The Social Building was formerly known as “the Social Hall”. On December 14, 1929, the inauguration of the hall was held in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of St. John’s University and the opening ceremony of the Memorial Archway.


The striking aspect of the Social Building was its coloring of an amazing match of red and green, flamboyant but never presumptuous, rendering the building a unique and style. The ground floor facade of the Social Building was a concrete wall which had three arches with symmetrical Chinese patterns carved in the white stones on their edges. The internal structure of the first and second floors was actually one storey, outside of which, the space opposite the arches in the ground floor, was divided into three rooms by four red pillars, with red brick walls on both sides. Green glazed tiles were laid on the top roof, and on the four corners of the eaves were each decorated with seven small sculptures of mythical animals, with flying-rafters under the eaves; the top of the pillars were connected by the architraves and cushion boards. The connecting parts of the architraves were decorated by red alternating with green Chinese palace-style architectural paintings.


In the 1930s, with the outbreak of the Anti-Japanese War, the Western Shanghai Concession became an “isolated island”. The General Branch of the Underground Communist Party of China (at St. John’s University) made the Social Building a base to voice revolutionary messages. In 1948, under the leadership of the branch of the Underground Communist Party of China, students of St. John’s University launched a protest movement to “Oppose the USA’s Supporting Japan”, and also organised an “the Exhibition of Nationalities” in the Social Hall, both drawing a huge public response. In May, 1949, when Chen Yi, the commander of the Third Field Army of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, was in command of the Shanghai battle, chose the Social Building as his first campsite in Shanghai in the early hours of the morning of the 26th. When the dawn was breaking, Chen walked out of the Social Building to the grand lawn and chatted with student members of the Underground Communist Party who were on duty there. In the morning, Chen Yi and his entourage went by bus to the southern bank of the Suzhou River to inspect the urban area, and in the afternoon, they moved into Ruijin 2nd Road and took over the administration of Shanghai. The next day, Shanghai was liberated. To commemorate this “first camp for Shanghai’s liberation”, East China Institute of Politics and Law erected a stone tablet on the southern wall of the Social Building in May, 2002. On November 15, 1952, the bigger Social Hall of the Social Building finally welcomed the first opening ceremony of East China Institute of Politics and Law.