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Shanghai Daily Tuesday 27 March 2018                                                                                                   Jing鈥檃n C3

Once belittled area undergoes renaissance

Li Qian

Not all that many years ago, the
             north bank of Suzhou Creek
             was called xiazhijiao, or 鈥渋nfe-
             rior corner,鈥?by locals because it
was riddled with shacks and makeshift

shelters.

Nowadays, the area is undergoing a

rebirth, restoring what was once the

cradle of commerce and finance in

Shanghai into an upmarket riverside

community.

Modern it may be, but the past will co-

exist with the contemporary in a unique

urban renewal plan that preserves icons

of history, according to Jing鈥檃n District鈥檚

cultural authority.

The Beizhan Community in the center

of the urban renewal area is home to

many historical sites. A special exhibi-

tion highlighting its culture and history

is being held through April 19. Displays

of old photos and other mementos of the

past can be viewed free of charge.

鈥淭he community sits on a line that

used to divide an old international

settlement from a walled-off area for

Chinese residents,鈥?said community of-

ficial Li Jing.

This is the site where China鈥檚 oldest

railway station was erected, where the

first Chinese-run silk reeling factory was

operated, where China鈥檚 first modern

chamber of commerce was founded and

where the first Western-style court was          Renovation work on China鈥檚 first chamber of commerce building in the Beizhan Community is nearly complete. A special
established. A cluster of old warehouses         exhibition highlighting the area鈥檚 culture and history runs through April 19. 鈥?All photos by Jiang Xiaowei
and shikumen buildings still stand there,

each with a story to tell.

   鈥淭he area offers a perfect example of         memorial. Around the warehouse, Chi-       of Shaanxi Road N. in the 1870s. They
how the railway brought prosperity,鈥?Li          nese and Japanese soldiers engaged in a    feature traditional Chinese courtyards
said.                                            fierce four-day battle in 1937.            and Western-style townhouses.

   China鈥檚 oldest railway, the Wusong               Other surrounding old warehouses           The area also has Spanish-style town-
Railway, went into operation 142 years           have been turned into an innovation        houses inside the Junyili neighborhood,
ago, with a terminal near Qipu Road. In          park, housing studios, workshops and       garden villas featuring both Western and
1909, the former Shanghai North Rail-            galleries.                                 Eastern characteristics, and veranda-
way Station, known locally as lao beizhan                                                   style colonial buildings. The area also
(the Old North Railway Station), opened             China鈥檚 first chamber of commerce       is home to the former residence of re-
on Tianmu Road E.                                was founded here. The offices for the      nowned artist Wu Changshuo.
                                                 chamber on Suzhou Road N. were
   Rows of residential buildings, stores,        completed in 1916. Renovation on the          To retain the flavor of the past, the
factories and warehouses soon sprang             building is nearly completed.              district鈥檚 cultural authority devised a
up around it. Today, 17 former banks                                                        protection plan, based on a report by
and warehouses from the old days re-                The area is also a museum of shiku-     Chen Fei and Zhou Jian, professors at
main. Many have been restored to their           men architecture, featuring buildings      Tongji University.
original facades.                                from different eras, in different styles.
                                                 Most have been well preserved as a            The plan has been submitted to Shang-
   The decades-old Sihang Warehouse,             neighborhood.                              hai Urban Planning and Land Resources
which served as military headquarters                                                       Bureau for review and approval, accord-
for the Japanese during their occupa-               This area was the birthplace of shiku-  ing to Zhang Zhong, deputy director of
tion of Shanghai during World War                men, where neighborhoods of the iconic     the district鈥檚 cultural authority.
II, has been converted into a wartime            Shanghai style were built on both sides
                                                                                               In the report, the professors suggest

                                                                                            categorizing the various old buildings

                                                                                            and preparing different protection plans

                                                                                            for each category.

                                                                                            Old buildings with protected status

                                                                                            should be retained as a whole, the report

                                                                                            said. Those with high historical value

                                                                                            that aren鈥檛 on the protected list should

                                                                                            have facades renovated and repaired, and

                                                                                            those with some historical value should

                                                                                            be rebuilt using original materials where

                                                                                            possible. For other structures, original

                                                                                            design facets should be retained.

                                                                                            鈥淚t should be a place where people can

                                                                                            have a glimpse of the old railway sta-

                                                                                            tion and its surroundings,鈥?said Ruan

                                                                                            Yisan, another professor from Tongji

                                                                                            University. 鈥淢any famous figures left

                                                                                            their marks here, and the architecture

                                                                                            style is quite diverse.鈥?
                                                                                            Ruan said protecting historic build-

                                                                                            ings does not mean saving one or two

Renowned collector Feng Jianzhong arranges the launch issues of Communist                   for people to visit and demolishing the    Historical photos, machinery, street
                                                                                            rest.                                      signs and other memorabilia are part of
                                                                                                                                       the Beizhan Community exhibition.
                                                                                               鈥淪ome of the shantytowns in the areas
                                                                                            should be demolished,鈥?he said. 鈥淏ut we

Party of China magazines published in Jing鈥檃n about a century ago. They are part should do our utmost to preserve an au-

of the documents on display in the current Beizhan Community exhibition.                    thentic historical area.鈥?/code>
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