The Slow Demise of Long Spring Lane

A little north of Shanghai’s Suzhou Creek, nestled behind the cacophony of Qipu Lu’s hectic wholesale clothing district, lies the entrance to Changchun “Long Spring” Lane (长春里). It is a crumbling longtang* (弄堂) marked by one of Shanghai’s ubiquitous brick archways, which lies under the lane’s name, chiseled in stone. And it has a very auspicious address: 858 Tanggu Lu. In Chinese, 858 is “ba wu ba” but sounds very close to “fa wo fa” as in “prosper I prosper”.

But for all its supposed good fortune, the lane has lately found itself less than prosperous. Residents of the front section of Long Spring Lane have moved out after agreeing to take government compensation for redevelopment plans, turning the main alleyway into a repository for rotting trash and festering vermin. Meanwhile, the once-lovely balcony overlooking the street was being slowly eaten away by termites and humidity.

The back portion of the longtang was still intact and home to a few families, but it was slowly emptying out, evidenced by the bricked-up shikumen**. 858 Tanggu Lu is increasingly surrounded by wide asphalt roads and warehouse-like offices. It’s unclear whether any future building will share the longtang’s encouraging address, but if it does, it will certainly promise prosperity of a different kind.

*For those who are unfamiliar with Shanghai’s traditional but disappearing neighborhoods, longtang is a colloquial term for lilong (里弄), a neighborhood of lanes populated by houses which had evolved since its creation from 1842 to about 1949, coinciding with the Western presence in this port city.

**Longtangs are often made up of shikumen (石库门), or translated as “stone gate”. It is an architectural style of housing unique to Shanghai that blends Chinese and Western structural styles, and are most distinctive by a stylistic stone arch above the entrance of the home.

This post is a revised version of the original, and was cross-posted from

This entry was written by Sue Anne Tay , posted on Wednesday July 27 2011at 12:07 am , filed under Asia Pacific and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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