Exhibition showcases workers' community in 1950s Shanghai
The Shanghai Workers' Community Exhibition Hall opened in Yangpu District over the weekend commemorating the city's historic endeavors to accommodate the rapidly growing workers class in the 1950s.
The exhibition hall open to the public free at the historical Changbai 228 Community, and known as the only remaining complete set of Soviet-style houses, was home to "20,000 households."
The buildings in the Changbai community were initially built as homes for model workers. They have been renovated into commercial complexes, restaurants and exhibition spaces.
The two-story buildings called the "20,000 households," because the city government built a total of 2,000 such buildings in downtown Putuo, Yangpu, Xuhui and Changning districts for 20,000 households in 1952 and 1953.
The former Soviet Union developed this type of two-story building for farm workers. The ground floor was used to accommodate livestock, while farmers and workers lived on the upper level. The buildings were introduced to Shanghai to house local workers.
For Ju Chunying, an elderly resident of Changbai, this was more than just an opening. It was a walk down memory lane.
Having lived in the area for more than two decades, Ju fondly recalls the community's evolution.
"We were proud to live in such communities because only model workers could get such apartments at that time," Ju said.
However, living conditions in the buildings worsened over the decades as their wood and brick structures deteriorated. Roofs leaked, and mice and termites moved in, said Ju.
Her family has been relocated to a nearby high-rise community, but she still walks to the Changbai community after dinner every day.
The exhibition, spread across the No.1 and 8 buildings of the community, showcases historical artifacts. It recreates the living conditions of the era, complete with household items donated by former residents, including Ju's own wedding bedsheet.
Digital interactions and historical photos offer a glimpse into the life of a Shanghai worker in the 1950s. Visitors can shop at an old-school grocery store or enjoy a classic Shanghai drink at the cafe of the hall.
The opening of the exhibition attracted 74-year-old novelist Guan Xinsheng, who has documented Shanghai's workers' history. His novel "Workers" finds a special place in the exhibition.
Guan, who grew up and worked in a similar community, shares a deep connection with the area.
"Such an exhibition tells the story of us, the Shanghai workers, and our families," he said.
The site not only serves as a cultural and historical landmark but also as a beacon of community spirit, highlighting the resilience and transformation of Shanghai's worker villages, said an official of the Changbai Community Subdistrict.