The story appears on

Page B1

August 26, 2011

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Matchless museums

IN a clear sign of Suzhou Creek's revival, factories along its banks have been turned over to imaginative architects and converted to museums of industry and culture. Tan Weiyun visits striking museums.

The cleanup and revival of Shanghai's Suzhou Creek is nearing completion and the once-foul industrial artery is clean and green, the air is fresh and museums, including a matchbox museum, are opening along the riverbanks.

The creek was once a busy shipping center and cradle of national industry. Today the remaining old factories and offices along its banks are being renovated and restored to house museums and exhibition sites. The area also has galleries, studios, shops, restaurants and cafes.

The 21-kilometer long riverbank winds from west to east and includes 14 kilometers within Putuo District. It's studded with more than 20 pieces of industrial heritage built by Chinese and foreign capitalists more than a century ago.

Around 10 old factories and offices are being transformed into museums telling the stories of the river's past. According to the Putuo District Cultural Development Plan (2008-2015), all remaining industrial heritage structures will be protected and renovated, faithful to original architectural styles.

These include the Shanghai Brand Museum, the former Shanghai Match Factory; the Changfeng Yacht Exhibition Hall, formerly the Shanghai Test Paper and Reagent Factory; the Shanghai Textile Museum, formerly the Shenxin No. 9 Textile Mill, among others.

They are already open with free entry on a "trial run."

The massive dredging of 1.3 million cubic meters of smelly industrial sludge and toxins has been completed this summer and restoration of the ecology is on track, making the river a desirable residential and commercial area, suitable for trendy factory-museums.

The Jackie Chan Museum is expected to open later this year. The kung fu movie star's exhibition center used to be the No. 2 Shanghai Light Industrial Machinery Factory.

When the whole museums project is completed by the end of 2013, it will have more than 10 museums along Suzhou Creek, also known as Suzhou River, according to Frank Chan, information director of Shanghai Putuo District State Owned Assets Management Co Ltd.

Chan is also a director of the Changfeng Ecological Business District, a 220-hectare development area around Changfeng Park on the riverbank. It contains a 2.7-kilometer stretch that is home to most of the industrial museums.

"Putuo District's industrial heritage is a gift of history. We aim to preserve old factories and maintain them as museums, giving them new life," says Chan.

A 70-meter-high smokestack in the Shanghai Test Paper and Reagent Factory was about to be torn down, but saved at the last minute as a spectacular platform for fireworks over the creek during holidays and festivals.

"Few young people know that factory was the city's notorious 'poison center' decades ago because the factory's chemical waste was discharged into the river and its toxic smoke poured into the sky," says Chan.

The old buildings have been reserved and the area converted into a yacht and sailing museum. The old Chenjiadu ferry terminal is now a yacht dock. The chemical factory's bathhouse for its staff is now the Shanghai Yacht Club.

With real-time imaging techniques, visitors can touch a screen and feel they are stepping into the captain's cabin and other parts of a vessel. They can even open drawers containing charts.

Not far from the yacht museum, the Shanghai Brand Museum stands on Yueya Lake surrounded by a large green belt.

It was the site of the Shanghai Match Factory but is now an exhibition center showcasing more than 7 million old match box paper labels.

The 3,000-square-meter museum is designed in the shape of four matchboxes, supported by large pillars shaped like matches.

One exterior wall is decorated with a spectacular red, black and white mosaic titled "Longyou" (Flying Dragon).

Before the project started, developers polled Internet users and asked them to vote on several designs; more than 60 percent were enthusiastic about painting Longyou to represent homegrown industry.

Shanghai "match king" Liu Hongshen opened a match factory in the 1920s but was forced to relocate the factory to Longyou County in Zhejiang Province.

He then renamed his brand Longyou to show his patriotism. After 1949, the municipal government combined the city's match factories and established the Shanghai Match Factory on the site.

Now the museum has a striking collection, including what is believed to be the world's earliest match label named after John Walker, an English chemist who invented the friction match in 1827; the Dancing Dragon, the country's earliest match label, as well as the match label that was to commemorate Dr Sun Yat-sen, the leader of the Revolution of 1911 that overthrew the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

"Suzhou Creek has witnessed the city's ups and downs and carries Shanghai's memories," says Professor Chen Shenliang of the Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Research from East China Normal University.

"The Changfeng Ecological Business District is a new development opportunity for the riverbank economy, which can build up another Bund by Suzhou Creek," he says.

M50, the artists' hub on Moganshan Road by the river, has been on the frontline of contemporary art in the city. Young artists moved there because of cheap space.

Before 1992 it was a textile factory where hundreds of women worked on roaring machinery.

Along the creek around 20 textile factories turned out garments, towels, silk and fabric of all kinds. Textiles was a pillar industry but all the factories were closed, merged or relocated in the city's industrial restructuring. Around 350,000 workers were laid off from 1992 to 2002.

Now the Shanghai Textile Museum on Aomen Road gives visitors a window on industrial history, as well as poverty, poor living conditions and unemployment.

"Laying off workers was painful but it was necessary for a city that wanted to move ahead," says Jiang Changning, deputy curator of the museum.

Today Shanghai's textile industry's 17,000 workers generate an annual output value of 37.4 billion yuan (US$5.8 billion), while back in 1992 more than 460,000 people only generated 22.5 billion yuan. "It's the success of the industrial restructuring," says Jiang.

The museum, formerly the Shanghai Shenxin No. 9 Textile Factory, retains original structures and many of the 100-year-old looms. The wood still contains the original square nails and the floor is made of cement imported from England.

"Though the thundering textile work studios are gone, the museum preserves the history and past glory," says Jiang.

Shanghai Textile Museum

Address: 150 Aomen Rd

Tel: 6299-6969 ext 101

Admission: free

Open hours: 9:30am-4pm, Tuesday to Sunday

Shanghai Brand Museum

Address: 2521 Guangfu Rd W.

Admission: free

Changfeng Yacht Exhibition Hall

Address: 160 Daduhe Rd

Tel: 6223-9718

Admission: free

Open hours: 9am-6pm

Jackie Chan Museum

Address: Intersection of Daduhe Rd and Yunling Rd E.

Tickets: Price not decided

To be opened later this year

Note: Other planned museums, exhibition sites and galleries along Suzhou Creek will showcase household electrical appliances, Chinese calligraphy and jewelry, cartoons and animation and visual art.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend