Tags: 上海,老城厢

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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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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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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Ninghe Shanty

Young master of the yard. Photo by  the author
Young master of the yard. Photo by the author

A silent sound of a tape chanting the mantra 0m mani padme hum, the splashes of non-stop dishwashing and cooking downstairs, distant sounds of street stalls...

The people in the Walled City are very kind. The families who have lane 82 as their home, shared their cozy courtyard with us strangers. As most of these, it is a laid back paradise, located next to a once very noisy street. Now the bell is tolling to the whole area and their paradise will be replaced by a tiny suburban apartment. New neighbors over there will not have memories to share, memories that go back generations. A hundred years of cooking, washing dishes, fighting, playing májiàng, and building a four-story house out of cardboard, plastic, metal, textile...

"Uuduh, they came to uuduh," is heard downstairs spoken in Shanghainese. Sketching, these young people didn't come to buy the house, is explained to the 94-year-old matron of the yard.  We will carry on the memory of the paradise — them in their scattered suburban apartments and us in our heads wherever we go in the world. Meanwhile the wealthy will be shopping their heads off in the future world class malls that will be built here instead.
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