Foreign ghosts, lost and found

Shanghai Star. 2001-04-05

VERA Dorothy Griffiths was only two years old when her British father died in 1934 in Shanghai. She clearly remembered her Belarussian mother buried her father in Hongqiao Cemetery in the west part of the city, helped by her father's friends.

Griffiths, her mother and brother were jailed in a Japanese concentration camp for three years between 1942 and 1945. They left Shanghai in 1948. After living in Hong Kong for four years, they moved to Australia in 1952.

After more than half a century, Griffiths came back to Shanghai last month to track her roots including her father's tomb. But where is it?

In the mid 1840s, foreigners built a cemetery on Shandong Lu for foreign sailors and some Chinese sailors working on board foreign ships. After liberation, the church and cemetery were torn down and a stadium was built on it in the 1980s. Now the Huangpu District Stadium stands at the site.

The small garden located at the crossroad of Wusheng Lu and Huangpi Beilu once served as a cemetery for Jewish stablemen from the race track. Today's Jing'an Park and Huaihai Park were all foreign cemeteries.

And in Lujiazui in Pudong there was a cemetery for foreign sailors, which was built in 1860. After liberation it was turned into Pudong Park, now merged into the large Pearl Park near the TV tower.

In 1926, foreigners built two cemetries near Hongqiao Lu and Panyu Lu (formerly known as Columbia Road), the larger one in the west was called Hongqiao Cemetery and the smaller one in the east was called Columbia Road Cemetery, which was for the Jewish people.

In 1945, the two cemetries were merged into one called Hongqiao Cemetery. After the liberation, the cemetery was abandoned and two factories were built on the two sites of the cemetery.

The only remaining cemetery in Shanghai is today's Soong Ching-ling Mausoleum, formerly the International Cemetery originally built by a Chinese man from Zhejiang Province in 1909.

Located on Hongqiao Lu in western part of the city, the cemetery was open to people of all nationalities.

Since the cemeteries in downtown Shanghai were overcrowded, many foreigners scrambled to own a piece of land at the cemetry. The cemetry was later expanded to 123 mu (8.2 hectares).

After liberation, cemeteries in the downtown were wiped out to make room for factories and parks and some foreign tombs were moved to the former international cemetery.

During the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), red guards destroyed almost all tombs. Factories and warehouses were built on the cemetery. Finally Premier Zhou Enlai interfered and sent troops to the cemetery to protect Madame Soong Ching-ling's parents' tombs.

In 1981, Madame Soong Ching-ling's ashes were buried in the cemetery, next to the graves of her parents, according to her final wishes. The cemetery was thus called Soong Ching-ling Mausoleum.

Griffiths finally tracked down the Hongqiao Cemetery, which is now the small Panyu Park in Changning District. A factory built on the site of the cemetry was torn down to make this small park.

She later learnt that some foreign tombs in downtown cemetries were moved to Soong Ching-ling Mausoleum.

And so she went there, after checking through many tomb stones, Griffiths still failed to find her father's name.

"But I have no regrets now," said Griffiths. "After so many years and changes, many old things would be inevitably lost. This is the passage of time."

(By Crystal Zou)

Copyright by Shanghai Star.