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Cycling in Shanghai

Feb 8, 2021 | JMW News

Dear Madam, how are you doing – alone in the exhibition about Little Vienna in Shanghai? I’m really happy that the museum will be open again on February 8th! I was getting really bored…

Dear Victoria Blitz, thank you very much for getting back in touch. I was afraid you would think that a conversation between a bicycle and a rickshaw didn’t make any sense? I’m bored, too. But I could have done worse. I really took advantage of the museum’s closure due to corona.

Image © JMW

What do you mean?

Well, I rode around the exhibition! What did you think?

You had it a little better than I did, because I hang under the glass construction and am firmly mounted so that I don’t fall. I can see the sky, but I can’t ride around.

Then what if I tell you about Shanghai?

Oh, yes…

In Shanghai people not only rode rickshaws, but bicycles as well.


Why not? The bikes in Shanghai had license plates and there were separate parking spaces.

That’s very reasonable!

Image © JMW

Indeed. A bicycle rider’s license from 1944 can be seen in the exhibition. For example, it says that only one person can ride it. Boxes or crates may not be transported with it. The bike has a number, like a license plate, and you are not allowed to paint your private bike the same color as the rental bikes. At night you need a bright white light in front and a red light in the back.

Come on…!

Yes, yes, and the whole thing cost thirty-five dollars the first time and each extension, valid for only half a year, was five dollars. You had to pay six dollars for the license plate, and this rider’s license always had to be shown together with the registration form.


Yes. And besides that, you were not allowed to use the wheel for advertising or written propaganda.

Well, if there is nothing else…

All in all, you had 18 points to observe.

I’m just wondering whether Theodor Herzl also had such a rider’s license? I don’t think so.

Who knows? Nothing is impossible.

But how is it possible that the museum can issue a bicycle license?

Good question. This document belonged to Hans Jabloner, whose wife Jutta Jabloner lent the museum many documents, photos and other objects for the exhibition. Jutta and Hans got married in Shanghai. The Chinese marriage certificate is also on display. And there are ducks on it.


They are mandarin ducks. The only species of ducks that stay together as couples for life. There really isn’t a better lucky animal for a marriage contract, right?

What did the Jabloners do in Shanghai? Besides get married and ride bicycles?

Image © JMW

Hans Jabloner opened a restaurant in his exile, the “Fiaker”.

It doesn’t get more Viennese than that.

No doubt, because the best Sacher torte outside of Vienna was served there.

Really? The Viennese in China were pretty inventive.

Absolutely! There wasn’t just the “Fiaker.” In “Little Vienna,” which only comprised a few streets in Hongkew, there were cafés, restaurants, but also tailor shops or button shops that advertised with Viennese quality.

The Viennese brought their Vienna to Shanghai. Or at least the feeling of it. Or the taste.

Of Sacher torte. It’s a real pity that Hans wasn’t allowed to attach any advertising on his bike…

Image © JMW

(Author´s note: A shared picture of the bicycle license on social media served as inspiration for this text.)

Cover image © Rahel Engelberg / Ouriel Morgensztern