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Waterfront renovation has stories to tell
From:Shine  |  2021-01-12 00:40

A mother and her son stop to read a poem.

A stretch of theSuzhouCreek inJing’an District has become a new landmark paying tribute to local history.

The 400-meter-long waterfront faces the historicalSihangWarehouse to the north.

About 2,100 square meters of asphalt roads were replaced by cobblestones to add some authentic Shanghai flavor as narrow cobblestone lanes were a common scene in traditionalshikumen (stone-gate) neighborhoods.

Plants that flower throughout the year adorn the 2,300 square meters of greenery, lined with camphor andginkgotrees.

Traces ofJing’an history can be found on the waterfront.

Mosaic-style decorations inlaid in the flood-control walls were inspired by the facades of the fairytale-likeMollerVilla. A map ofJing’an in the 1950s and drawings of some historical buildings such as the Sihang Warehouse are engraved on the ground.

Bronze plates displaying “disappearing” road names such as Seymour for today’sShaanxiRoad N. and Majestic for today’s Nanhui Road can been seen on a red-brick wall on the waterfront.

The railings along the riverfront path have been designed based on the shape of the windows of theSihangWarehouse.

Li Qian / SHINE

A map of Jing'an in 1953 is engraved on the ground.

Li Qian / SHINE

An engraving of the former Chamber of Commerce of Shanghai on the ground

“We encode‘red’ DNA when we improve the local waterfront environment,” said DongWeiyifrom the district’s housing and construction management commission.

The warehouse was built in the early 1930s as a storage facility for four banks when the city’shomegrownindustries and entrepreneurs thrived on the north bank of theSuzhouCreek.

During the Battle of Shanghai in 1937, it was the last stand for Chinese forces against the Japanese invaders and one of the bloodiest episodes of Shanghai’s wartime history.

Now, it is a memorial with bomb and bullet holes preserved on the west wall.

“We hope to explore local history and display it to the public,” saidZhongLu, chief designer of the environmental improvement project. “Also, we think it’s very important to bring people into our project. Involvement can create a sense of belonging.”

Li Qian / SHINE

Two men take pictures of the railing poems on the waterfront.

Poems written by local residents to show their affection to theSuzhouCreek can been seen on the waterfront railings, making it an 80-meter “poetry corner.” The 21 poems were selected in a competition and are engraved in Chinese, English andbraille.

People can scan QR codes on benches to listen to more poems from the competition, recited by blind people and local celebrities.

Li Qian / SHINE

Bronze plates show the different names of roads in Jing'an in different times.

ZhaoHongyi, 13, was surprised to find his poem on the railings. His “SuzhouCreek People,Jing’an Dream” depicts how the river looks in the eyes of his grandmother, his mother and himself.

“Before the epic war movie‘TheEight Hundred’ was screened, I didn’t care about theSuzhouCreek though I live nearby. The movie really shocked me. It reminded me of what my grandmother told me about the battle around theSihang Warehouse,” he said.

He wrote that down as his first paragraph, and continued with his mother’s view of theSuzhouCreek.

“My mother said that when she was young, the family squeezed in a very narrow room, just about 10 square meters. It was a hard time but neighbors cared about each other,” he said. “I was born in 2008. What I saw was a prosperous world where dreams are made of.”

Li Qian / SHINE

Blind people can read poems in braille.

Renowned Shanghai writerZhaoLihongalso saw his poem engraved on the waterfront.

In his childhood, the river was clean and one of his favorite pastimes was to swim in theriver. Over the years, he saw it turn black and stinky.

“I had thought it could never be reversed. I had resigned to losing it, and I had felt so desperate,” he said. “However, I saw hope in recent years.”

The river has become clean again. The riverbanks that used to be occupied by garbage, warehouses and illegal structures are now beautiful public areas where people can walk.

“Residents like me have special feelings for the river. So, it’s meaningful to make local people write poems for the river,” he said.

Li Qian / SHINE

Pigeon sculptures on railings beside the creek

Dong said the area is just one of the three new landmarks along the Jing’an section of theSuzhouCreek after the riverside space was returned to the public.

The Butterfly Bay Park has been integrated into the waterfront area to become an open green space.

The improvement of the waterfront environment surrounding the site of the former Chamber of Commerce of Shanghai, China’s first modern commerce chamber founded in 1912, is still underway but expected to be finished in seven to 10 days.

“Next, we will upgrade lighting along the river and renovate the facades of buildings along the river,” Dong said. “Especially, we will explore how to transform the gloomy areas below the bridges over theSuzhouCreek to people’s hangouts. We plan to give every one of these areas a theme by 2023.”