Moganshan: Is This the Hamptons of China?

Most major cities have an exclusive summer escape for those with the cash to head for the hills. New York has The Hamptons; Spain, Marbella; France, St.-Tropez; and China. . . Moganshan. Part of China’s Moganshan National Park, about 2.5 hours by private car southwest of Shanghai, the lush mountain has long been the stomping ground of high-profile politicians (a list that once included Chairman Mao), foreign missionaries, Chinese gangsters, and well-heeled expats.

Thanks to its elite clientele and countryside appeal, the area has been dubbed the “Hamptons of China,” though visitors will have to trade a sandy coastline for rolling tea plantations and restored 19th-century mansions. Even without the beaches of Long Island, the draw is clear: It’s the kind of place where you can wander through tea plantations by day and sip French wines in a private cellar late into the evening.

After a busy visit to Shanghai, where temperatures hover around 90 degrees in the summer, Moganshan provides cool mountain air and a blissfully wide-open itinerary. Here’s how to make the most of it.

What to Know

As early as the 1800s, Moganshan was a booming summer hot spot for wealthy Shanghai residents seeking refuge from the city swelter. Over the next century, visitors built more than 300 European-style stone mansions among the hills, where a thriving community included all the necessities of the time: churches, tennis courts, banks, bookstores, bakeries, and swimming pools.

“It was a huge community of very influential people. You had all the political leaders, businessmen, religious people—all gathered together on the top of the mountain,” explains Christophe Peres, architect and owner of Le Passage Mohkan Shan hotel, who also contributes to the area’s archival research.

During World War II, however, Moganshan lost its luster. A U.S. and British ally, China used the area as a refugee camp (at one time housing more than 6,000 refugees) and the hillside was subsequently bombed by the Japanese. Following the war, the Communist party took control of the land and, still today, manages dozens of the remaining villas.

Since then, the area has largely stayed off the radar of most international jet-setters. But in the past five years, Moganshan has begun a slow ascent to its former glory days with new generation of boutique hotels and lodges popping up across the hillside.

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