Wednesday, April 01, 2009

East of the Old West Gate

If the title of this update sounds poetic, or perhaps the name of a Kung-Fu movie, it's actually just a description of the area – the West Gate of the old city walls was torn down long ago (along with the walls, for the matter), but the name is retained, and Old West Gate Station is a subway station of line number 8, two stations south of People's Square.

I happened across the station while visiting the very touristy, very corny Dongtai Lu, and knew I had to be back! The station is on the Western edge of my favorite part of Shanghai's old town – the area of the city that existed when Shanghai was just a small walled fishing village, and foreigners hadn't yet converted it into a large port city.

Actually, most of the traces of the truly old are no longer around, what remains is generally lower-quality housing from the early twentieth century. Still, the houses have a certain beauty to them:

These traditional houses don't have much privacy to them, and in a way I feel bad walking through and taking pictures of an area that is somewhere between a public street and private home. It's still a fascinating voyeurism of people going about their lives in a style unique to Shanghai, even when it's just normal everyday kind of things, like this outdoor kitchen, with a faucet in the background.

And although of course I'm not secretly peeping into people's bedrooms, a lot of the houses have doors opening directly onto the street, I'm reminded of when I walked through my college dorms:

It's also interesting, many of the streets, particularly directly north of Fuxing Road, are thin and narrow and dart every which way, very strange!

With these smaller areas, it's mostly private homes, although there are a number of smaller stores, generally selling snack foods, cigarettes, and very basic cooking items:

And there's a lot of commerce actually on the street: fruits, vegetables, maybe a simple bowl of noodles, cloths, that sort of thing.

And I don't want to forget, people getting a haircut, out in public!

There's a lot of wooden birdcages hanging from second story balconies, in addition some people keep pigeons:

It's just a fun area to look around, and now that the subway goes right near to it, it's an easy activity for an idle afternoon. As the title says, it's East of the Old West Gate Station, just a couple minute's walk. Take the #1 exit and head east, walking past Qinglian Lu - there's currently some construction going on. The southern border to this area would be Fuxing Lu, and the eastern border would be the large ugly apartment buildings alongside Henan Lu, which jarringly enough are decorated with a very large amounts of pseudo-Grecian statues. A few blocks past this road, and a little to the north, is Yuyuan Gardens and the related tourist stalls.

There's no real northern border – there's pretty much interesting buildings all the way up to Hongkou. However, the smaller alleys pictured here are concentrated in the area just a few blocks north of Fuxing Lu, the streets get wider and more commercial as one heads north – maybe the underwhelming Taoist temple alongside Renmin Lu can be considered the northern bordern to all of this.


chicanohek said...

Yo, amazing pictures of everyday life! Have you thought about editing them into a slide show? You could put some audio commentary over the pictures to let your viewers know more about how you got the shots or some interesting tidbit.


Jeff Rutsch said...

Hi, thanks for the nice comment. But all I did was walk around randomly, pressing the "take picture" button every once in a while, so it would make for a really boring video :)

I had a look at your blog and I do like the videos you have up, maybe I'll do something like that sometime. Except, vimeo takes forever to load.