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The Marshall House / Taiyuan Guest House, 160 Taiyuan Lu

The Marshall House / Taiyuan Guest House, 160 Taiyuan Lu.

Americans call this lovely old villa the Marshall House because General George Marshall stayed there from 1946 to 1949 when he was trying to negotiate a peace settlement between the KMT and the Communists (needless to say he did not succeed). His bedroom and office are still there on the second floor and most of the furniture is the original, although there have been modifications, most especially in the state-of-the-art bathroom. This may well have been done for Mme. Mao who sometimes stayed there. And of course because she did you will find an air-raid shelter on the grounds, in this case under the bamboo pavilion by the side entrance.

The mansion is of brick and in the typical mansard-roofed style that can be found all over France. Even the white wrought-iron stanchions which held up the awnings feature the fleur de lis, as do the hasps that hold the original shutters open. It was built in the early part of the century by a wealthy Frenchman, Monsieur du Pac de Marsoulies, who was in the government of the French Concession, and later lived in by Baron Guillaume of the Belgian Consulate.

Certainly they had money; the villa is a monument, not just to gracious but to luxurious living. The entry foyer is paved in carrera marble and the paneling throughout the ground floor is teak, with an elaborate teak railing at ceiling level, presumably for hanging the Gobelin tapestries. There is a coat of arms (duPdeM's?) on the cast iron fire screen in the gigantic fireplace in the front hallway.

You will dine in the original dining room, also with fireplace of course, and with the added feature of a sliding door formed from an antique Coromandel screen. On the other side is the drawing room, where you can lounge after dining. Or walk up the curving staircase, where if you are lucky they will let you see General Marshall's bedroom. This is a guest house so his suite can be rented (for about US$300 a night, as I recall), as can others on that floor. The more modest ones, up a separate staircase to the left of the curving one, can be rented for considerably less.

A walk around the outside of the house reveals its many marvelous architectural details, or you may be drawn to the original coal-fired furnace in the back building. It looks like the boiler-room of the S.S. Queen Mary and appears to still call for stokers. Most notable, and regrettable, is the ugly square brick addition next to the round turret on the back of the mansion. This houses the shaft for an elevator, I assume installed when Mme. Mao stayed there.

Other than that unlovely addition, the house remains remarkably unchanged and is a lovely place to dine or, better yet, to hold a garden party on the front lawn. As I one night attended such a party, sipping champagne by the light of a full moon which illuminated the mansion's lovely facade, I thought of all the many Westerners who had been doing the same for seventy years in the same spot. As David Selznick would have said, it was deja vu all over again.