Historic garden in the heart of Jing'an reopens after yearlong renovation
Hello again! Zhangyuan
As renovation wrapped up, the western section of the century-old Zhangyuan reopened on Sunday.
It is one of Shanghai's best-preserved shikumen (stone-gate) neighborhoods, bounded by Weihai Road to the south, Wujiang Road to the north, Maoming Road N. to the west and Shimen No. 1 Road to the east.
Divided into two parts, Zhangyuan occupies about 60,000 square meters, with the western section featuring 17 historic buildings and the eastern part featuring 26. A one-year renovation of the western section was completed by the end of September and it has reopened as a new cultural, fashionable and commercial landmark in Shanghai.
Zhangyuan dates back to 1872, when a British merchant bought the area to build garden villas. It fell into the hands of Zhang Shuhe, a wealthy businessman from Wuxi in Shanghai's neighboring Jiangsu Province, in 1882. Hence, it was named Zhangyuan, or Zhang's Garden.
In 1885, it opened to the public as the city's most popular leisure destination. A wide variety of fancy entertainment was on offer such as a roller coaster, an aquatic Lotic Brave Ride, a fireworks show and circus performances.
It was the site of the city's first electric lighting, first outdoor photo studio, first modern drama performance and first Western-style wedding, among its many groundbreaking activities. It was also the place to be seen by notables of the era. Revolutionary Sun Yat-sen made speeches there, Chinese martial arts master Huo Yuanjia showcased his skills and painter Liu Haisu exhibited his portraits.
However, gradually, it receded from importance as competition from newer indoor entertainment complexes such as cinemas sprang up. After Zhang died in 1919, the area was subdivided and sold to 28 developers.
Zhang's dream park vanished, but a living shikumen museum emerged.
Different developers favored different architectural styles in different times. Though, essentially, they fall into the shikumen architectural style, they differ in details that embrace Renaissance, Baroque, eclectic and other styles. Today, it is quite literally an architectural treasure trove, featuring historic buildings in 28 different styles.
However, beautiful as these buildings are, the interior became so dilapidated because the houses were partitioned into smaller units occupied by multiple families, which led to squalid living conditions, with shared kitchens and toilets, and cracked walls and leaky ceilings.
To grant Zhangyuan a new lease on life, residents were relocated and the historic buildings were preserved and restored to their original look and renovated for modern use.
Boutique stores, galleries, guesthouses, coffee shops and more commercial and cultural venues are moving in to inject new life into the historical compound.
"We want to show people how it looked 100 years ago," said Zhou Qi, a department manager at the Jing'an Construction & Decoration Industrial Co. "As people meander through the alleyways, they will feel transported back to the heyday of Zhangyuan."
He added, "We now incorporate urban renewal concepts in renovations, a perfect pairing of old and new."
Renovation of the eastern section will soon begin.