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Exhibition brings historical buildings to life

BUILDINGS are like photographs in the sense that they freeze time. They remain long after they were built even as things change around them.

The photography exhibition "Into the Historical Architecture" takes a look at some old buildings in Shanghai's Xuhui District. The exhibition is now running at Xuhui Old House Art Center and includes 40 photos.

"When songs and legends go silent, buildings keep on talking," says Zhang Yuanmin, chairman of the Shanghai Photographers' Association.

There are more than 2,000 historical buildings in the district in a variety of styles and each features its own story.

Narrowing down the buildings to feature in the exhibit wasn't easy with so many to choose from, but Zhang says the photographs were chosen by the association's professional photographers along with some help from the local government.

The historical buildings featured include some on Wukang Road, Hengshan Road, Fuxing Road, Hunan Road and Huashan Road.

Zhang says these historic buildings are important parts of the city as it's hard to keep old buildings in good condition as over many decades, wars, natural disasters and vandalism can do a great deal of damage.

One photo features Chongsi Building, first built in 1915, as a school building. It was designed by a Belgian architect and in 1918 it became known as New School House.

The building was renamed Chongsi Building in 1992.

Shanghai's oldest library, Cang Shu Lou (Bibliotheca Zi-Ka-Wei), built in 1847, is another highlight of the exhibition.

The library has two buildings, one long ago known as the Mansion of Priests as a group of priests lived here. The other building includes a Portuguese-style chapel built between 1896 and 1897.

Zhang's interest in historical buildings is apparent as he seemingly could talk forever about the subject.

"Photographers use cameras to wake up sleepy historical houses," Zhang says. "Their own ideas are expressed by the angles they choose and how they frame the pictures."

The building that hosts the exhibition at 393 Wukang Road is also featured in the exhibit. It was built in 1912 and is known for its connection with famous political leaders.

The house used to be a library. Today, it houses the Xuhui District Historical Architecture Center office and a tourism information center.

Zhang says each old building has its own spirit and that photographs can capture the essence of this.

While no one can stop time, people can still appreciate moments frozen in time.

Date: through October 31, 9am-6pm

Address: 393 Wukang Rd


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