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Moller Villa, the legend and the reality
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During the Pacific War, the house was occupied by the Japanese. Later, it housed a Kuomintang espionage agency.

However, a picture in the villa hotel shows Eric Moller and his employees in a peaceful gathering in front of the Fairytale House in 1947, which left me puzzled.

A picture in the villa hotel shows Eric Moller and his employees in a peaceful gathering in front of the Fairytale House in 1947. [Photo by Wang Zhiyong/China.org.cn]

Moller left Shanghai in 1950 soon after the communists came to power. A few years later on a flight to Singapore, as his daughter Nancy watched and waited for him at Singapore's Kallang Airport, his Qantas plane crashed on landing, killing Eric Moller and 32 other passengers.

According to Johnston, his elder sons Eric Jr and Ralph took over their father's business after he died. The interest in horses continued in the next generation, and they owned a successful stud farm, White Lodge Stud, in Newmarket in England.

For more than half a century, the Moller Mansion served as the headquarters of the Communist Youth League Shanghai Branch.

In 1989, the Villa was listed as one of Shanghai's protected historical buildings.

In 2001, the local Hengshan Group took it over and restored the original mansion, added several garish imitation buildings in the back, and reopened it all as a hotel in May 2002.

One of several garish imitation buildings added in the back in 2001. [Photo by Wang Zhiyong/China.org.cn]

According to an office employee who once worked here with the Communist Youth League, Moller's daughter visited the house twice after China's opening up. She was refused entry on the first occasion and was only able to take a walk in the garden, but she was allowed into the house on the second visit. It was said that she wept in her own bedroom on seeing that everything had been preserved as it was. But she never again returned to the house.

In 2006, the hotel was ostensibly "closed for repairs" while in fact being used as the headquarters of a corruption investigation into Shanghai's top official, Party Secretary Chen Liangyu. It was said that the fairyland villa turned into a nightmare for many corrupt officials who thought that they had been invited there for a "cup of coffee". The villa hotel did not reopen to guests until April 2009.

History never comes to a stop, and dreams never end.

(China.org.cn May 20, 2009)

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