Behind the Hankow Bund lies a wealth of Concession-era architecture, surprisingly well-preserved and many still functioning as their (close-to-) original purpose.
As per the Bund, the documentation is poor and many of the buildings are not marked out; even if they were, the names of the buildings are in Chinese and it is almost impossible to make out what they may have been in their original languages.
The following provides a glimpse into the different architectural styles in the five former concession areas – the British, Russian, French, German and Japanese. There are simply too many buildings to photograph, and these images suggest the wealth of heritage still standing.
The Former British Concession
The British Concession area is the best preserved, with an amazing wealth of monumental, commercial and shophouse architecture.
Two major thoroughfares that one must walk down are Jianghan Road – equivalent to Nanking Road in Shanghai; and today’s Sun Yat Sen Road, which marks the western boundary of the British Concession.
The Former Russian Concession
The Russian Concession begins at the Hankow Orthodox Church – which was, unfortunately being renovated at the time of my visit. It is known for its squares, one of which features here.
The Former French Concession
French Concession architecture is a little more elaborate than the British, but somewhat less monumental. Villas dominate. A key landmark is the YMCA Building.
The Former German Concession
The German Concession was the first to be returned to the Chinese, and as such it has the least number of heritage buildings still remaining. That said, look closely, and one may still find the silhouette of a former villa, or even actual villas still standing, behind the commercial facades.
The Former Japanese Concession
Finally, the Japanese Concession, like Japan itself, has a quaint, other-worldly atmosphere. Streets are lined with plane trees and pretty, almost-European storybook villas. The occasional traditional Japanese roof appears. Blink and you miss it.