Architecture old and new tells the story of Jiading District
The significance of architecture to a city is not only in its basic function but the role it plays as a spiritual core and a totem of humanity. The vicissitudes of 800 years, an old well, an ancient bridge or a mansion, all silently flow into the long course of history and let Jiading become more robust. Buildings of different periods retain the memory of different times.
Folk houses in Jiading are mainly made of wood and brick which makes it difficult for them to survive for a long time in a warm and humid environment.
The first structure made of cement in Jiading was a bridge built at Huangdu during the reign of Emperor Guangxu (1871-1908).
The first cement house was built in Nanxiang at almost the same time. Both are long gone.
The Fahua Pagoda which used cement during a major repair in 1924 is also no more.
Like the long history of Jiading, the architecture can be dated back to the days before the county of Jiading was officially established, at least from the period of Three Kingdoms (220-280 AD) or even earlier.
It was in October 1985 that villagers dug out a well in Anting. The well is estimated to have been built in the East Han Dynasty (25-220 AD), suggesting that the ancestors of today’s Jiadingers had already mastered the technology to make tiles and bricks.
But houses made of wood and bricks or shabby cottages cannot be retained so far.
The first community of Jiading was formed between 836 AD and 840 AD in Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). The Mojia Lane in Nanxiang Town was a town community with a certain scale.
There had been a number of larger houses in Jiading in Song and Yuan dynasties (960-1368).
But all these ancient houses are gone, only to live on in books. Classic Chinese gardens flourished in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). A total of 83 gardens were recorded in the county annals during the reign of Emperor Guangxu, including the Qiuxia Garden and Guyi Garden. Both have been renovated and expanded.
Of the others, 46 were built in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) including the former residence of Willington Koo (1888-1985). For most of them, only some traces remain today.
Most Jiading houses built before 1900s feature strong Suzhou characteristics as it was subordinated to Suzhou Prefecture for a long time.
Some Anhui flavor could also be found in the design of the architecture as Anhui merchants had expanded their business here since Ming.
Brick, wood and stone carvings are the highlights of the buildings which also distinguish themselves through firewalls, grand gateways and dragon scale windows.
The Western or Japanese style was introduced to Jiading during the period of the Republic of China (1912-1949).
The first high-rise apartment in Jiading was built in 1978. The 10-story Yechi building was also once the tallest in Shanghai’s suburbs.
Mansions witness social changes
Jiading is also home to a number of mansions behind high walls. Some have dozens of rooms.
Pavilions, terraces, open halls, rockeries or fish ponds were not rare. In some extreme cases even the graves of ancestors were incorporated.
Most of the grand compounds in Jiading were of typical water town style. They were well-decorated and the craft of carving widely adopted.
According to the record books, Jiading has 112 former residences of historic figures including the mansions of three Champion scholars.
The Bairen Hall in Jiading Town was once residence of Champion scholar Wang Jingming (1668-1721).
It previously had 66 rooms or 911 square meters of space. At present, only one third of the architecture survives which makes it the only remaining Champion scholar residence in the town.
The residence of Champion scholar Qin Dacheng (1720-1779) covered an area of 2,600 square meters and had 42 rooms. It was demolished in the 1980s.
The residence of Champion scholar Xu Fu (1836-1908) was on the South Street in downtown Jiading and demolished in 1997.
Also on the South Street, Qins’ Garden was once famous for its rockery, pond, carved buildings and the open hall.
It was ruined in the Japanese air raid during the Battle of Shanghai from August 13 to November 26, 1937.
Although most of the old mansions have been demolished, some among them, such as the former residences of Willington Koo, Chen Shizhang and Wu Yunchu, survived decades of hardship.
The past and present of foreign-style villas
Foreign-style villas emerged in Jiading in 1930s and 1940s. The number of the villas reached 46 by 1949.
After 1949, 28 of them served as hospitals, kindergartens, schools and police stations.
The house of Tang Zhihe at Jinsha Road was built in 1936 and occupied a space of 4,000 square meters. The two-story building has 12 rooms. Its garden accounted for 90 percent of the total space. The house is part of Jiading Blood Station at present. The house of Zhu Jiayang at the North Street has a total space of 200 square meters.
The two-story house has six rooms on each floor. To its north is the house of Chen Luping. Chen’s house occupies an area of 4,000 square meters. The three-story house has four rooms on each floor. The two buildings are within the Jiading Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital and under government protection as immovable cultural relics.
Apart from them, there are houses of Gao Jieren, Pan Yangyao, and Jiang’s and Ge’s family that are already gone.
The readable modern architectures
Modern architecture, such as Jiading Library, Poly Grand Theater and F1 Shanghai International Circuit, features in Jiading in recent years.
The Jiading Library in the very center of Jiading New Town was rated as the best public library of
2013. Its design integrates traditional style with modern elements which makes the courtyard architecture reflect strong urban characteristic.
The concept of Chinese rockery and pond is placed in the modern architecture to form a readable space layout. The interior decoration reveals the subtle and exquisite Chinese humanistic spirit.
To the opposite is the Poly Grand Theater. At the end of the rectangle-shaped building is the most
splendid stage. Through the steps to the cultural kaleidoscope, audience may see thousands of different kinds of performances.