Songjiang television tower continues to radiate

Tan Weiyun
A look back at the history of what was once the district's tallest structure.
Tan Weiyun
Songjiang television tower continues to radiate
Dai Qiying / Ti Gong

Songjiang Television Tower

A collective memory for almost every Songjiang local, the district's 158-meter-tall television tower has gotten a facelift.

"Seen from the top of the tower, the cars were moving like matchboxes, and people looked like ants," Songjiang schoolchildren wrote in their compositions thousands of times since it was built in 1994.

The construction is more than a landmark. It has been a silent witness of the district's growth over the years, which recalls cherished memories of a bygone age.

In 1984, Songjiang set up Shanghai's first suburban TV station, housed in a shabby local hostel by simply erecting television-transmitting antennas on the top. Two years later, the station was relocated to Ledu Road on a patch of a rice field. A transmitter room was built with a guyed antenna mast as thick as a tree trunk.

It wasn't until 1994 that Songjiang TV Tower was officially launched. The self-supporting, seamless-steel radio and television transmitting tower was nicknamed "Songjiang's Oriental Pearl TV Tower" and became a popular tourist attraction.

Songjiang television tower continues to radiate
Ti Gong

The previous generation of Songjiang journalists at work

Songjiang television tower continues to radiate
Ti Gong

The previous generation of Songjiang journalists at work

Songjiang television tower continues to radiate
Ti Gong

The previous generation of Songjiang journalists at work

Songjiang television tower continues to radiate
Ti Gong

Ye Wei (left) and his colleague Zhuang Jia at work

The biggest highlight might be the large sphere that constantly revolves.

"How many times have you been to that tower?" was once a thing worth bragging about among children.

Its two-level ground construction was not only for radio and television transmission, but also a conference hall, activity center, ballroom and karaoke hall.

It took 55 seconds for the elevator that can hold up to 14 people to travel to the top of the tower. The sphere, covering an area of 300 square meters, is divided into two floors. The upper floor makes one revolution every 45 minutes, while the outer-ring neon lamp advertising box takes only 15 minutes.

When night falls, the tower's searchlights, neon lights and radium spotlights are all on, lighting up the night sky of Songjing.

It was once the tallest structure in the district. People could sit and sip tea on the top with a bird's eye view of the downtown area and Sheshan Hill.

In 1986, Songjiang People's Radio Station debuted. At the time, TV was a luxury for a local Songjiang family, and radio became an indispensable source of information and entertainment.

Farmers got up early in the morning with the village's radio loudspeaker broadcasting programs. In the slack season, they would gather under a big tree to listen to the popular radio drama "Afugeng talks" in Shanghai dialect, where the character Afugeng lectured on agricultural knowledge in a humorous and easy-to-understand way.

In fact, every town and village in Songjiang had their own radio station, and they also rebroadcast the district's programs. Each household had a simple radio receiver – a little box with a long rope. The radio was turned on by pulling the rope. Songjiang People's Radio Station often held various writing compositions that attracted farmers and even expats to join.

In the mid-1980s, it was a big deal for a family to have a 14-inch, black-and-while TV at home, a clumsy, bulky device with two antennas above. When the signal was weak and the screen was packed with "snowflakes," people patted on the TV and adjusted the antennas to get the image back.

In the early 1990s, there were few TV channels – only China Central Television, Shanghai TV and Songjiang TV.

Ye Wei joined the Songjiang TV Station 30 years ago.

"I started making TV programs instead of watching them," he said.

Ye became part of the camera crew, and learned how to shoot, edit and interview with old photographers.

Songjiang News was initially broadcast once a week, but eventually added a second weekly show. The rest of the time was dedicated to various TV series.

The hottest show at the time was the drama "Crave," the life story of Liu Huifang, a pretty young factory worker who vacillated between men who helped her and those who needed her.

When the new building opposite the Songjiang TV Station went into full operation in 2019, the district marched into a new era of multimedia – a fusion of TV, Internet, video, audio and traditional newspaper.

Now in charge of the visuals department, Ye has put the camera down and picked up a smartphone to make video clips for various social network platforms, such as TikTok, Weibo and WeChat.

With more choices in entertainment and sightseeing, the Songjiang TV Tower has gone back to its original role of transmitting radio and TV signals.

Songjiang television tower continues to radiate
Ti Gong

A worker checks the condition of a radio and television transmitter.

Songjiang television tower continues to radiate
Ti Gong

A reporter doing interview

Songjiang television tower continues to radiate
Ti Gong

The current generation of journalists in their office

Songjiang television tower continues to radiate
Ti Gong

A new generation of Songjiang journalists are fulfilling their responsibilities while the Songjiang TV Tower has gone back to its original role of transmitting radio and TV signals.

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