The Mysterious Paris Pagoda in the 8th Arrondissement

The Mysterious Paris Pagoda in the 8th Arrondissement
Paris has two remarkable and unusual pagodas. Curiously, neither was built as a sanctuary or shrine. On the outside, one is bold and conspicuous while the other is discreet and hidden in a thick bamboo and gingko garden. A closer look reveals that both have unconventional architecture and sumptuous interior design. Their histories are engrossing, sprinkled with a little mystery. The first installment of this two-article series explores the history of La Pagode, a delicate, Japanese-style pagoda situated in the prestigious 7th arrondissement. Read it here. The second installment traces the origins of Pagoda Paris (or the Red Pagoda), an imposing, Chinese-style pagoda located in the upper class 8th arrondissement. It was converted in 1928 from a stately mansion to pagoda as a residence-cum-art-gallery by the internationally renowned and enigmatic Chinese antiquities dealer, C.T. Loo (1880-1957). It is classified as a historic monument. The pagoda was splendidly renovated in 2012. THE MYSTERIOUS PARIS PAGODA The striking red pagoda jutting at an angle at 48 rue de Courcelles causes first-time passersby to jolt. It’s so out of place. Shocking really. View this post on Instagram #pagode #pagoda #pagodeofparis #paris #asia #asiatic A post shared by Victor Simeon (@victorsimeon18) on Mar 7, 2019 at 5:09am PST That’s what the neighborhood residents thought too when it was going up. These days the impressive structure stands a little more proud since its renovation, but still looking like it’s waiting for something to happen. Something seems incomplete. In its early life, this pagoda was a busy place. It was an epicenter for cross-currents in the field of sinology, Asian art research and archeology. It was a home, an office, a gallery and a clearing station for famous art works criss-crossing the globe. Who built the pagoda? The man known as the greatest asian art dealer of all time: C.T. Loo. The famed art dealer died leaving two imprints: one as a hero (in the West) and one as a traitorous villain (in China). This controversy has never changed. Although he died more than 60 years ago the debate about him is still very active. His contributions, nonetheless, are invaluable and timeless. Thousands of art works sourced through C.T. Loo can be found in the world’s great museums and personal art collections in the West. At the height of his career C.T. Loo’s international private clients included names such as Morgan, Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Freer, Lilly, Pillsbury, Guimet, Gieseler and many more. The story of Paris Pagoda is really about this unusual, intriguing man whose story begins in the late 19th century in an obscure, impoverished hamlet in China, where he was orphaned at age ten. At age 22, having little formal education and speaking only his local Wu dialect, C.T. Loo’s incredible luck brings him to Paris as a servant. His life ends in Switzerland with the reputation as “the most important Asian art dealer ever,” according to Chinese art historian, Géraldine Lenain. How C.T. Loo reached these heights from such humble beginnings is a fascinating life story which will be examined in a separate article about The Man Who Built Pagoda Paris. A good place to start this story is in 1928 with the erection of the Pagoda Paris – when Ching Tsai Loo was at the pinnacle of his career. The Pagoda Following some highly successful years in New York City, C.T. Loo had returned to Paris. His next step was to implement his dream of building a pagoda in the heart of Paris to house his collections and to serve as an East-West juncture for cultural exchange. He wanted a palatial building where he could receive his wealthy international clients and found a Louis Philippe mansion with good Feng Shui in the neighborhood near Parc Monceau. The first mystery about the red pagoda is when you set eyes on the building. Aside from the initial shock, it is complete deception; for behind the bright red walls…

Lead photo credit : Credit: Flickr, Sam Nabi

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Dorothy Garabedian is a retired, expat American from central California living in Germany and now devoting her time to writing on travel, culture and lifestyle. She has traveled around the world and lived in Uruguay and the European cities of Brussels, Paris, Frankfurt and Moscow. Read more of her work on her blog, Detours and Diversion: