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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:
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).( Collapse )
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.( Collapse )
Qúxī Road/瞿溪路 is a bustling downtown shanty town with shops selling local snacks and a wet market. Much like much of our downtown used to look like.( Collapse )
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 here—the 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?( Collapse )
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!".( Collapse )
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?( Collapse )
"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.( Collapse )
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.( Collapse )