The story appears on

Page A4

August 4, 2011

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Metro » Entertainment and Culture

Rare, decaying housing left unprotected

Yue Huifen, an 80-year-old woman living in a century-old wooden house, has had a recurring nightmare during the past 10 years: that her home would suddenly collapse.

It's getting close.

The Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) style residential building in Jinshan District where Yue and another eight families live is one of Shanghai's oldest and few square-shaped wooden architectures, with a tile roof and open-air corridors.

But it is on the edge of collapse due to lack of maintenance.

The eaves and wooden doors of the two-story building still have clear and delicate flower patterns. Some windows are in yellow and green, a popular decoration for wealthy families a century ago but hardly seen now.

However, the pillars and handrails in the open corridor began tilting about 10 years ago. The situation became worse recently, Yue said.

Bamboo sticks are now supporting the structure. Windows can hardly be closed because of the tilting, while the floor and stairs have begun rotting, causing Yue to slip and injure her leg two months ago.

"The building will keep creaking in typhoon weather and sound like it may collapse anytime," she said.

She said town government officials have suggested they move to nearby hotels during bad weather, but most residents have stayed because the government has not said it would pay for them to move.

Yue lives alone; her children all moved out because of the home's condition.

There number of residents is down to 20, mostly retired seniors.

"Thousands of times, I think an earthquake happened and woke up suddenly at night when the house began shaking as a cargo ship anchored in the river in front of the house," said Teng Yuhong, 60, Yue's neighbor.

Teng said lime powder sometimes drops into bowls from the roof during meals.

Residents have complained to the town government for five years, some said, but the government only erected some bamboo sticks and rearranged wires to prevent fire.

"The house has not been listed with the city's protected buildings, so cannot receive governmental funding and professional repairing," said Zhu Weixin, a publicity official of Zhangyan Town, where the house is located.

Without that funding, the town government has no money to take over the costs either to repair the building or move the residents, Zhu said.

Yao Kunyu, a town official who works in historic building protection, said the architectural style was very rare and should be on the list of the city's protected buildings, but failed only because it was privately owned.

The building was owned by a landlord before the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, and his family moved to Taiwan. The town government took control and lent the structure to the current residents but lost contact with the owners, Yao said.

"The situation is quite common to many historic residential buildings in the city that failed to receive proper protection because of the ownership problem," Yao told Shanghai Daily.

Ruan Yisan, a local professor and celebrated architectural expert in China, said the central government should issue new policies for the protection of historic houses. For the house where Yue lives, Ruan suggested finding private companies to take over the cost to move the residents out and repair the building for tourism or other commercial uses.


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