The Folk Residences in Shanghai
A city is like a living body. If viewed from the sky, the crisscross roads are like arteries dividing the city into a number of small zones, with small alleys zigzagging through building blocks. The alleys dotting the whole city are like blood capillaries that are tiny but full of life. The names of these small alleys vary from one place to another, one time period to another and one ethnic group to another. They are called "longtang" in Shanghai.
Some say longtangs are the background of Shanghai City. It is absolutely true. Longtangs of varied widths and sizes have witnessed the ups and downs of the city, just like hutongs in Beijing that have played the same role. Shanghai is developing as time goes by, Shikumen buildings (stone gate houses) inside longtangs also keep developing in a silent way. When the sunlight is blotted out by things nearby, the longtangs are still standing where they are, quietly watching the stories about to unfold in the city.
There is a variety of ways for architectural decoration of longtangs (alleys). In most cases, these decorating ways serve as the main signs differentiating one longtang from another in terms of visual features. What makes a longtang identifiable is its unique decoration. That's why each and every longtang is built with meticulous attention paid to architectural decoration.
Longtangs or alleys in Shanghai vary greatly in size and style, with each having its own stories. They have recorded life in by-gone years and are still marking the steps of the city.
Shuttling through the lanes of different sizes in the old town of Shanghai, seeking for the fading traces of history and experiencing the humanistic flavors in old Shanghai is an emerging fashion in the city today, while you might not imagine how splendid the business was in the present serene and desolate old lanes.