< Last Photo   << Last Chapter                Notes on the Geography of Places: China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang         Next Chapter >>   Next Photo > 
 

Notes on the Geography of China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang

Think of Shanghai first as an old, walled, but unimportant Chinese city, one of dozens of large towns dotted across the lower valley of the Yangtze.  Think then of Shanghai as Europe's Chinese entrepot, growing rapidly from the establishment of foreign enclaves in the 1840s to their renunciation by the British, Americans, and French in the 1940s. (Shanghai had 250,000 people in 1900 and 4.3 million by 1947.) Think third of Shanghai as a Chinese city once again, but stifled from the 1940s to 1990 by national rulers fearful of investing in a vulnerable coastal city.  Think finally of Shanghai since 1990, growing at an extraordinary rate and regaining its reputation as China's preeminent commercial center. We begin in this file with the old Chinese city, usually called Nanshi ("South City") but also referred to as Lao Cheng Xiang ("Old Town").

Make default image size larger

China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang picture 1

The Huangpu is a short (60 miles) dredged tributary of the Yangtze.   It originates in Lake Djanshan, which is linked to a network of other lakes and canals, including the Grand Canal.  A century ago, several thousand junks were usually tied up here, and some 2,000 larger vessels arrived annually.   Arriving at the coast of China, they entered the Yangtze, went upstream two miles, turned into the Hwangpu, and two miles later dropped anchor.

China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang picture 2

The mariners found an existing town, Shanghai ("By the Sea"), encircled by a round or barrel-shaped wall built for protection against Japanese forces and Chinese pirates.  The wall came down in 1913-4, soon after the Revolution of 1911, and streets now trace its course.  Canals once crossed the walled city; they, too, are gone. Here, Renmin ("People's") Road rims the northern edge of the old city.  That big building across the street makes you wish you had a monopoly on steel culverts, which. turned upright and plastered, magically transform boxes into temples.

China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang picture 3

It wasn't enough to get rid of the circumferential wall: Henan Road, shown here, transects the old city north to south, while Fuxing Road cuts it east-west.

China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang picture 4

Tourists come to the old city but are heavily channeled toward the section around the Yu Garden, a much modified 16th century private garden.

China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang picture 5

Outside the garden, you might as well be in a place called Chinatown.  Yes, that's Starbucks.

China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang picture 6

You want something real?  Try the Wen Miao, or Confucius Temple.  If you think of the old city as a clock face, then the Yu Garden is about 1 o'clock.  For the temple, you want to come around to 8 o'clock and walk a block in along Wenmiao Street.  (Don't walk away from the center or you'll bump into Shanghai's first downtown Wal-Mart supercenter.)

China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang picture 7

It gets a "10" on Shanghai's Scale of Repose.

China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang picture 8

If you want a sense of what life is like here, however, penetrate a bit further into the old city and take the first left turn, onto Zhouangjia Lane.

China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang picture 9

You can't beat markets if you want a sense of community vitality.

China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang picture 10

Fish, kept alive by tubes pumping fresh air into each tray.

China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang picture 11

Maybe these ones look a bit healthier.

China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang picture 12

A bit of this, a bit of that.  Quack!

China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang picture 13

Bones for sale.

China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang picture 14

Winter sun, with laundry.

China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang picture 15

Housing often seems to be a hodgepodge.

China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang picture 16

An improvement? 

China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang picture 17

This is Yaojia Lane, near three o'clock.

China: Shanghai: Old Town/Nanshi/Lao Cheng Xiang picture 18

Sipailou Road, combining an old-style market with finest Socialist living. 


www.greatmirror.com Web   
 

* Australia * Austria * Bangladesh * Belgium * Botswana * Brazil * Burma / Myanmar * Cambodia (Angkor) * Canada (B.C.) * China * The Czech Republic * Egypt * Fiji * France * Germany * Ghana * Greece * Hungary * India: Themes * Northern India * Peninsular India * Indonesia * Israel * Italy * Japan * Jerusalem * Jordan * Kenya * Laos * Kosovo * Malawi * Malaysia * Mauritius * Mexico * Morocco * Mozambique * Namibia * The Netherlands * New Zealand * Nigeria * Norway * Oman * Pakistan * The Philippines * Poland * Portugal * Senegal * Singapore * South Africa * Spain * Sri Lanka * Sudan * Syria (Aleppo) * Tanzania * Thailand * Trinidad * Turkey (Istanbul) * Uganda * The U.A.E. (Dubai) * The United Kingdom * The Eastern United States * The Western United States * Oklahoma * Uzbekistan * Vietnam * The West Bank * Yemen * Zambia * Zimbabwe *
go back to previous picture go to next chapter go to next picture go to previous chapter page