We recently had the pleasure of taking a Gangster Tour of the former French Concession, led by Daniel Newman and Christopher Pegg of Newman Tours. Daniel, a charismatic Brit, spent the entirety of the tour in character as a Cockney hustler, while affable Chris led us to believe he was once in the employ of Chicago’s own Al Capone. They guided us around town pointing out the homes and haunts of their “employers,” the leading members of the infamous Green Gang that ruled Shanghai in the 1930s.
The Green Gang was led by “Big-Eared” Du Yuesheng, a local boy who quickly climbed up the criminal ranks to became one of the most fearsome men in the city. Du’s number two man was “Pockmarked” Huang Jinrong who happened to be the highest ranking detective in the French police and in charge of the anti-opium task force. Huang effectively eliminated the competition so that Du could have a monopoly on the trafficking of the city’s cash crop. They conducted most of their business from a luxurious clubhouse in the Mansion Hotel. The lobby, which doesn’t appear to have changed much, boasts a memorabilia collection from its scandalous past, including Big-Eared Du’s opium pipe.
Du lived in a four-story mansion nearby, which has been repurposed as the Donghu Hotel. Less proud of hosting the activities of a major crime syndicate, this hotel quaintly refers to its prior owner as a “tycoon.” Du lived here until 1949 when he fled to Hong Kong.
Our first stop of the tour was in front of a mansion once coveted by a gangster, but whose owner refused to sell. Demonstrating how said gangster simply killed the owner to take possession of the house, Chris pulled out a fake gun and “shot” a member of our group. This was quite startling to the people walking past, with several jumping out of the way, but we got a kick out of it. Daniel and Chris also showed us how the criminals would pick pockets with chopsticks and encouraged us to practice on each other.
Newman Tours Website: http://www.newmantours.com Gangster Tour Price: 260 RMB for a public tour (about 43 USD)