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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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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Treasure Hunt in Kong Family Lane

We are in the downtown of an ancient metropolis. Yet, the windows and doors are mostly walled up with concrete blocks, as far as you can see. The few people who are still in the street have found here a quiet corner to gather and sort rubbish.  Locals with their memories have been relocated. Silence on the street. The "gangster" with an apple tattoo on the back of his head is local, though. Go and talk to him, you'll find out lots of interesting stories!

A historic wooden banister at 4 South Kongjia Lane /南孔家弄4号. Photo: Sasha.
A historic wooden banister at 4 South Kongjia Lane /南孔家弄4号. Photo: Sasha.

Not all the doorways are barricaded.  If you peek in, you will see invaluable treasures. Drawing Shanghai went out for a treasure hunt, to find what is hidden in Laoximen, waiting for its faith.

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The Wonderland of Huádé Building

Royal Asiatic Society urged Drawing Shanghai to go sketching around their former headquarters on Huqiu Road and capture the vanishing way of life of its residents.

What once was the British share of Shanghai foreign concessions, found its beginnings on the marsh that used to be here until the 19th century. The magnificent buildings we find here still waiting for the inevitable gentrification. Here it will be different from the Walled City, as the buildings are protected as heritage. Living conditions and structures inside are nevertheless meager and need a lot of renovation. RAS wanted us to capture the traces of history that these proud buildings have preserved, as the imminent renovation will wipe most of these away for good.

This time we picked the former Shanghai Bank Union Building /上海银行公会 on  Hong Kong Road /香港路 — a building closest to an ancient Roman temple one can find in Shanghai. Behind its impressive Corinthian-style columns we can also see propaganda slogans from the "cultural revolution" times. This still life attracted the best part of us. You can continue reading about its architect Guò Yǎngmò here.

Huádé Building. Artist: Arlyna So
Huádé Building. Artist: Arlyna So
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