In 1914, following Japan’s declaration of war on Germany – Japan was part of the Allies in World War I – the Empire of the Rising Sun occupied the former German colony of Tsingtao.
It would rule the city twice – the first time from 1914 to 1922, following which the city was returned to the Chinese Nationalist Government under Sun Yat Sen. The city was occupied by the Japanese again, however, in 1938; and the second occupation would last till 1945 – following the end of World War II.
The Japanese built an entirely new city north of the coast-hugging German city. They retained most of the original German architecture in the Old Town, inserting only a few pieces of architecture here and there – one example being the Concert Hall on the waterfront.
But their New City they built in the image of other colonies like Dairen and Keijo (Seoul). Along the main street were erected dozens of monumental buildings – many of which were local headquarters of major bank and trading corporations like the Chartered Bank of India, China and Australia (today’s Standard Chartered Bank), the Yokohama Specie Bank and the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank. Amidst these banks stood the imposing Tsingtao (Japanese) Stock Exchange.
Today, this New City has been re-appropriated by the city authorities, immaculately restored and misleadingly re-named the “German Culture Town.” Most of the buildings still stand, with many having been converted into residential condominiums; though it is unclear whether or not the German flourishes along the street are authentic or latter-day additions.
In the middle of it all, the Tsingtao Exchange stands dark and mute – one of the few buildings yet to be restored. It houses a squatter colony today, but one can only hope that a new lease of life is nigh.