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Major revamp for old town area near Confucian Temple

    Major revamp for old town area near Confucian Temple

    The memorial gateway of the Shanghai Confucian Temple, or Wenmiao area, the core and original place of the city’s old town, dating back to over 700 years.

    A new round of renovation has started on the city’s old town area around the Shanghai Confucian Temple to retain its historic flavor while improving the living condition for residents.

    About 2,000 illegal buildings, including those built by residents to make up for the limited living space, will be demolished by June around the landmark temple in Huangpu District.

    Their houses will be renovated to have separate toilets or improved shared facilities by November, the Laoximen Subdistrict said yesterday.

    The area along Zhonghua and Wenmiao roads is the core and original place of Shanghai’s old town, dating back to over 700 years.

    Some 120,000 square meters of old public and private houses stand around the Confucian Temple, or Wenmiao. The temple was founded in 1291 during the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368), and has been renovated or rebuilt several times.

    Many locals also equate the temple with a popular wholesale book market opened in 1993 which moved elsewhere in 2013. A smaller scale second-hand book market operates every Sunday in a part of the temple.

    “The place kept many historic traces of Shanghai’s development and retained the traditional lifestyle of the city,” an official with the subdistrict said.

    Over 5,500 households are living in the old town area, with 70 percent of their houses listed as the old residential lanes with the poorest living environment by the city government.

    “However, the cramped living space and environment can hardly meet the standard of urban life,” the official said.

    But the area is also home to eight traditional shikumen, or stone-gate, lanes which incorporates Chinese and Western architecture as well as the city’s last remaining cigarette and paper stores.

    “It used to be a prosperous region with collectors bargaining and trading old books and worshippers to the temple hope to have lucky reading,” said Ge Guoying, who runs an old-style zip repair store on the opposite side of the temple for over four decades.

    Most house owners have rented the dingy rooms to out-of-towners who are lured by the cheap lease and downtown locations, while some locals are still living in the two-story houses.

    Lu Zhenhua, 69, one of the original residents occupying an 8-square-meter apartment, dreams “for decades to have an indoor kitchen and separate bathroom.”

    Lu’s hope for renovation might be realized soon as the authority has mapped out over 40 projects to improve the residents’ living conditions as well as the environment of the area.

    Gas will be connected through pipes to the first batch of 93 households like Lu’s who are still using liquefied gas bottles. Over 200 households with an extra space will have separate kitchens and toilets by the end of the year, according to the subdistrict.

    For households which do not have adequate space for a kitchen or toilet, the authority will build public ones with full facilities across the community.

    Additional public facilities will also be built such as public baths, pocket parks and small fire stations, to improve the living condition, the official said.

    The authority will also move the radial overhead cables across the area underground or rearrange them to improve the old town’s image to minimize potential risks.