Downpour under the Little South Gate

The story with Shanghai's Walled City Shanghai started many years ago on a rainy evening. There was this cafe in The Waterhouse, where I went to do my homework. On my way home, when I was walking along what must have been Wángjiā Mǎtóu Lù (王家码头路), I was caught in a heavy downpour. The street went through shady old quarters with houses tightly packed right and left. So I decided to seek shelter, only to discover, the houses had no roofs. All the way to the metro station at Xiǎo Nán Mén, it was a mesmerizing maze of walls, windows and doorways leading to rooms after rooms without roofs. Only some random huts were still inhabited and their light was glittering on the winding rain-flooded street.

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Grandpa and His Poem

The owners of Shanghai Walled City homes often used poetry to decorate their entrances. That is different from the former foreign concessions, where the portals usually carry the name of the compound. A walk in the old town can thus easily become a Chinese poetry trip. Take the three characters on the back entrance of 96 Daochuan Long (倒川弄96号) for example:

Artist: Toeniis. Grandpa and the poem he forgot. 96 Daochuan Long.
Artist: Toeniis. Grandpa and the poem he forgot. 96 Daochuan Long.

Drawing Shanghai found the most elegant house of the street inhabited by two elderly people. Rest of the eight families that used to live here have already been relocated. Grandpa has become ever more welcoming, each time we visit him again. He told us that the archaic typeface used to write the three characters above his back portal is tricky and the rightmost character is not 夹 (' jiā' meaning 'in-between'), although it looks like it. A Tongji professor had once told him, what it actually meant, but his memory was playing hide and seek with him now. 

Left on our own, we found out that the line may come from the tail of a poem written by Song Era poet Lù Yóu (1125–1209).

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Meija Street is about to Disappear

Méijiā Jiē (梅家街) appears to be the oldest among Shanghai street names that carry a family name. The street got its name from the descendants of famed Song era poet Méi Yáochén (梅尧臣  (1002–1060) who moved to live here. There are records of the name been used all the way from the Northern Song Dynasty to nowadays. Reading Katya Knyazeva's book "Shanghai Old Town. The Walled City", you can take a colourful journey into the brothels that used to adorn the area.

Artist: Arlyna So
Artist: Arlyna So
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A Pigeon Fans Community

It is not easy to wander past Hongkou's 425 Zhoushan Rd / 舟山路425号 without wondering. Everything that should be inside a normal house is actually outside herethe internal wooden framework, a kitchen, etc. There are so many roof gardens that one is even on a sloped roof. What happened to your house, mister?

Artist: Toeniis. 425 Zhoushan Road
Artist: Toeniis. 425 Zhoushan Road
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Timeline of 59 Yeshiyuan Lane

In the last two posts, we went to see if something remains of the notorious Also A Garden (也是园/ yěshì yuán). To see how hopeless the task is, let's use satellite imagery and historical maps to go gradually back in time as much as we can. 

Lane 59 is marked in red, with the pin on the cosy yard we found the lady singing "恭喜你发财 / Wish you wealth!".

2019, Google photo
2019, Google photo
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Yeshiyuan revisited. Wish you Wealth!

Artist: Ssm's Cheesecake
Artist: Ssm's Cheesecake

Tracing the fate of the once-notorious Yeshiyuan Gardens. Entering a very narrow alley from Ninghe Road Wet Market, we found an idyllic yard on 59 Yeshiyuan Long (也是园弄59弄). 

What is now inside the bend of Yeshiyuan Long was heavily damaged during the Battle of Shanghai. An aerial photo from 1939 shows a lunar landscape here. On a map from 1946, we find that landscape marked as Shi Shun Kee Construction Yard ( 史顺记营造厂) with a surprise - a small temple! Can we find it?

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 A Forgotten Village in Hongkou

"We're sharing our bed with rats here!" The local man's introduction to his home on Xīnguǎng Road /新广路265弄 is harsh. 

While downtown Hongkou around him has seen hasty development these years, the messy patchwork of lanes his home is part of stands out as a wild exception. Xīnguǎng Road is near the famed Qiújiāng Road electronics market /虬江路市场, that is waiting for redevelopment. But here, the shaky shanties, one to three stories high, seem to be remaining untouched.

Artist: Lili Ng
Artist: Lili Ng
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How curvy is Ninghe Road Market?

The foul air of fish and seafood. Not much of the Ninghe Road raw food market is still there, but enough to scent the air. Like all the quarters around here, the bell is also tolling to Ninghe Road - most of the doorways are walled up and no pigeons reside in the rooftop gēzilóu tower (鸽子楼) anymore.

Artist: Tõnis Kimmel
Artist: Tõnis Kimmel
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