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School life | French pupils explore the history of Xuhui

30 May 2018
Years 10 and 12 French pupils went on a discovery tour of Xujiahui recently. You might wonder, what Xujiahui has to do with France. The answer is plenty. Without French Jesuits, Shanghai’s Xuhui would actually look very different. The pupils set out to learn about the French origins of Xuhui. We started in the metro station where they were given directions in French on where to head first. Following a map and French directions, they successfully made their way to the first location, Guangqi park, where the tomb of Paul Xu (Xu from Xujiahui) lays. Paul Xu (the first Chinese person to convert to Catholicism) gave land to the Catholic church and this is when the French Jesuits came in. They built Saint Ignatius cathedral, now known as Xujiahui Cathedral. This was our second stop. Next to the Cathedral is the current meteorological bureau of Shanghai, which is the actual birth place of modern astronomy, established by the French Jesuits. This was our third stop. A little further south, the library is standing, as if frozen in time with its closed shutters. It was initiated in 1847 and was an influential institution for the whole of Asia. We went inside but could not get access to the floor where ancient French newspapers from Shanghai are held. However, we got to see a picture of Xujiahui in the 1930s. Our next stop was Metro City. Rather modern place, isn’t it? A result of the real estate craze. However, it used to be a French nuns’ convent and orphanage. Not much is left to be seen. It provided us, however, with a nice view of all the previous places we visited. We finished our tour by walking in front of Lycée Xuhui: the first international school in China, also constructed by the French Jesuits. The pupils worked on their listening skills as all of the expedition’s explanations were given in French; on their reading skills when following directions; and on their speaking skills, as we stopped for lunch in a French restaurant where they had to order for themselves. Madeline Lamour French teacher