Not surprisingly, the Former Residence of Zhou Enlai at No 73 Sinan Road in the old French Concession quarter of Shanghai exudes a somewhat French colonial appearance, with its "rounded" (i.e., three-sided) roof sections, its shuttered windows, its lower-storey arcade and its ivy-clad exterior, yet the front of the main, arcade-like semi-enclosure at the base of the building is in the form of a single, large arch reminiscent of the typical islamic arch. The Former Residence of Zhou Enlai (usually rendered Zhou En Lai in pinyin) is a rather squat, compact, three-storey structure in the shikumen ("stone gate") style typical of the old, colonially-inspired houses of Shanghai of the period, i.e., houses which combine elements of Chinese architecture - especially the courtyards as well as the arrangement of the various buildings surrounding the main couryard - with Western architectural influences.
The high, fortress-like stone gates (hence the name shikumen), or walls, that separate the shikumen compound from the streets, both in front of and in back of the compound, are at once very French-like - certain older "arrondissements" of Paris have them, as do many old "quartiers" of the larger provincial cities of France - and conveniently adapted to the needs of the times, as the original shikumen were erected during the troubled period before, during, and immediately following the Taiping Rebellion.
Situated on a north-south axis, the ancestral home of China's first and arguably most famous, internationally esteemed premier, Premier Zhou Enlai, was originally erected as a Ming (CE 1368-1644) Dynasty style masonry building, though it has gone through many stages of architectural "wanderings" since its original conception. As the ancestral home of the Zhou family, it was originally named Xiyang Hall, then Hall of One Hundred Years, the latter designation owing to the fact that one of Zhou Enlai's ancestors, a certain Mrs. Wang, on her 100th birthday, received a plaque from the governor of Zhejiang Province on which was inscribed the following felicitation in Chinese: Bai Sui Shou Mu ("Congratulations on your 100th birthday!"). Above the gate of the present-day house is a stele that pays hommage to China's first premier: Zhou En Lai Zu Ju ("Ancestral Home of Zhou Enlai"), written by Chen Yun, the first Vice-Premier and the longest-serving and increasingly moderate member of the Chinese Communist Party's "Big Five": Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhao Enlai, Chen Yun and Zhu De.
It was long believed that Zhou Enlai was a native of the city of Huai'an in Jiangsu Province, but newer evidence suggests that the future first premier of the PRC was born in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province, but that his parents soon after the boy's birth moved to Huai'an, where the boy spent most of his youth. This did not prevent the PRC's first premier from paying hommage to the city in which he was born. Indeed, Zhou Enlai, like most Chinese people, revered and respected his ancestors, and most of these were from the Shaoxing area. In 1939, the young man, as the Undersecretary for Political Affairs of the Military Committee of the Republic of China - which, at the time, was fighting the Japanese invaders alongside the Chinese Communist Party - returned to Shaoxing to rally the city's residents to resist the Japanese invaders.
While in his natal city, Zhou Enlai, together with his wife, Deng Yingchao, participated in a family ceremony where his and his wife's names were added to the family tree. Zhou Enlai also presented the city with many photos and mottoes of the resistance movement, and - in declaring his love for his birthplace - urged his fellow Shaoxingers to come together and resist the Japanese invaders. Records of these events are on display in the Exhibition Hall of the Life of Zhou Enlai Museum in Shaoxing.
After 1949, the government of the PRC, with broad public support, had the ancestral home of Zhou Enlai restored. This project was completed at the end of the 1950s, after which Zhou Enlai, having long served the PRC as premier, bequeathed the Zhou ancestral home to the state. In the 1980s, the government of the city of Shaoxing had the Hall of One Hundred Years completely restored, more or less to its original appearance. In 1998, more improvements were made to the residence, during which time a Zhou Enlai Memorial Hall was added in memory of the 100th birthday of the famous premier. A few years later, Zhou Enlai Square was built.
Zhou Enlai served as Premier of the Peoples Republic of China from 1949 to his death in 1976, during which time span - and a very long time span, indeed, for a Chinese leader - the likeable and urbane premier helped to facilitate the 1972 visit to China by the then U.S. President, Richard Nixon, and the spirit of peaceful coexistence that followed upon the signing of the Shanghai Communiqué by President Nixon and Premier Zhou Enlai himself, and whose text, considered to be one of the most successful examples of creative ambiguity in the history of diplomacy, is based on a One-China Policy, which policy would thus deny Taiwan an official seat at the United Nations.