The Fine Art of Fakery

Xintiandi is one of the most popular attractions in the old city of Shanghai.  Spreading over several street blocks, it is a jumble of old-style houses and laneways, filled with clothing boutiques, bars and al fresco dining joints.

One of the buildings is where the Chinese Communist Party held its first congress, in 1921, thus changing the destiny of modern China.  Lots of locals come here to grab a photo of themselves out the front of the building, making it a challenge to get my own photo sans people (they tend to mess up photos, right?)

Xintiandi is one of the few places in Shanghai where the pedestrian is prioritised.  Most of the streets are closed to traffic and they even have streetfront retailing.

But … as the title of this post no doubt reveals, the whole thing is a fake.  Less than a decade ago, Xintiandi was built from scratch, designed around the style of the ‘longtang’, the brick tenements that popped up all over Shanghai at the start of last century.  Somewhat ironically, a swathe of existing longtang was demolished to make way for the development, displacing thousands of residents.

Not entriely a bad story, however.  Due to its commercial success, Xintiandi has been a good lesson for developers and bureaucrats alike, who now can see the economic logic of keeping and restoring the city’s historic fabric.

Adjacent to Xintiandi, another part of Shanghai is undergoing transformation.

Perhaps a sign of changing attitudes, this area has been spared the bulldozer and a more sensitive redevelopment is occurring.  I noticed that many materials are being carefully removed and stored, presumedly for reuse.  And that people are still living in some areas of the site.  It’s good to see that slash-and-burn-and-rebuild isn’t the only way to get things done here.

One of the buildings is where the Chinese Communist Party held its first congress, in 1921, thus changing the destiny of the 21st century China.  Lots of locals come here to grab a photo of themselves out the front of the building, making it a challenge to get my own photo sans people (they tend to mess up photos, right).
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8 Responses to The Fine Art of Fakery

  1. Emma says:

    Love the blog!

  2. natalie says:

    Maybe they could bring back some trams to syd – in the olden day style. I like it. & the shopping sounds quite nice there .., I am visualising Paris, Barcelona – but that could be my illusionist imagination.

  3. No … it is a bit like Europe, as much of the old city was developed by the French and British. I am hoping that when I move across the river, I will find a lovely little French villa, maybe with a cafe downstairs. I saw some yesterday and I want one!

  4. katharine says:

    yes get one of those. When I come I will stay in the room with the flowerbox below the window with red begonias in it, thank you!

  5. Sorry, that will be my arts’n’crafts room. You can sleep in the kitchen on a roll out mat … Just kidding. On my crayzy expat salary, I can afford a 5 bedroom mansion. Also just kidding.

  6. Pingback: Exploring Shanghai’s Nether regions | That Look Crayzy!

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