The world as their playground

The world as their playground 01

Well detailed here, the area surrounding Shangchuan Huiguan (商船会馆) in Old Town, also known as Merchant Shipping Hall, has been completely flattened and the radius of demolition continues expanding in full force. Built in 1715, it was a place for business traders to congregate for wheeling and dealing or to rest for the night before hopping back on their boats moored off by the port along the Huangpu River (黄浦江). While the structure itself is authorized for preservation, everything else has fallen to the wrecking ball. At least 5 streets now no longer exist, their road signs standing in irony.

In this vast track of land, unnatural in Shanghai’s dense urban jungle, there was much activity. In addition to construction workers shoveling rubble, speeding bulldozers, and a web of scavengers, children from surrounding neighborhoods were peppered across the landscape.

There is so much to play with – puddles of water with rocks of all sizes, endless discoveries of discarded knick knacks and miles of dust to build sand castles. The children were oblivious to the sea of roaring engines and whipped up dust storms, only mindful of the playground beyond their doorstep.

March 2010

The world as their playground 02

The world as their playground 03 The world as their playground 04




  • Reply March 26, 2010

    Expatriate Games

    Kids will adapt… anywhere, anytime, even in the most difficult of situations. Something happens to us as we get older, in that we become comfortable with routine and are no longer willing to embrace what is in front of us. Nice work here….

  • […] Huiguan (商船会馆), a former temple and lone structure in a vast ocean of concrete rubble. Even children who played amidst what was left over of the neighborhood, are not likely to recall what it used to […]

  • […] The photo above was taken in March 2010 of scrapers in Dongjiadu. […]

  • Reply November 23, 2010


    Have you ever met with or talked to anyone from the government bureaus that plan this destruction/development? Have you ever heard of how they decide which places to keep and which places to destroy? It seems so arbitrary.

    • Reply November 23, 2010

      Sue Anne

      @Mikecheck: No, I haven’t spoken to any government officials about this. Most of the information I glean are from the residents in those places and those responsible for the demolition (managers, workers etc). I do know that there are actually blue prints of what the government plans to do with certain parts of town, say Old Town which is undergoing siginficant overhaul. The blue prints denote colored zones for preservation, demolition etc with the purpose of widening roads, adding new developments etc. They are available publicly, and my friend obtained from the internet. In other cases, we discuss among friends with a similar interest in the areas, and piece together information.

      Hence, I think the authorities do have an urban plan mapped out, I wouldn’t underestimate their vision though I disagree with aspects of it. It could be arbitrary in the sense that incoming property developers may lobby for certain changes, grey area zoning regulations may change or any other feedback. I just don’t believe the residents have any say in it. Which, as a result, structures that have great value are looked over and unfortunately razed.

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