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January 29, 2012


Lilong Life, Shanghai

by gordonmichaelsutton

Want to run a couple of posts on my visit to China before the end of January so this first one on life in the lilongs of Shanghai seems to fit chronologically as these shots were taken on my last full day there. Jonathan later confided that he thought he was taking a risk showing me these older, more traditional communities that are already starting to disappear, for fear I’d feel uncomfortable. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Although I was a bit surprised to see al fresco fridges were the order of the day for keeping the meat fresh!

Less unexpected was the washing hanging out to dry. Take a closer look at the background and you’ll get a sense of how modern Shanghai is encroaching on these traditional lilong communities.

Interesting that all the windows in the modern office block are sealed while out in the lilongs, windows are thrust open to the elements. Progress?

It’s very easy to present a romanticised view of life in the lilongs, where even a washing line of underwear can look attractive next to the bamboo.

Or the casual arrangement of fabrics that hints at an intrinsic design ethic on the loose!

Life is actually a bit of a struggle here and it’s far from glamorous.

Colourful and plenty of character in the lilongs for sure, but this old woman’s face shows something of the struggle endured.

A short distance away is the five star luxury of Shanghai’s ultra modern hotels. While here in the lilongs, things were that little bit more basic.

Yet the commercial urge was never far away even here though, with tiny shops tucked away where you least expect them to be. I bought a SIM card for my phone in one of these at a bargain basement price!

The lilongs are still there to see but are occupying valuable land in the heart of the city. A similar situation exists in Beijing with their hutongs. They’re a rich part of China’s heritage. As fascinating in their own way as the fast trains or the Great Wall. Get to see them if you can.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jan 29 2012

    Washing Lines – one of my favourite photographic subjects!

  2. Jan 29 2012

    Great photos that seem to depict true day-to-day life in Shanghai.

    Courtney Mara

    • Jan 29 2012

      Thanks for dropping by, Courtney. Like to think I may have done a little bit of justice to what I saw. You never can tell, I guess. Thanks for your kind comments.


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