The ‘village’ of Moganshan, as it stands today, was first created in 1898 by a group of foreigners looking for an escape from the heat of Shanghai summers.

The mountain, of course, has been standing much longer.

Legend has it that a swordsmith, Gan Jiang, came to the mountain at the end of the Spring and Autumn Period (722-481 BC) to forge and temper a pair of special swords in a stream that runs from one of the many clear mountain springs. Gan’s wife was called Mo Ye. Hence Moganshan, and the main village’s tourist attraction, the Sword Pond. More recent legend describes Emperors of the Southern Song Dynasty (AD 1127-1279), which was based in nearby Hangzhou, making hunting trips to the mountain and no doubt refreshing themselves with the same spring water.

There are other legends too, of buried treasure, baddies getting struck by thunderbolts that cleft rocks in two, hence Weird Stone Corner, another local attraction, and then there were the foreigners. Missionaries were the first of them, renting rooms and whole houses from locals in the 1880s, in the valleys that run off the mountain. Then the international community of Shanghai got wind of the refreshing breezes and pure spring water of Moganshan. It was just the place they were looking for, healthy and cool, and a darn site closer to Shanghai than Kuling, now Lushan, their main heat retreat, ‘discovered’ only a few years earlier. So they bought it, the top of the mountain that is, for fifty dollars.

The foreigners, both missionaries and businessmen, divided their new acquisition into lots and built houses of wattle and mud. The typhoons made short work of those, so they quarried local stone and used that. Many of the original houses are still standing today.

A Moganshan Summer Resort Association was soon established, which acted in no little way like the Municipal Council that governed Shanghai. Committees were formed, edicts issued and funds raised for important things like a church, tennis courts and a swimming pool. The swimming pool still exists. The tennis courts do too, under a dense tangle of undergrowth. The church is the grand building on the Ridge Road. It is now a carpentry store and workshop.


By 1910 approximately 300 foreigners, mostly Americans and British, had set up summer homes on the hill. A few, very few, stayed here year round. One of those latter was R.J. Felgate, the manager of the local store, who was murdered, probably by his unpaid carpenter in January 1912.He was banged hard on the head and then froze to death or else died of shock. The attackers were some robbers (probably set up by his unpaid carpenter). That was about the only scandal, apart from many minor cases of ‘honeymooning’ couples seeking a secluded liaison away from Shanghai.

Moganshan was most popular with families and children, and missionaries holding their annual conferences. Thanks to the preservation of the sprawling houses, some more like mansions, it is not hard to imagine pinafore clad girls, and boys in shorts and sensible sandals chasing each other across what were once manicured lawns and out into the bamboo. The Shanghai Boy Scouts held regular camps here.

In 1949, for obvious reasons, the foreigners departed, and the village became a Communist Party sanatorium, as it had been for some of the foreigners too. By then a large local population had also formed. In the main they were refugees from Anhui who had fled to the unofficial foreign enclave to escape the civil wars that ravaged China prior to the Liberation. Some of them are still alive and well, and still living here. It is said you can live to be a hundred thanks to the clean air and water of Moganshan.

The new local government dished out the villas to deserving work units from Hangzhou, Shanghai and other cities in the area. The only foreingers who still came to the place were Russian advisors and Albanian students. Large drawing rooms were divided up into bedroom cubicles, cookhouses built over private swimming pools and tennis courts. Model workers and ailing officials passed their days playing cards and walking the paths. Mao Zedong dropped by for an afternoon.

Over the years however, the work units found ways to unwind closer to home and Moganshan fell into disrepair. In the later years of the last century it became a hill top backwater, many of the houses derelict.

 

Today the village is making a comeback, as the new generation of workers rediscover the benefits of peace and quiet, the luxury of leisure time and the convenience of private car ownership. Villas have been restored and turned into guesthouses, and places like the Moganshan Lodge recapture something of the spirit of the village as it once was. You could almost say that Moganshan is living history. So come and live it.