Katya Knyazeva (avezink) wrote,
Katya Knyazeva

Laoximen Treasure Map #1

Wechat has brought the sad news that the neighborhood west of Laoximen is headed toward demolition. The banners advocating peaceful surrender of homes and enthusiastic relocation to the burbs are already stretched across the streets. This neighborhood was threatened with removal even before I first set foot here, ten years ago: residents were first told of the demolition/relocation in 2003. But now things really seem to get moving.

Old town's Laoximen area is more layered and visually diverse than any other corner in Shanghai. Since I've been refusing to finalize and publish Shanghai Old Town, Volume 2, and been gallivanting around Europe instead, this is one way to put this knowledge to use. Here is some of what this neighborhood had and what it still has.

[1. Jinjiafang 金家坊 (Jin Family Arch)]
1. Jinjiafang 金家坊 (Jin Family Arch)

99 Jinjiafang 金家坊99号. The residence of the wealthy family Jin that gave the name to this street. The Jins reportedly patronized performing arts, and their private theater saw the first production of the famous huju opera “Rendezvous in the Nunnery” (the protagonist in the play is also named Jin).

61 Jinjiafang 金家坊61号. (Out of order but after the Jins.)

Lane 96 Jinjiafang 金家坊96弄. A lane compound Auspicious Celebration Lane 瑞庆里.

169 Jinjiafang 金家坊169号. A very substantial shikumen residence that is preserved better on the outside than on the inside.

191 Jinjiafang 金家坊191号.
The gateways in this nameless shikumen lane are decorated with beautiful stone lions.

207 Jinjiafang / 金家坊207号.
Former Nanhua School. A shikumen school, of the kind that was once ubiquitous, has very detailed and edifying carvings throughout the courtyard, mostly with heroic themes.

[2. Honglangan Jie 红栏杆街 (Street of the Red Banisters)]
2. Honglangan Jie 红栏杆街 (Street of the Red Banisters)

The street is reportedly named after a red-light (=red banister) district that blossomed here in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. A couple of lanes branching off this street appear to confirm this theory: one miniature alley is called Hongzhuang Nong 红庄弄 (Red Village Lane) and another one used to be called Monai Nong 摸奶弄 (Tit-Grabbing Lane) until it was stripped of all names and assigned a lane number.

The most impressive building on the Street of the Red Banisters, No. 60, is at the corner with Jinjiafang:

60 Honglangan Jie 红栏杆街60号. This unusual courtyard house was owned by a certain Wang Shenqing. It blends Western and Chinese features, like the custom-made Swiss tile plates depicting dancing cherubs on the roof terrace with a traditional latticed courtyard (painted red!).

[3. Kongjia Nong 孔家弄 (Kong Family Lane)]
3. Kongjia Nong 孔家弄 (Kong Family Lane).

This zigzag street has two branches, South 南孔家弄 and North 北孔家弄. The street used to run around the Temple of the God of War. The temple appeared here in 1861, after the French reclaimed their old church on Wutong Road and desired to make the building Christian again. With great pomp the "pagan" gods and altars were paraded through the city and resettled in the newly refurbished temple near the West Gate. The new location was not very popular, because in 1894 W. MacFarlane found the temple in great disrepair.

The temple remains were cleared in the 1960s, and there is now a primary school there, accessed from Fuxing Road.

34 Beikongjia Nong 北孔家弄34号.

50 Beikongjia Nong 北孔家弄50号. This building is Western on the outside and Chinese inside, built in 1926. Its name is engraved on the boundary stone embedded on the corner: Big Cultivation Hall 大树堂.

65 & 73 Beikongjia Nong / 北孔家弄73号,北孔家弄65号. These two courtyard houses used to be parts of one large traditional residence, with some preserved latticework and a large "fu" character on the north wall.

87 Kongjia Nong 孔家弄87号.

Lane 4 Nankongjia Nong 南孔家弄4弄. The residence of the brothers Dong 董, who built themselves beautiful courtyards side by side and called them Benevolence and Lustre 仁泽里. Their descendants stlll inhabit the house No. 1, with dignity and style, though they were obliged to give up most of their rooms to relocated peasants.

Lane 77 Kongjia Nong 孔家弄77弄. New Prosperity Lane 新兴里 has its name covered with concrete.

No. 3 Lane 45 Kongjia Nong / 孔家弄45弄3号. An art deco residence Splendid Mansion 灿庐 is hiding in the depths of the block; its owner was a certain Zhao Fukang.

35 Kongjia Nong 孔家弄35号. The house with an elephant fronts a sturdy brick lane compound from 1935, called Inherited Virtue Lane 承德里 and adorned with stone lucky charms.

Thanks to Didier Pujol's heartbreaking coverage of the latest state of the street, I've learned the sign under the elephant was made readable since I last saw it; it spells "Peace and Happiness to this Household" (志居乐安).

This photo and help with deciphering – Didier Pujol.

Lane 17 Kongjia Nong 孔家弄17弄. This was known as Longevity Lane 仁寿里.

Lane 10 Kongjia Nong 孔家弄10弄. Fortune and Peace Lane 福绥里 from 1924.


Tags: demolition, laoximen, map, old town, redevelopment, shanghai

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