Century-old pawnshop preserved

Xu’s Pawnshop in Songjiang District that opened for business during the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) has been given a new lease of life.
Lu Jia / Ti Gong

Xu’s Pawnshop after restoration in Songjiang.

Preservation work has finished on a 156-year-old pawnshop in suburban Songjiang District.

Xu’s Pawnshop, covering 1,700 square meters, was opened in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) as one of 29 pawnshops in Cangcheng Old Town, a historic rice storage depot, on Zhongshan Road W.

The pawnshop gained a good reputation and became a popular business, outlasting all its local rivals by the mid 20th century.

It was later converted into a residential building with 29 households living inside under increasingly shabby conditions.

“The house became a mess during that period with electric wires on walls and the former stone floor being covered by cement,” said Zhuang Qin, deputy director with the renovation office for the historic area.

Part of the building was demolished while some illegal structures were built by the residents, Zhuang added.

Ti Gong

Xu’s Pawnshop on Zhongshan Road W.

The Yongfeng Subdistrict launched a renovation campaign and relocated the residents.

“The structure had failed to be maintained for decades and had many additional structures, posing major safety risks,” Zhuang said.

The renovation involved fixing the wooden structure while preserving the building’s historic appearance. Workers applied the traditional mortise-and-tenon joints technique that uses no nails or glue to repair rotten pillars and beams.

About 70 percent of the old construction materials such as stone floors, doors and windows as well as tiles have been kept, while the broken parts were replaced by new materials that were made to “look old,” according to the district government.

The subdistrict has invited the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and Tongji University to make a reopening plan for the pawnshop as well as Cangcheng old town, Zhuang said.

The pawnshop is one of the historic structures in the old town. Neighboring heritage sites include Yiyuan garden, built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Dacang Bridge, which is 385 years old.

The old town contains nine heritage sites under district-level protection and 81 registered cultural sites, including Zuibai Pond Park, Du Mansion and Songfang Tower, a mosque built during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).

Cangcheng was renowned as a rice storage depot and a river transport center. The town’s web of rivers and canals connect with the sea. Mansions, temples and bridges were built along the waterways during the Ming Dynasty.

The district government has launched renovation and preservation of historic venues from 2008. About 3,000 families are being relocated.

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