Blood Alley

One of the most notorious places in the Shanghai of the 1930s was Blood Alley, an area filled with low bars, dives and brothels much frequented by the many foreign soldiers and sailors stationed in Shanghai, or on temporary shore leave from the warships anchored out in the Whangpu River. The times demanded of these people outrageous alcohol consumption and engagement in ferocious arguments and fights, which made the place famous.

An excerpt from Sin City, by Ralph Shaw, a British journalist who lived in Shanghai between 1937 and 1949:

"Blood Alley, or to give it its proper title, Rue Chu Pao-san, was a short street off Avenue Edward VII - a thoroughfare entirely dedicated to wine, women, song and all-night lechery. The only business of Blood Alley was the easy pickings to be had from the drunks, the sailors, soldiers and cosmopolitan civilians, who lurched there in search of the joys to come from the legion of Chinese, Korean, Annamite, Russian Eurasian, Filipino and Formosan women who worked the district. Here were the Palais Cabaret, the 'Frisco, Mumms, the Crystal, George's Bar, Monk's Brass Rail, the New Ritz and half a dozen others - opened in the case of the cabarets around 6 p.m. daily and closed, depending on the staying power of the customers, any time after 8.30 a.m. the following day.

In midsummer, when swing-doors were left open in the Turkish bath heat, the cacophony of wafting saxophones and strident trumpets thumping out the hits of the day in discordant competition gave no pleasure to music-lovers but, inside the dives, kilted Seaforth Highlanders, tall U.S. Navy men, the seamen from the Liverpool tramps, the French, Savoia Grenadiers, had ears only for the girls clinging to them in the half light of dance-floor alcoves: 'Darlink, buy me one drink, please.'

Most of the Blood Alley girls, the lowest caste in Shanghai's cabaret society, lived mostly in the French Concession, usually alone in single rooms of terraced houses in the densely populated side-streets. Many of them clustered around Avenue Joffre, with its trains and buses, its European-style shops, its restaurants, bars, cinemas and its thronged sidewalks."