Once a fishing village, Shanghai which literally translates into City on the Sea, holds thousands of years of history that parallel the development of modern China.
Travellers of this generation may know Shanghai as one of the world’s great gleaming metropolises, but this historic city had been an attraction in its own right at every age. Perhaps, most famously so during the 1920s and 30s, when it earned the nickname “Paris of the Orient”, thanks to the rise of its status as a hub for new cultural norms and artforms.
While Beijing has her grand imperial palace that dates back to the 15th century, Shanghai’s old-world charm can be felt in Zhang Yuan – possibly the largest and best preserved old-style residential quarter that offers a glimpse of old Shanghai.
The rows of traditional alleyway houses, Shikumen, translated as ‘gates wrapped in stone’, or ‘stone gate’ in Mandarin, have a unique housing style notable for their mix of Western and Eastern architecture elements: Wooden doors with Romanesque art which are marked by semi-circular arches and decorative facades. These houses are typically two-story high and constructed with bricks and wood.
Wandering into Zhang Yuan is akin to entering a gateway of a bygone era. The origins of Shikumen-style houses date back as early as the 18th century, a tumultuous and revolutionary time in Shanghai that saw the influx of British and European communities.
At first sight, Shikumen-style houses look like rows of European townhouses, but you’d be surprised to find the interior resembling a typical Chinese courtyard house when you step inside.
To better appreciate Zhang Yuan’s unique architecture style against the backdrop of today’s modern Shanghai, you’ll have to find a vantage point. From high, you’ll notice that the houses are arranged in a grid pattern, which is a classic feature of a European town.
For architecture and photography enthusiasts, you wouldn’t want to miss this locale. Do remember, though, that this is still a residential area, so please be respectful.
How to Get There
Take metro line 2 and alight at subway stop – Nanjing Road West (Exit 4) and walk towards Taixing Road.
Sale Period: Until 16 April 2019
Travel Period: 1 April to 30 September 2019