Author Topic: The C.U.A. Café tokens  (Read 1274 times)

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Offline KONDi

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The C.U.A. Café tokens
« on: September 22, 2015, 05:40:42 AM »
Dear all,

Before we will talk about the history of C.U.A. cafe. We should focus what do those 3 letters stand for. The C.U.A. means The China United Assurance. The C.U.A. was the first Chinese life insurance company. It was established by Lu Yuequan in 1911 and opened at No.30 on the Bund in Shanghai.

Lu was started his adventure with this industry when his uncle got him a job as a errand boy for a British family, whose father was a manager with a British insurance company. After the father failed to find a suitable applicant for a position in his firm he offered Lu a chance and the young man accepted it quickly. He began selling insurance to the Chinese and his hard work and patience began to pay off. As well as running and expanding the business Lu ensured that proper training systems for insurance professionals were established. When the China United Assurance Society was established, Chinese insurance companies were famous for their chaotic management and ignorance of the insurance business. Lu hired two former colleagues from the British company he used to work for and sent them assistants who were willing to learn. The assistants became managers themselves and went on to train others. Lu also worked with universities and colleges to encourage them to offer appropriate courses for insurance professionals.

By 1919, the China United Assurance Society earned 1 million silver dollars.
Lu invested in land and property, spending more than 500,000 silver dollars on a 6,667-square-meter section on No.104 Bubbling Well Road and in 1922 and he spent another 700,000 silver dollars constructing a splendid nine-story building, a head office for his company.

The China United Assurance Building (also called The China United Assurance Apartments) was a luxury apartment complex designed by American architect---Elliott Hazzard and built in 1926.The China United Assurance building was located at Bubbling Well Road 104 as I mentioned previous paragraph (on today's No.108 West Nanjing Road).

...and The Bubbling Well Road was a center of activity for the Fourth Marines. There are still stretches of this road that Marines of the regiment would recognize.

On the ground floor of the China United Assurance Building was placed C.U.A. Café (1930-1938).

In 1934 the C.U.A. Café (also known as Snow Garden Café) was advertised in the "Walla Walla" (The Magazine of the 4th Marines) as "The Cosiest Bar in Shangai".

According to Shanghai Directory from 1937, the manager was A.J.Hughes.
The C.U.A. Café issued a set of 3 nickel-plated brass tokens:

- 2 jiao (20 cents, not written on the obverse) with image of a snowflake and words "C.U.A. Cafe No Cash Value 2 jiao (written in Chinese) and on the reverse there is image of 2 fish and 2 Chinese characters which mean "Snow Garden" or "Snow Park".

- 15 cents, with image of a snowflake and words "C.U.A. Cafe No Cash Value 15c and the reverse is the same what on 2 jiao token.

- 5 cents, with image of a snowflake and words "C.U.A. Cafe No Cash Value 5c and the reverse is the same what on 15c and 2 jiao token.

In C.U.A. Café there were only a few dishes, so business was very poor in the early morning use of empty seats selling tea. People came for a tea talk, play bridge and read poetry.

The China United Assurance Building provided tastefully furnished homelike apartments at daily or monthly rates.

According to Helen Foster Snow, who came to Shanghai in 1931 at the age of 23, the apartment, which cost 50 USD a month with food, came completely serviced.

 "I have a room-boy who answers the buzzer and runs any errands, at all hours of the day or night. Then there is a ‘coolie’ who keeps my room in apple-pie order. ..I have an amah also, a missy amah. A missy amah is a personal maid. She comes once a week….and takes complete charge of my wardrobe – darns my hose, washes everything that looks the least bit eligible, presses everything in the place, and keeps the drawers of my furniture most orderly. I haven’t yet learned her filing system, which is a bit distressing in case of having to dress – which occurs three or four times a day...Then I have a massage amah...I have her come almost every night, because I am so tired and nervous that she helps a lot."

From 1931 to 1939 Lu's business suffered, when Japanese military incursions ravaged China. He refused to cooperate with the Japanese and his business never recovered. Lu had to sell his own property to pay his workers.

In 1940 the China United Assurance Apartments transformed into the Pacific Hotel and it remained till now.

The Shanghai Pacific Hotel (1940). This classic Italian-style hotel is a bit run-down but still has a stunning Art Deco lobby of coffered ceilings and carved columns.

In 1953 he died of illness in Hong Kong - but not before he had signed his business over to the city government. In 1954, the government completed the deal and discovered that the China United Assurance Society still held 8,500 active household policies.

After the liberation of China, Shanghai's insurance business developed anew but it was suspended during the Great Leap Forward (1958-61) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).

Today Shanghai's Lujiazui is the center of the city's insurance industry.
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