t large in size but favorable in style. It accommodates elegant Shanghai-style antique furniture, Han-brick ink-stones, ancient pottery fous, Taihu-Lake rocks, stone-carving statues and phonograph etc., each of which reflects his revivification of the past but not blindly imitating the antique. In this small room, you can see furnishings of the modern time, smacking of both western and classic tones, passing on the Old-Shanghai flavor as well as the Hongkou culture of the last century.
On the spot, it was seen that cultural celebrities arrived on invitation and were talking, filling the limited space with cultural glamour. The “Drawing-room Culture” implies that friends and guests sit together in a delicate room filled with cultural vibe, looking back on old days, indulging themselves at the present and looking into the future.
It is learnt that, at the present, the studio mainly serves as Mr. Lu’s reception room in the Bund, where they can talk about literature and arts, drink wine and tea, appreciate paintings, practice calligraphy and meet other literati. It will also welcome whoever comes out of admiration with open arms. “In the past, no landline or cell phone was available in houses, so once guests arrived, they would devote themselves in talking with me about the past, present and future. I hope my studio could reproduce the culture back then.” Lu Kang said.