The Shanghai Culture Square precinct (simplified Chinese: 文化广场; traditional Chinese: 文化廣場; pinyin: Wénhuà Guăngchăng) is an area in Shanghai's Luwan District, in the former French Concession of Shanghai, China. The area began as the Canidrome (simplified Chinese: 逸园跑狗场; traditional Chinese: 逸園跑狗場; pinyin: Yíyuán Păogŏuchăng), a stadium structure originally built for greyhound racing in 1928.
The clubhouse and racetrack became a multi-purpose entertainment venue, but became a place for political rallies after the founding of the People's Republic of China and a mass execution facility. Later it became a theatre and exhibition space before it was demolished in 2006. The original Canidrome grandstand was demolished as part of the reconstruction of the precinct to become a park incorporating various cultural venues.
The Canidrome was located on the rue Lafayette, which is today known as Central Fuxing Road. It occupies a large portion of the street block formed by what are today Jianguo Road, Shaanxi Road, Fuxing Road, and Maoming Road.
The English name "Canidrome" is a composition of cani-, dog, and drome, race course. The Chinese name, Yiyuan Paogouchang, means "Yi Garden dog racing track", where "Yi" literally means leisure. The Canidrome has also been labeled the Rendezvous for Shanghai's Elite.
After 1949, greyhound racing, like other forms of gambling, was banned by the Communist party, and the precinct's name was changed to the Shanghai Cultural Plaza.
The stadium was built in 1928 and could seat 50,000 spectators. It was the largest of the three stadiums built at the time to house animal racing. It was largely financed by Henry E. Morris, Jr., proprietor of the North China Daily News.
The Canidrome also served as a sporting venue. On March 15, 1941 a soccer game between the Shanghai Municipal Police and the Chinese team turned into a riot in the Canidrome, and cause 20,000 Chinese spectators to flood the field. As many as 30 people were injured in the game riot.
Mass execution facility
The People's Liberation Army marched into Shanghai in May 1949. Public trial meetings held in the Canidrome was referred to as "The Shanghai Enlarged Joint Meeting of People's Representatives' Conference". The Canidrome and the separate Shanghai Race Course were places where mass executions took place in the hands of the Communist Party, killing hundreds each day.
The city police, helped by Communist political police, in a single night arrested an estimated 24,000 Chinese, and dragged them off to concentration camps in Shanghai's outskirts. Among the arrested were former Kuomintang officials, school-teachers, Christian churchmen, non-Communist union leaders, property owners, newspaper workers, factory managers, and students. The executions were selected by a committee of 24 Communist-appointed "civic leaders". The Xinhua News Agency reported that Shanghai high-school students marched beside the prisoners on their way to execution beating gongs and drums, and chanting: "Kill nice! Kill them well! Kill all of them!". At the time 10,000 people gathered and demanded the death of the accused in a unanimous roar.
After banning greyhound racing and other forms of gambling, the Communist government re-constructed the Canidrome. Additional buildings gradually turned the entire race-course into an indoor venue. The existing grandstand, including its auditorium, was retained. During the Cultural Revolution, the Cultural Plaza became a venue for public meetings, where Red Guards and other agitators denounced "class enemies" and figures of authority.
For the 20 years after the end of the Cultural Revolution, the Cultural Plaza served a number of purposes. Its auditorium was used as performance space for films and theatre. It was also used as a conference venue, often housing political conferences and meetings. Beginning from the 1980s, the Shanghai Municipal Government began discussing the redevelopment of the Cultural Plaza precinct. Decades of neglect had left the buildings in the precinct in need of repair. Construction in the precinct since 1949 had lacked overall planning. Its former role as a space for political meetings had diminished in significance, while its role as a performance space had been superseded by newer or better facilities.
The large, covered space built over the former Canidrome also served as a versatile exhibition space. In 1997, this area became the location of the Shanghai Flower Market.
In 2003, a series of international design competitions were held. A plan was adopted to rebuild the precinct as a park. Certain elements of the original structures will be retained, including the long-span space frame structure over the auditorium, which was, at the time of its construction, the longest such span in the Far East.
The original grandstand, along with most of the other structures in the precinct, was demolished in 2005.
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