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An experiential journal of synchronicity and connection

Where Shanghai Disappears

A wizard’s castle in the ruins of Shanghai.

Yesterday I was on my way to check out 1933 Shanghai 上海1933老场坊, a restored Art Deco slaughterhouse in Hóngkǒu 虹口, when I stumbled upon a compact neighbourhood in the process of being torn down, part of an ongoing process of urban renewal in Shanghai. Every year more of these old areas are torn down, their residents forcibly evicted, and new high-rises and shopping malls go up in their place. My time in Shanghai is too short to allow for any measure of expertise to grow—so all I have to share here are a few photos and some comments from a quick walk around (and through) the block.

Disappearing beneath the vines. I wasn’t sure whether it was safe to venture in at this point, this being China and all.
Old storefronts along Hailun Road. They are marked for eviction and demolition with the character chāi 拆.
The same area from behind the streets.
Why this building remains when all these others have been removed is a mystery.

From what I understand the traditional arrangement of connected townhouses along gated laneways is known as a longdang 里弄 in Shanghainese (or lǐlòng in Mandarin). A common style of home in such an area is known as a shíkùmén 石库门 (traditional: 石庫門), distinguished by a western-influenced gate and a small courtyard in front of the home. Apparently shikumen were not constructed after 1949 so if any of these buildings qualify—and I think the one with the three western-style entrances might—then they are somewhat more old than they appear. Then again, having walked around several city blocks at least a century old, perceptions of age become quite subjective!

The closest thing to a more traditional shikumen in the area.
Break on through to the other side.
A public service announcement I haven’t yet taken the time to translate.
Paint peeling off the formerly interior walls of an abandoned home.
High-rises blot out the horizon in Hongkou. This place is fated to become more of the same.

Puzzling out the name of the place was a bit of a challenge. This block is essentially a triangle bounded by Hǎilún Road 海伦路, Wúzhōu Road 梧州路, and Hǎilā’ěr Road 海拉尔路. Google, forever misinformed about anything in China, identified parts of this triangle as Jiāngxiàlǐ 江夏里 and Jīngwěilǐ 经纬里, both names that follow the conventions for lilong. I only managed to find one Chinese language blog about the area to corroborate.

Peering into the ruins of one of many abandoned homes in a forlorn part of Hongkou.
Making friends in abandoned places. This orange tabby was really sweet once I convinced him I wasn’t a threat.
One building remains standing on the far corner.
Another look at the precarious addition to a building facing the street in the doomed development.
Please excuse the inconvenient destruction of your homes. 我们在此施工给大家带夹诸多不便,敬请谅解

I haven’t had much luck finding out more about this place so that’s all I have to share this time around. For more about Shanghai’s rapidly disappearing neighbourhoods have a glance at two English language blogs here and here.

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