Moganshan, just two-and-a-half hours west of Shanghai, is a locale of rejuvenated glory. In the early 20th century, the storied hamlet was a summer retreat for VIPs, both foreign and Chinese; Chiang Kai-shek and Soong Mei-ling spent their honeymoon dancing in one of the many manors built on the mountainside. Later on, the homes were seized and redistributed during the rise of the Communist Party, and many were left to wither in neglect. The locale has undergone a rebirth as of late, with restoration projects and new developments bringing back its glamour.
Later on, the homes were seized and redistributed during the rise of the Communist Party, and many were left to wither in neglect. The locale has undergone a rebirth as of late, with restoration projects and new developments bringing back its glamour.
Roughly a decade ago, investors saw potential in reviving the area as a weekend getaway for China’s elite. Despite its proximity to the country’s most populous city, the mountain remained relatively untouched through the decades and the idyllic vistas it offers are as pristine as they were nearly a century ago.
It wasn’t until Christophe Peres arrived, however, that Moganshan truly sprang back to life. The French branding professional moved to China in 1999 after 10 years in Japan, also working in branding. These days, he works with Moganshan’s local government as an informal ambassador, playing an essential role in raising the town’s infrastructure to international standards. With Peres’ help, Moganshan has transformed itself from a forgotten haven to a luxury escape, now sometimes referred to as the Hamptons of China.
The jewels in all of Peres’ efforts—the Le Passage Mohkan Shan hotel and the exclusive La Residence private villa (pictured above), both of which he co-owns with his wife, Pauline Lee—are as much a love letter to Moganshan as they are to Peres’ native France. While the hotel’s structure takes its inspiration from traditional Chinese roof tiles, the design itself evokes bucolic French chalets. The rooms feature high ceilings, spacious bathrooms and period decor, all tied together by antique wood flooring. In both Le Passage and La Residence, the region’s past glories continue to resonate today.
The marriage of classical French design and Chinese heritage has always been in the blueprint for Le Passage, according to Peres. “I chose the name Le Passage because I want our guests to experience the passage of history through their stay,” he says. “We are reviving, cultivating and protecting the history of this region, while at the same time offering modern comforts.”
Sitting in the heart of the property is a sprawling tea plantation, which serves as the central point of all the hotel’s activities. Sitting next to it is an antique rose garden, with more than 12,000 rose bushes that paint the landscape in hues of coral and red during the blooming season. Lush bamboo groves within the vicinity give the hotel an air of serenity and seclusion, as well as a place for guests to explore the area’s natural splendour through hikes and bicycle rides organised by the hotel’s staff.
La Residence (pictured above), which overlooks Le Passage, is an eight-bedroom villa rented out to guests looking for more exclusive accommodations. To guarantee its clientele’s privacy, the property was developed without any roads leading to it. This meant that all the construction materials, from the locally sourced tiles to the recycled wood features, were painstakingly carried on foot and by mule.
“We wanted to take full advantage of the land and the view we have from up here,” explains Peres. “We don’t have a road leading up to La Residence, because we wanted to make it look like it was just dropped on the hill. It makes for a beautiful aerial view. The villa’s layout allows you to see the scenery from every angle, whether you’re inside or outdoors. We put the rooms all on one side and the terrace at the back. When you stand in the terrace, you don’t see the hotel—you feel like you’re standing right in the tea plantation.”
This story was adapted from Singapore Tatler Homes August-September 2017.