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August 27, 2010

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Home » Metro » Entertainment and Culture

Roof falls on neglected landmark

Ever-Spring Hall, which became Shanghai's first Catholic Church in 1640 but is now a desolate wreck, finally caught the Huangpu District government's attention after the roof over one of its rooms collapsed in Wednesday's heavy rain.

The hall, although listed as a protected architecture by Huangpu District government, has been left unattended for dozens of years, stuck at the end of a narrow lane on Wutong Road, near its more famous contemporary, Yuyuan Garden.

A property-management worker blamed the government for inaction in protecting the architecture and said he was worried that the typhoon predicted for September might tear apart the whole building.

Repairs promised

An official surnamed Li with Huangpu Culture Bureau said they were working on a proposal to conduct emergency repairs to the building and promised they would have it done before next Wednesday.

Conceding that the ancient building was under the bureau's protection, Li said that they had already made a plan to renovate it and had sent workers to the site.

However, the hall - filled with piles of throwaways of junk, ranging from urinals to even basketball stands - is protected only by a rusting fence that can be climbed over with ease.

Simpler still, one can open the fence door because the lock is gone.

The workers that Li mentioned were working at another building next to the hall. They said their jobs were to furnish a new activity center for elderly men- nothing to do with the hall.

"The sanctuary has been well forgotten," said a doorman, surnamed Wang, who seemed to be the only man working at the hall entrance.

"I felt sorry for it as it had served for so many people, young and old," he said. "Now it's abandoned, simply because it's old and not profit-making?"

In the past dozen years, the long-ago church has served as a gymnasium for an elementary school, a police station, and now, when the pupils and policemen are gone, what's left is only a dirty warehouse for workers at the next-door activity center to dump construction wastes.

Few residents living on Wutong Road said they had heard of Ever-Spring Hall. Many wondered whether it was the name of another small shop around Yuyuan Garden, only several hundred meters away from the hall.

No one believed that the hall was built up by the same man who later built the Yuyuan Garden. As an old saying went: "First, there is Ever-Spring Hall; second, there is Yuyuan Garden."

Ironically, some expats are showing great interest in the building, taking photos of it and uploading them on their blogs, expressing their sorrow for the building's fate.

The hall dates to the mid-1500s, when it was a private house belonging to a wealthy imperial official, Pan Yunduan.

When the Pan family fell into decline, the hall was auctioned off. Officials at that time started to pay more attention to the Yuyuan Garden and the Ever-Spring Hall was about to fade away in history.

An Italian missionary bought the hall in 1637 and in 1640 turned it into the city's first Catholic Church, named Jingyi Hall, said Xu Kang, an official with the Shanghai Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee.

It ceased being used as Catholic church at least 300 years ago, according to the property's doorman. It then became a Chinese temple.


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