Dongiwenli – Residents prepare for new lives as Shanghai Shikumen community faces demolition

  • One of the oldest shikumen-style communities in Shanghai is next on the city’s demolition list. Having seen the conditions people here live under and being an engineer myself, I cannot disagree with the engineers and city planners. Restoring this would be a hopeless project. There is no sanitation system, rats are flocking the streets, despite the recent bird flu threat people are keeping live poultry flying under the natural canopies, the walls are moulded and rotten all the way through. Electricity comes in the form of a heap of spaghetti cable on the top of each unit and god forbid anyone have a gas leak. So my personal opinion is that these houses gotta go. Hate me if you like, but that’s the reality. However, what I would like to object to is moving these people into flats in high-risers. We are loosing not only a way of living, but we are also loosing a live community.

    -Where people everyday  step out on their porch and have a chat with the neighbours while brushing their teeth. Where the neighbour would know if you are in trouble. Where you can have an after-work social with your buddies without inviting…

    In the West we sit there in our isolated flats, gobble our prozacs and hope that someone will “like” our latest table decoration of sushi for one and the latest in table ware- but that’s not how humans were supposed to live. Please China- don’t commit the same mistakes as we did! Do modernise, but don’t lose the shikumen community style of living!

    Living life on the streets. Shanghai, China - 2013. Dongsiwenli, shikumen

    Living life on the streets. Shanghai, China – 2013.


    Nothing like having a nap in “fresh” smog air. Shanghai, China – 2013.


    Just hanging out. Shanghai, China – 2013.


    Grocery shopping for granny. Shanghai, China – 2013.


    “Moving Forward with Redevelopment Improving the Lives of Our People”. Shanghai, China – 2013.


    Daily grooming and brooming. Shanghai, China – 2013.


    “What I will do when my shop is gone? What a stupid question…”. Shanghai, China – 2013.


    A past long gone. Shanghai, China – 2013.


    Friendly jumble. Shanghai, China – 2013.


    Playing with granny. Shanghai, China – 2013.


    The engineers are busy — “China/Chinese Construction. Standing Tall Among the World’s Best 500”. Shanghai, China – 2013.

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