People’s Grand Hotel – Xian, China (English)
The finest hotel in North West China, a Select Member of The Most Famous Hotels in the World. Opened in 1953 it was the official hotel to accommodate foreigners. It welcome heads of states and famous artists.
It has been reopened in 2014, after extensive renovations, reducing the number of 300 rooms to 72 exclusive suites. Its personal butler service and elegant style makes it 'the' haunt of every discerning traveller. This is its story.
You have landed in Xi’an, the capital of the Northwestern Chinese province Shaanxi. At the end of the Silk Road, it has drawn merchants and ambassadors from all over Asia to Baghdad. It is a long story from caravansarais – those 'motels' for man and his horse or camel – to today’s hotels. Here we are telling the story of the first emperor, the Ming Dynasty, Marco Polo, the Silk Road, the discovery of the Terracotta Army until modern times.
The first Western hotels in China sprang up in the coastal regions and in Beijing as private enterprises at the end of the 19th century.
In Xi’an it was centrally decreed only in 1950 that there was space for a grand hotel. Xi’an was seen as the city of choice in which to develop tourism, thanks to its first wave of economic success, together with the truly astonishing exhibits of long-known AND recently discovered historical sites, not least the unique Nestorian Stele.
Hong Quing, a Chinese architect who had seen the best of all worlds, having completed his studies in Europe and trained on the job in China, created in cooperation with a Russian colleague an unequaled building, which is beyond comparison. It consists of three separate buildings joined together with only millimeters apart like a jigsaw puzzle (to make it earthquake resistant), surrounded by a little ‘city’ of hotels. Since its opening in 1953 as the first grand hotel of modern China, it has played the role of the diamond at the top of a diadem.
Together with the surrounding Renmin Square and its collection of hotels, the French group Accor has revived the People’s Hotel. Join us on a tour through its history and the story of the charming city of Xi’an.
Andreas Augustin, President of THE MOST FAMOUS HOTELS IN THE WORLD®, has, in cooperation with a team of Xi’anese and international historians and retired and active members of the staff, produced a book about the People’s Grand Hotel. They have also installed the MUSEUM at the hotel, commemorating the history of the hotel.
The most famous hotels in the world is a global organisation, based in Vienna, Austria, listing and researching all grand hotels in the world. Over 50 books have been published about individual famous hotels.
Speech of Andreas Augustin at the presentationk of the book:
Good Evening, honourable guests,
The Renmin Dasha family is reunited.
The People’s Grand Hotel Xian must be seen within the context of the entire Renmin Dasha complex. No hotel would exist today without the other. The People’s Grand Hotel, also referred to as Building Number One, in the heart of the entire complex, has been missing for many years, like a father missing from the family’s Sunday table for too long.
Before it closed, it was sometimes heavily secured by grim looking guards, and it has earned itself a reputation of a government hotel, not accessible to the ordinary man from the street. Today its two mighty wings around the centre are stretched out like arms, wide open, welcoming travellers from all over the world.
The hotel is the brightest star in the world of Chinese hospitality, it is a ‘Legend’ and it has been immediately accepted into the global 440 hotels comprising family of The Most Famous Hotels in the World®.
In the West we like to call famous historic hotels ‘Grand Old Ladies’. May be because they can develop striking attitudes, or because they are larger-than-life personalities, or simply … because they are so expensive.
This grand old lady has developed all these attitudes, and more. It has witnessed history, hosted the most famous personalities on Earth and has been the venue for important meetings.
I have been referring to the father of a family. We have a nice saying in Austria, which goes like that: success has many fathers, defeat is an orphan.
The People’s Grand Hotel Xian will be a great success, because it has so many fathers.
When we visited the People’s Hotel Xian for the first time in September 2013, it was a hollow shell, full of workers, noise and dust. One of the fathers, Pierre Henrichs, manager at the hotel today, took us around the construction site, sharing the visions of Accor. He explained everything so passionate, that - before our eyes - an empty space became a sizzling hot pizza-oven and a round empty space a luxurious lobby.
Stephen Antram, the general manager, shared with us his visions of luxury, Michel Molliet recalled his early efforts to turn the sleepy old People’s Hotel into a grand hotel. It is that sort of imagination that inspires, encourages and drives hotel projects like this.
Renmin Dasha chairman Mr Hui (Feng Nian) took us through the gardens. With the sparkling eyes of a true lover of details he introduced me to a 1200 years old tree in the courtyard, before he went on to show me the Olive trees planted from seeds presented to the hotel by Chou En Lai some 50 years ago. It is the concentration on details, which makes all the difference.
Our organisation The Most Famous Hotels in the World® was invited to bring the hotel’s history to life. We dug deep and found lots. My wife Carola, who heads the history department (HA! finally we have a mother of success), was very impressed by the hotel’s archives, perfectly kept from the 1950s, with photo albums and documents well-preserved.
Well, you might ask yourself: what’s so special at this hotel? Where is the benefit to be a famous hotel? What’s all the fuss about its history?
The answer is simple: History can not be bought, it must be earned. It is this history that sets the most famous hotels in the world apart from all the others. It is their history, this element of storytelling, that makes all the difference. The idea to be sleeping in the same hotel like a Crown prince or a famous movie star - maybe even at the same time - is simply exciting.
Last but not least, let me mention the most important factor in the game: after building a hotel you have to find the right people who drive your idea. The people at the front. The ‘first impressions’. Your ambassadors.
While researching and producing our book and the Museum, we have spent some weeks at the People’s Grand Hotel. I say this with pride because it is one of the privileges of our mission to sometimes be able to witness history in the making.
We have found people full of fond memories of days gone by, historians who helped us with our work, and most important, we have found today’s team of wonderful young and inspired people who act as ‘ambassadors’ of the hotel. They have made this hotel our home in China, far away from home. They treated us as if we were Crown princes or movie stars ourselves, while we are, in fact, only humble servants in a wonderful and exciting industry.
We look with great pride at the achievement, accomplished by all these fathers and mothers, who created a grand hotel and – in fact – continued a LEGEND.
You see, the family is reunited.
Andreas Augustin presents
PEOPLE‘S GRAND HOTEL XIAN
in the library THE MOST FAMOUS HOTELS IN THE WORLD®
We thank in particular Hui Feng Nian, the owners representative and chairman of the Shaanxi Renmin Dasha Company Ltd., for the smooth cooperation in this project.
The father of this book is Stephen Antram, So tel general manager and area general manager So tel Central China.
Special thanks go to Pierre Henrichs, the thoughtful manager at the People’s Grand Hotel re-opening in 2014.
Many thanks for inspiring dialogues and great advise to Michel Molliet, opening general manger for Accor (2005– 2006), Vice President So tel Greater China, William Yuen, hotel manager at So tel Xian on Renmin Square, Luann Li, assistant to the general manager and, of course, Amanda Wen, personal assistant to the hotel manager.
Our gratitude goes to the wonderful members of the team at the hotels, specially (in loose order) to Daisy Dang, Charles Qiao, Song Lin, Reise Li, Cherry He, Ruby Zhou Bei, Huang Juan, Helen Wong, Huang Shuqi, Wang Yuhua, Xin Fuhua, Marc Cherrier, Wendy Su, Hanson Zhu, Miko Guo, Goodspeed Wu, Sharon Zhang and Maïlys Salomé Dupart.
Last but not least we will never forget the wonderful team around Celia Zhang, asst. People‘s Grand Hotel manager, Andrew Zhao, chief butler, Emily Chang, Jojo Liu (senior butlers), Annie Li, Jason Song, Grace Fu, Cathy Wang, Eason Qiu, Ventura Qin, Danny Shao, Baron Li, Shelly Wang (butlers) and Daniel Xu, chief concierge, Alfred Sun, Gen Tian (concierges).
Thanks to the team at 1953 Bar & Lounge, the Dolce Vita chefs and waiters who pampered us so well while we were on location, in particular the great chef Andrea Zamboni and the hotels’ executive chef Alex Zhang. And our special gratitude to all those who have not been mentioned: your courtesy was much appreciated.
Please note: any reproduction and distribution of any part of this work without the explicit written consent of The Most Famous Hotels in the WorldTM will be prosecuted.
All historic data has been carefully selected during research with the objective of providing a general historical overview. This work does not therefore claim to be complete. Historic photographs have been restored
and occasionally tinted, and are therefore – together with the entire work – subject to copyright.
Photography: principal photographer Bill Lorenz; archives of the People‘s Grand Hotel Xian; Main Archives of The Most Famous Hotels in the World, Vienna; Maros Mraz;
Copy Editor: Thomas Cane
Design: Ramazotti Michelangelo, Chinese edition: text by Superskill Singapore Concept, Research and Idea: Andreas und Carola E. Augustin
History research: Carola Augustin (MA University of Vienna), Zhao Yuanchao (Professor of History. Xi’an) ISBN: 978-3-900692-47-6 (Chinese edition: 978-3-900692-48-3)
© The Most Famous Hotels in the World® / Andreas Augustin