Water town

Updated: 2014-11-24 10:22

(Shanghai Star)

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Water town

Jogging: The Changning riverside was once polluted but after a clean up it is now popular with exercisers.[Photo by Zhu Gang/for Shanghai Star]

Where the Bund began

In-between the shopping street of East Nanjing Road and the Bund, are a cluster of streets that give me the illusion that I am no longer in modern Shanghai. The streets are narrow and old and criss-cross each other.

Any old residential house may turn out to be a former office of the British, constructed in the 1880s. Pawnshops and hardware stores that are hard to find elsewhere, are plentiful here.

This area, at the confluence of Huangpu River and Suzhou Creek, is called the Bund Origin. Countless tour buses stop at the site every day and visitors from around the world get off to see this place, the starting point of the concessions in the city.

It all started in 1872, when the former British Consulate General was constructed and the Bund began its transformation into an the financial street of the East.

Now the site of the former consulate is called “No 1 Waitanyuan”, which translates to “the Bund Origin”, to honor its beginnings.

The entire complex of this historical site comprises of five buildings, the former British Consulate General, the official residence of the consul, the former Union Church, the church apartments and the former Shanghai Rowing Club. The size of the courtyard is equivalent to that of four standard soccer fields.

The building of the former consulate is a two-storey masonry building on an H-shaped plan in typical English renaissance style. The building is designed with a five-arch verandah on the ground floor with a raised terrace facing the garden, while the facade features an entry portico beneath a colonnaded loggia.

It has been turned into a café where dinner and afternoon tea are available. Visitors can choose to sit indoors or outdoors to enjoy the magnificent gardens with nearly 30 ancient trees.

Yuanmingyuan Road behind the complex is also a historical site. The road has been revamped as a pedestrian shopping street and high-end brands have seized the best spots. Altogether, 14 old buildings, including those used for offices and residences constructed during 1920s and 1930s, remain.

Today, it is a popular location for commercial fashion photo shoots.

New Tian’an Church, or Union Church, stands at the intersection of Yuanmingyuan Road and Suzhou Creek. The church, designed in the style of the English countryside, has a capacity of 500 people. It was very popular during the concession period but was converted into factory offices after 1949.

The church we see today is a replica, the original burned down in 2007.

There used to be an outdoor swimming pool, the first of its kind in Shanghai, beside the church but has been filled-in and is now a small garden.