Last month I spent a week in Shanghai, just before one of the harshest heatwaves in recent history (40ºC+) hit the city. Even then it will still be stifling hot and I spent most of the week indoors (watching old episodes of Miss Marple bizarrely).
I did however venture out a couple of times to visit a museum and another of Shanghai’s oldest residential quarters.
Shanghai is currently on a streak of building museums to boost its cultural credentials, the newest of which is the glitzy Shanghai Film Museum (上海电影博物馆) located inside a former film studio in Shanghai’s downtown Xujiahui (徐家汇).
The museum showcases the artistry and development of the industry from its early beginnings in 1896 up until today with plenty of film clips, old props, costumes, memorabilia and equipment on display. There are also some fun interactive displays, including one where you get the chance to dub your own animation (in Chinese).
The whole thing is very well put together and skillfully presented but honestly, with 4 floors of exhibits, unless you’re a serious aficionado of Shanghainese film it’s a bit overkill for casual visitors.
In between tropical thunderstorms and rising temperatures I had a chance to visit another of Shanghai’s disappearing traditional shikumen districts – Jing’an Villa (上海靜安別墅) along Nanjing Xi Lu.
Built in 1932, the Anglo-American style red brick buildings originally housed wealthy Western business owners, politicians, movie directors, doctors and other intellectuals. Many moved away during the Cultural Revolution and the houses were partitioned into smaller flats.
Today the leafy neighbourhood is surprisingly well-preserved and provides a small oasis within the surrounding chaos. Residents can be seen cooking, cleaning and chatting along the streets.
The area has become increasingly popular in recent years with many new small creative businesses opening (often illegally) but risks becoming over-gentrified like Taikang Lu (田子坊).
There are other similar residences in the same area, not nearly so well-preserved, but still have the relaxed old Shanghai feel.
People go about their business at a leisurely pace.
No shame airing your laundry in public here!
A gorgeous narrow alley with distant sounds of children playing and food frying coming through the open windows.
Orange uniforms drying in the sun.
With new developments encroaching on every side, I really wish I could see inside some of these buildings before they and their inhabitants are gone.