If you’re looking for a quiet day away from Shanghai’s glass, steel, concrete and flesh-filled urban jungle, Longhua might be just the place to head to.
There’s the temple which, along with its historic pagoda, is worth a visit in its own right.
Just next to it is the place we’re talking about in this post. The Longhua Martyrs’ Memorial Park. It goes by a few names, which I guess depend on how you translate the original Chinese.
Longhua Memorial Park of Revolutionary Martyrs is one. As is Longhua Martyrs’ Memorial Cemetery. And Longhua Revolutionary Martyr’s Cemetary. I’m sure you get the picture.
Speaking of which, let’s get some pictures. Shot on a roll of Agfa Vista Plus 200 in a Yashica Electro 35 GSN, no less.
What and where is Longhua Martyrs’ Memorial Park?
Longhua Martyrs’ Memorial Park is a good place to go to soak up some history in a city that seems firmly pointed at the future.
From to 1928 to 1937, it was the site of a Kuomintang (KMT) prison and execution area during the Civil War with the Communist Party of China (CPC). The KMT would eventually lose and head to Taiwan, with the CPC taking over the mainland.
Longhua was then used as an internment camp by the Japanese during their occupation of Shanghai, as described through historical fiction in the Empire of the Sun novel and subsequent film. Once that chapter was over, it became a prison run by the now-ruling CPC.
It opened as a public park in 1995. Much of the tone, from the communist-style statues to the name of the park itself, is set by the KMT years, although there are memorials to those who died at other times too.
The nearest subway station to Longhua Martyrs’ Memorial Park and the temple next door is, unsurprisingly, the one on lines 11 and 12 called Longhua. If line 3 is more convenient for you, the walk from Longcao Road station is only around ten minutes.
Communist statues in Longhua Martyrs’ Park
If you’re interested in communist imagery, Longhua is one of the best places to get your fix in Shanghai. Another spot would be the Propaganda Poster Art Centre, which is also well worth a visit.
Regardless, the park is filled with defiant, victorious, unrealistically muscular Soviet-style sculptures depicting various themes and events from Shanghai’s past.
The one just above – the Unknown Martyr – is to me the most striking. Others commemorate specific incidents in history, with that first one posted called Liberating Shanghai.
Other stuff at Longhua Memorial Park
Longhua has a few other things to see and reasons to go aside from the statues.
There’s a museum inside the glass pyramid full of stories, artefacts and displays that further show some of the history of the place.
Nearby are rows of tombstones with the names and faces of some people who died there. Whether the bodies lay beneath, I don’t know.
A tunnel behind the museum takes you to a secluded execution ground where the remains of 24 people were found in 1950. They were said to have been killed in 1931 and buried in a mass grave. Another sombre sculpture marks the site although I didn’t take any photographs of it for this post.
There’s also a rebuilt prison block, showing you the conditions people were kept in.
Despite the dark history of everything mentioned above, Longhua is still a park, and Chinese people do love going to them. This means you’ll see people exercising, taking a lunch break, or generally chilling out there just like at any other green space in Shanghai.
None of the others I’ve been to seem as peaceful as this one, though. There’s no loud chatter, no grannies dancing to loud folk music, and no mobile karaoke going on.
People seem to respect the place for what it is, making it a good respite from the bustle of the city whether you care for its history or not.
Catching a parade at Longhua Memorial park
I’ve been to Longhua Memorial Park on numerous occasions but it was only on the last one I saw any uniformed people doing a parade. Whether it was for a certain day or it happens often at a certain time of day, I don’t know.
They did a kind of ceremony at the monument in front of the glass pyramid before going through some sort of inspection, which didn’t seem very serious. They were all laughing at one point – including the guy in charge – when a chant got messed up.
After dispersing they went on some sort of patrol, checking the park for bad guys or something. Again though, it was all very ceremonial and not the most rigorous activity I’ve ever seen from a squad of people in military dress.
Photographing security people or the police in China isn’t particularly recommended and it was only when I saw other people doing so with their phones that I did too. But maybe that’s more applicable at more sensitive sites or at more sensitive times.
These guys definitely saw me and definitely didn’t care.
Wrapping up from Longhua Martyrs’ Park
I’ve been wanting to do a sister article for the Longhua temple one ever since I published it.
There are a couple of reasons I never got around to it. First was that I was busy with the #leesixtyfive project.
Second was that I like making photographs with people in them. The idea of shooting a bunch of statues just wasn’t that inspiring. Not with a digital camera, anyway.
It wasn’t the best day, weatherwise. But then again the overcast skies meant I wasn’t ever really shooting into the sun, which would have been annoying if that was the best angle to capture a sculpture.
For Longhua, I’ll wrap up with this. If you’re in Shanghai and want to learn about some local history first hand, are into communist imagery, or would like to find one of the most peaceful spots in the city, maybe give this park and neighbouring temple a go.
And if you’re interested in the Agfa Vista Plus 200 I shot these photographs on, you can read a full review of it here or pick some up yourself from Amazon, from eBay, and possibly Analogue Wonderland too. 🙂
… p.s. if you’ve enjoyed this post from Longhua and think others will too, why not share or pin it?