The first foreigners to explore Moganshan were botanists and ornithologists who arrived in the 1850’s on a hunt for exotic new species. They were lead by Father Armand David, a French priest and naturalist explorer.
Thirty years later, foreigners started to build a small village of stone houses in Moganshan as a refuge from Shanghai’s swampy summers. There was no air conditioning at the time, and many of the streets we drive today were canals or small rivers. Mosquito related diseases were rampant and particularly life threatening to small children. It became a priority for foreign families to escape the city during the steamy summer months.
Soon, summer visitors established the Moganshan Summer Resort Association and began administrating a hill station. They built a church, a swimming pool and tennis courts. At its height, the mountain resort hosted more than 300 foreigners during their summer respite. By the 1930’s Moganshan had become a popular playground for a colourful list of guests that spanned Shanghai’s unique social mix: European businessmen and government officials, notorious gangsters, Japanese Imperial Army officers, White Russians, Chinese KMT leaders, and later the new Communist Party leadership, including Chairman Mao Zedong. In the 1950’s, the Communist Party used Moganshan as a sanatorium and a summer retreat.
Beyond its beautiful bamboo forests and groomed tea plantations, Moganshan still retains much of its yesteryear charm, as seen in the historic stone houses that dot the hills.