The Eight Passes Villa District, or Badaguan, is the most beautiful area of Tsingtao city, hands down. A residential district, it was built by the Germans between 1898 – 1914, and then subsequently enhanced and beautified during the Japanese era. It was known for its unique urban design, with eight streets, each named after a historic Chinese Pass (e.g. 嘉峪關 Jiayuguan), and each lined with a different species of evergreen or flowering tree.
Badaguan was home to the many wealthy German and other European magnates in the city; and, particularly during the Japanese era, to White Russians that fled Soviet Russia. During the Republican era, many of the villas became homes to famous Chinese literary or political personalities – and this specific history is assiduously commemorated on the many plaques that adorn the gates of the villas.
In this post, I randomly wander through the eight streets with their eight different tree species, eschewing the history of the individual villas for a more holistic experience of the entire precinct itself. It is a fairytale-like place, affording a rare moment of respite in the midst of China’s urban chaos.
The highlight of the wander is the Granite House 花石樓 – arguably the most important landmark in the District, and built in 1931 by a wealthy (White) Russian magnate. From the tops of the “castle,” one overlooks a small little beach that wouldn’t look out of place on the German North Sea coast; and beyond that beach, the new, shimmering skyline of Qingdao city.
And then one descends back into the quiet, verdant streets with their villas for the rest of the morning.