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Recording history along Suzhou Creek
From:Shanghai Daily  |  2021-01-12 08:29

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

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

About 2,100 square meters of asphalt roads were replaced by cobblestones to add some authentic Shanghai flavor because narrow cobblestone lanes were commonly seen 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’anhistory can be found on the waterfront.

Mosaic-style decorations inlaid in the flood-control walls were inspired by the facades of the fairytale-likeMollerVilla built by Swedish shipping magnate Eric Moller.

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.

“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 ofSuzhouCreek.

During the Battle of Shanghai in 1937, it was the last stand for Chinese forces against the Japanese invaders, 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 happiness and belonging.”

Poems written by local residents to show their affection forSuzhouCreek 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.

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

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

He wrote that down as his first paragraph, and continued with his mother’s view ofSuzhouCreek. “My mother said that when she was young, the family squeezed into 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.”

Renowned Shanghai writerZhaoLihongalso saw his poem engraved on the waterfront.

In his childhood, the water was clean and one of his favorite pastimes was swimming. Over the years, it turned 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.”