November 5th, 2019


Exploring the old town with the book

From the Instagram of shikumen:

Image source.

"Who hasn’t gotten lost in the maize of the #shanghaioldtown? For me who also likes to catalog, record, photograph, the old town remains full of mysteries and noteworthy sites very hidden under so many layers of history and reconstructions, just too difficult to read. At last to put some light in all of this I have taken the heavy and amazing book of Katya Knyazeva “Shanghai Old Town. The Walled City” under my arm and decided to explore this summer, one street at the time, one story at the time.
Why might you ask is Katya my favorite author these days? For the amazing and comprehensive research, she has done, reviewing every tenement in the old town for its historic value. I have passed in front of the house in this post countless times unnoticed to my searching eyes. It’s hidden, buried behind an unassuming structure inside a gated long corridor. And yesterday when a kind resident saw me reading a block away, she gave my break and led me to see. (I had in exchange to struggle in poor Shanghainese language). This was the former old residence of Chen Jusheng. The “The house has a curved roof gable, termed “Guanyin’s Bonnet” once common architectural feature, now rarely seen. The courtyard’s floor is tiled with oxidized green chips laid in triangular patterns – the last authentic example of this kind of surface in Shanghai”. I can’t put a date on this old merchant historic house, predating shikumen architecture. Located on a road that used to be a creek in a former upscale part of the old town this old gem which so far has escaped all forms of “ruinovation”, sits on the periphery of a zone marked for redevelopment."

Shanghai Old Town. The Walled Citywhat's inside and where to find it.