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Urban Development History of Shanghai, China


[Introduction] [Part I: The Feudal Age] [Part II: Concession; Foreign Settlement]

[Part III: Great Shanghai Scheme] [Part IV: After Liberation] [Part VI: Problems and Opportunities]

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Part V: Culture of Longtang


[The Feature of the Chinese-Western Culture]  [The Episodes in the Longtang]

The Feature of the Chinese-Western Culture

       Modern Shanghai took shape through the crash to two different cultures, the Western and the Eastern. Therefore, the phenomenon of the integration of Chinese and Western cultures has inevitably manifested in the culture of Shanghai. In such a peculiar city culture, the Longtang house is the most typical and representative one. Since the first day when the Longtang house appeared, it had been stamped with the brand of the integration of the cultures of East and West.

       At the early stage, the form of the Longtang house divorced from the Chinese traditional form of residences to the south of Yangtze River, However, its general layout of “row-upon-row” had originated from Europe. The most typical part of the shikumen Longtang was the shikumen gate, its frame, door panels, and knockers were the characteristics of Chinese traditional architecture, but the triangular pediment on curve ornaments on its lintel were entirely with western architectural designs.

       The special feature of Chinese and Western integration in Longtang houses has been found not only in its architectural form, but also in the way of living in the Longtang houses. On one hand, the way of residing in the Longtang houses, especially in the shikumen houses, has kept the Chinese living traditional pattern to a great extent. On the other hand, is by no means like the Chinese traditional residences. It was a new kind of residences that aimed at adapting itself to the rhythm of living and value in a modern city, meeting the needs of capitalist economy and real estate business.

       The Longtang is a kind of city pattern which can best reflect the feature of the Chinese and western integration in modern Shanghai.

Bird View of Longtang

Source: Shanghai Longtang

Shikumen

Source: Shanghai Longtang

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The Episodes in the Longtang

       Thousands upon thousands of Shanghai people are sentimentally attached to the Longtangs till now. The main reason is that a strong human relationship prevails in the Longtang. There a good and close neighborhood relationship has taken shape, which can hardly appear in other modern residences. Longtang is such a place that provided the residents more chances to communicate with each other. In the Longtangs, people always meet together, all the residents are closely associated and conglomerated, thus bringing forth a strong sense of localism, safety and family-likeness. The main social activities in Longtangs are those of the old people and children. In a Longtang they were never neglected as they are nowadays in other places. The special space arrangement in the Longtang can provide people places for the old people and children to carry on public activities. Some of the old people are keen on doing public welfare activities, for example, doing the cleaning work, taking care of each other and looking after the children. Such activities, carried on spontaneously, have more human sense and interests of life.

       The Longtang is also a diversified and complicated living space. The residents, with different professions, different backgrounds and different cultural levels have brought a diversified life here. People of different social status, have learned from each other, influenced each other, thus shaping a special civil culture. This kind of civil culture, due to the diversity and complexity of the cultural level of the residents here, can neither be degenerated, nor turn into an elegant culture. Thus the culture of Longtangs has become a secular as well as harmonious civil culture, constituting the main content of the civil culture in Shanghai.

       With the rapid growth of the urban population in Shanghai and due to some historical reasons, the housing problem in the city is becoming very serious. Each unit of the Longtang house, formerly occupied by one family, now has been shared by several families. The residents even built sheds in the places where buildings are not allowed to be built by law. There are too many houses built in a lane area that is overpopulated, thus causing the deteriorating of the quality of the residences. There has been the peculiar phenomenon of dozens of families living in a single house unit under such special condition. Some parts of the house, such as the kitchen and washroom, formerly used only by one family now are used by several families.

       The life in the Longtangs is rich and full of vitality. People like to compare Longtangs to a kaleidoscope of the city life, to a museum of life and customs of people. It is in the Longtangs where you can notice the peculiar feeling of people there, you can know the origin of the personality of shanghai people, and you can feel the pulse and life of the whole Shanghai.

Daily Life

Source: Shanghai Longtang

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[Introduction] [Part I: The Feudal Age] [Part II: Concession; Foreign Settlement]

[Part III: Great Shanghai Scheme] [Part IV: After Liberation] [Part VI: Problems and Opportunities]

  [Previous Page]     [Reference] [Home]     [Next Page]