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Shuttling around historic city center

FROM today until June 13, you can catch a shuttle bus and tour 10 historic sites in Luwan District, from well-preserved shikumen houses to the art-and-design neighborhood of Taikang Road. Nancy Zhang hops on a bus.

Encompassing much of the old Shanghai, Luwan District is known for its historic villas and lane houses. Despite modernizations in the past few decades, the Luwan government says much of its historic architecture has been well preserved.

You can decide for yourself over the next four weeks.

From today until June 13, free tourist shuttle buses will run between 10 architectural highlights in the district. They include Xintiandi, Taikang Road, old houses and museums.

On weekends, English-speaking guides at six stops (the others already have guides) will explain the history of the building or site. They wear orange vests. The services are free.

Luwan is known for its shikumen (stone-gate) lane houses - so much so that the district chose heritage protection and promotion as its theme for an experts forum tomorrow in the run-up to World Expo 2010.

The Expo theme is "Better City, Better Life," and government officials and experts will discuss city development.

A shuttle bus will start running today at 3:40pm from the Site of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China at 76 Xingye Road, making a circuit that takes about half an hour.

It runs from 9:30am tomorrow. There's no fixed schedule and the bus stops are not exactly in front of the sites. But at least you are assured of an English-speaking guide.

"We have more complete shikumen lane house communities than many other downtown locations, where only part of a lane house complex may be left," says Fan Xingyue, spokesperson for the Luwan District Cultural Bureau. He did not have exact figures.

"With this free shuttle-bus program we want to attract more foreigners, kids and other visitors to appreciate what Luwan has to offer."

Covering more than 7 square kilometers, Luwan District is south of People's Square and encompasses the busiest part of Huaihai Road M., the luxury shopping street.

The prestigious and cosmopolitan area attracted many artists, writers, celebrities and political figures in old Shanghai. They included Founder of the Republic of China, Dr Sun Yat-sen; American writer and adventurer Agnes Smedley and famed Peking Opera artisit Mei Lanfang.

The tourist bus stops near several well-preserved shikumen complexes, such as Cite Bourgogne (Bu Gao Li) community on Shaanxi Road S., the site of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China on Xingye Road; and Xintiandi and Tian Zi Fang, both renovated old shikumen areas that now house luxury international boutique shops and restaurants.

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