Old Shanghai: Jiashan Lu

Residents give their views on a changing neighbourhood

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 problem.'   

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?'