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China's earliest gourmet powder maker stirs demolition dispute

By Yang Jian (Shanghai Daily)

11:06, October 17, 2012

Tianchu Gourmet Powder Plant's former site on Shunchang Road.
( Wang Rongjiang/Shanghai Daily)

Shanghai cultural heritage authorities are investigating whether a downtown building marked for demolition could be the former factory building of China's earliest gourmet powder manufacturer.

The demolition plan by the city's urban planning body sparked a dispute yesterday after it said the structure under question was not a historical building at all since the former factory had long been removed. But cultural heritage experts insisted the building was simply renovated from the former factory building.

The Aotu Mansion on 330 Shunchang Road in Huangpu District is the former site of the Tianchu Gourmet Powder Plant. The country's first gourmet powder factory built in 1923 broke the monopoly of Japanese gourmet powder, known as ajinomoto, on the Chinese market.

However, the building, as it stands today, along with other structures in the block are to be torn down to make way for office buildings, according to plans publicized by the Bureau of Planning and Land Resources of Huangpu District.

"We confirmed that the area had no historical buildings before making the plan," Liu Lin, director of the planning department of the bureau, said yesterday.

The plant was moved to Beixinjing in Changning District in the 1940s and the building underwent several renovations after 1966, Zhou Lijun, an official with the Cultural Heritage Bureau of Huangpu, told Shanghai Daily. "There are two possibilities - the building has been totally dismantled during the renovations or additional stories were simply added onto the former factory building."

She said it would take a while for the cultural heritage bureau to confirm whether the building still has any historical value. The bureau will ask the planning body to change the plan if it is so, she added.

The planning official, Liu, also promised yesterday that they will wait for final approval from the cultural heritage bureau before tearing down the building. The facade of the five-story structure, spread over 3,000 square meters, is now covered in white mosaic, but some old-style concrete patterns still remain on the doors and eaves of the first and second floors.

Chinese chemists Wu Yunchu and Zhang Yiyun established the Tianchu Gourmet Powder Plant in August 1923 in the wake of a nationwide campaign to boycott Japanese products and with the aim of breaking the domination of Japanese condiments. Its product, Foshou Gourmet Powder, soon became popular across Asia.

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