Fate of traditional houses remains in question

Updated: 2015-07-03 10:55

By Xu Junqian in Shanghai(China Daily USA)

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Fate of traditional houses remains in question

The architecture of shikumen features stone gates and exquisite details. Gao Erqiang / China Daily

Shikumen, or stone gate houses, have been demolished for years, but what to do with those that remain has become a topic for debate among preservationists and developers.

It's 5 pm on a weekday. The city's rush hour hasn't yet begun. Still, the single lane street adjacent to one of Shanghai's most expensive highrise neighborhoods - Lake Ville - has already been jammed with traffic, or more precisely, fancy cars such as Rolls Royces and Porsches.

On the other side of the century-old street lined with phoenix trees, a square of red-roofed terrace houses that formed the city's once most typical residence, shikumen, or stone gate house, appears unusually quiet, if not dead.

More than 16,000 families that once lived in the houses have been all relocated by May, according to local newspaper, Oriental Morning Post. Government officials remain ambiguous the future use of the houses.

Lou Chenhao, author of the book The Disappearing Shanghai Old Architectures, kept calling for the preservation of the square of houses, which is called Jing'an Lane, on his blog and Weibo, the equivalent of Twitter in China.

Jing'an Lane has housed some of Shanghai's most valuable stone gates, featuring delicate carvings and Chinese traditional patterns, according to Lou. Stone gates usually mark the entrances or exits of shikumen houses, which were built abutting each other in the style of British terrace houses mostly during the 1920's and 30's Shanghai when the city was colonized.

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