Pawnshop preserved for posterity

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

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

Xu’s Pawnshop, covering 1,745 square meters, which opened in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), was once the only pawnshop in the west of Xiuye Bridge in Songjiang. Now it is also 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 of 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 area.

Part of the building was demolished while some illegal structures were built by the residents. But the Yongfeng Sub-district launched a renovation campaign and relocated the residents.

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.

Around 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 pawnshop is one of the historic structures in the old town. Neighboring heritage sites include Yiyuan Garden, built during the Ming Dynasty (1366-1644) 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’s 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 connects with the sea. Mansions, temples and bridges were built along the waterways during the Ming Dynasty.

The subdistrict has invited the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and Tongji University to draw up a reopening plan for the pawnshop, as well as Cangcheng Old Town.

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

Pawnshop preserved for posterity
Lu Jia / Ti Gong

Xu’s Pawnshop after restoration  

Special Reports