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September 4, 2010

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Home » Metro » Entertainment and Culture

Workers prepare to stop the rot at crumbling church

WANG Jianping was delighted to see a group of workers enter Ever-Spring Hall yesterday, carrying ladders and tools to mend the broken roof.

The doorman was happy to find he was not the only one who cared about the ancient hall, which dates back to the mid-1500s and was the city's first Catholic church.

He has been on duty at the building for over a year, witnessing its decline and seeing nothing done to preserve the ancient sanctuary.

"Repair and reinforcement work will be done in one week," said Li Mingjun, director of the cultural relics section of the Huangpu Culture Bureau, yesterday.

But he said the work would only ensure the building would not collapse.

Although they had worked out a renovation plan to restore the hall to its original appearance, the project would cost several million yuan so they had to wait for the city government's approval, he said.

Li said the hall could be used as a cultural display center after the renovation, probably to tell the story of Pan Yunduan, the man who built it and who went on to build Yuyuan Garden.

He said many inner decorations, such as gold-painted statues on the ceiling, patterns on some pillars, and even some tiles on the floors, were still in good condition.

Wang Anshi, deputy director of the Historical Building Protection Committee, suggested that the hall had a future as a sightseeing landmark.

"I hope it can be as popular as Yuyuan Garden some day," Wang said.

This is probably good news for small shop owners on the lane, but an old man, wearing pajamas and sitting on a cane chair next to the hall on Wutong Road, sneered at the idea, shouting: "No way."

Just like other residents sitting outside enjoying the cool air, he seemed to be fed up with the number of visitors coming to see the hall.

Whenever visitors asked him where it was, he would point in one direction -- toward the narrow lane's exit.

"I don't know about the hall and I don't care whether it's collapsing or not. It's just an old abandoned building," said another resident.

The building served as Shanghai's first Catholic church in 1640 and later became a Chinese temple, then a gymnasium for an elementary school, a police station and finally, an empty shell for workers to dump waste.


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