The close-knit community on Jiashan Lu say they have been living here
all their lives and will never want to move out, despite the area's days seemingly being numbered following the development of neighbouring Yongkang Lu
'This land belongs to the government, can
we disagree with relocation? If they tell you to move, you simply have to
move,' one middle aged man tells us. He says the longtang was designed by the
French but built by the Germans, and that most homes didn't have
toilets until three years ago when the government helped
residents build private amenities.
His neighbour, a 65-year-old lady who wants to be known as Da Jie, is adamant about not getting relocated. 'No we do not wish to move! Now people are
getting relocated further into the countryside.
Where we are staying now is the heart of
the city - it doesn't get more convenient or accessible than this,’ she says. ‘If
you move to the outer suburbs, you're going to need a car to get about. But we
don't have that kind of money. Also, when you move into one of those new
high-rise buildings, everyone is a stranger - you don't know anyone, neighbours
don't talk to one another, and you spend every moment fearing you're going to
get encounter a burglar.'
The high rises that pen in this classic old Shanghai street also incur Da Jie's wrath. 'We used to get a lot of sun here, but now there are condominiums in
every direction and they are robbing us our light,' she says animatedly. 'Apart
from that, there are a lot of laowais staying here now. They seem to like
staying in such old houses. Their homes are renovated, of course.' But even for the residents who remain living in poor conditions, Da Jie says they're unlikely to want to move. 'The living conditions here are
bad, but you know, there's a warmth in this community – the moment one of us is
in any sort of trouble, everyone will be quick to lend a helping hand. We trust
one another so much that we can leave our doors open in the day without a
At the northern end of the street, nearer to
Yongkang Lu, Mr Hong, 74, tells us how he ended up
in the area while escaping the Japanese bombings in the 1930s. 'This area was under the French so the
Japanese didn't dare to bomb it. Well, not then, anyway. But later it became a
mess when all the other countries got involved,' he says with a chuckle. He
remembers the surrounding areas as being dominated by wet markets, including the stretch of Yongkang
Lu now turned over to bars.
Mr Hong has heard of the arguments
between the residents living above the bars and the business owners, but he
says he is unperturbed by the new development. 'We aren't affected by the noise coming
from that stretch - those living above the bars get the brunt of it. But these
residents don't complain because they take money from the bar owners,' he says.
Unlike Da Jie, Mr Hong is more than willing
to be relocated. 'If the government says we have to move we'll immediately
move!' he replies excitedly, before asking us if we have heard of any such
news. 'This place is not good. There are many rats
and cockroaches. It's filthy,' he says, before his neighbour snaps at him in
disapproval. 'No, no,
we'll never move,' his friend interjects. 'The new homes are situated really far
away. How are we going to get to the market or hospital?'