IN THE WAKE OF PROGRESS
Pockets of Shanghai feel like an earthquake has just hit them. All that remain of the beautiful Shikumen lanes, once listed heritage sites, are imploded ruins and rubble.
Until recently, Shanghai, the ‘Paris of the East’, claimed the second highest concentration of art deco architecture in the world. I found these art deco remains in a stunning Shikumen block in Hongkou.
Sometimes you glimpse a private courtyard or interior, exposed for the first time by bulldozers. These crimson lattice panels decorated a majestic villa off Fangbang Middle Road.
There’s always a palpable sense that lives have been abandoned in a hurry. On this site on Wuding Lu, the scene was particularly eerie.
Many traditional pastimes are being abandoned or displaced. Even mahjong, a staple of the lilong, is relocating to streets and alleyways, under tarpaulins in the rain.
I found these family photos in the dust on Wuding Lu.
Among the cultural casualties is the Shanghainese dialect. Once sustained by lively lilong chatter, it’s now dying out, impossible to resurrect in the anonymous tower blocks of Shanghainese suburbia. The unique community spirit is also fading fast. In the high-rises, community-building initiatives such as sports leagues and children’s playgroups have limited impact. Neighbours rarely know each other by name.
This dragon kite was strewn across the rubble off Jiangning Lu. Everywhere you look, Shanghai’s heritage is being chewed up and washed away.