Shanghai Street Names in the French Concession

Fuxing Lu (复兴路), Jiangguo Lu (建国路), Xinguo Lu (兴国路). For a long time they were just proper names for streets. But like all nearly all Chinese proper nouns, they actually have a meaning if taken word for word. So what do they all mean?

The streets listed above (Fuxing, Jiangguo and Xinguo) are all in Xuhui District (徐汇区) and Luwan District (卢湾区) which contain the old French Concession. The area is full of leafy trees that form canopies over the streets and old 1900s homes among hip cafés. If you look at historical maps, most of the streets around there have old French names.

The modern Chinese names tell a whole different story:

  • Xingguo – Xing means to flourish, Guo means country/nation; thus “Flourishing Nation Road”
  • Fuxing – Fu means again or to recover, Xing means to flourish; thus “Recover Road” or maybe “Flourishing Recovery Road”
  • Jiangguo – Jiang means building or creating, Guo means country/nation; thus, “Building Nation Road”

Given that all these streets run near each other, it’s a pretty interesting mix of history and communist revisionism to see in action. Roads like Fuxing Lu and Xingguo Lu either intersect or are parallel (can’t remember) which leads to funny translated names like “meet me at café at Flourishing Nation Road and Recovery Road.”

update 12 nov 06: my friend informs me that some of the names might not necessarily be communist, they may be from when the foreigners were kicked out of China in the 1920s.