Old street caught between past and present

The old street of Sijing looks like a confused granny to an outsider at first glance, torn between a centrifugal force of modernization and her desire to stick to the past.
Ti Gong

Sijing Town, over 1,000 years old, is a typical water town in Songjiang, featuring riverside streets, stone bridges and a wood tower.

The old street of Sijing, or Kaijiang Road M., looks like a confused granny to an outsider at first glance, torn between a centrifugal force of modernization and her desire to stick to the past.

Self-employed store owners of various kinds keep fanning a pale commercial fire along both sides of the street, some selling down clothes or bras, some making ends meet by doing needle work.

Old houses along the street avail an insight into the ancient town that can be traced back to over 1,000 years ago.

A water town is not complete without its decorative stone bridges. Fulian Bridge, in the middle of Sijing old street, is the only remaining stone bridge in Sijing and, as such, the apple of the town’s eye.

Built in the period of Emperor Wanli (1573-1620) in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the original bridge had three arches and 62 steps. 

Together with the Pudu Bridge and Wuan Bridge (both now gone), it represents “the three bows” as Anfang Pagoda, at the west side of the Sijing old street, is compared to “an arrow.” People believed “the three bows and one arrow” kept the town safe.

The current Fulian Bridge was reconstructed in 1986, sponsored by the then Songjiang County government.

A resident surnamed Xu, who has lived in Henanjie Street near the bridge since childhood, remembered the reconstruction days of the bridge in 1986. “The new bridge seemed lower and longer than the first one,” she said.

Between the Fulian Bridge and Anfang Pogoda is the former residence of Ma Xiangbo, another historical site along the old street.

Ma, a renowned scholar himself, sold all his property to help promote education in China. In 1905, he founded Fudan Public School and became the school’s first president. The school later developed into the distinguished Fudan University.

Seated in the north and facing south, the house in Sijing was built in the 1700s. It used to have five buildings and four gardens, and now only three buildings and two gardens are left. Compared to the original map in the Shanghai Archives, the current residence is about a quarter of its previous size.

The residential house belongs to the heritage of the Ma family. In 1882, it was bequeathed to Ma by his mother after his elder brother Ma Jianxun died.

In November 2002, the Sijing township government offered to fix and reopen the old residence. In June 2011, the township government spent 987,000 yuan (US$155,998) maintaining the house to retain its style.

Like the old residence, the 1,000-year-old Sijing is expecting a new look. Last year, the Songjiang government issued a project to protect and reconstruct Sijing and hoped to transform it into a model water town within a decade.

“We can’t press too much, and it’s a project that takes time,” said Jiang Lei, deputy director of the town. “When Sijing changes into a model water town, not only will tourists appreciate its beauty, but former residents will feel proud of their hometown.”

Sijing old street

Address: Kaijiang Rd M.

The Former Residence of Ma Xiangbo

Address: 356 Kaijiang Rd M.

Fulian Bridge

Address: Kaijiang Rd M.

How to get there

Get off at the Sijing Station of Metro Line 9, and then take bus No. 47 to the old street of Sijing.

Yang Yang / SHINE

Fulian Bridge

Yang Yang / SHINE

The former residence of Ma Xiangbo

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