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Shikumen houses are two or three-story townhouses, with the front yard protected by a high brick wall.

Those tainted by personal capitalist backgrounds were relegated four or five to a tiny room.

Overcrowding ensued when tens of individuals are forced to live cheek by jowl, sharing amenities and utilities with a ruthless eye on who pays what.

I’ve previously written about the influence of Art Deco design in Shanghai’s shikumen.

This repainted shikumen header is located in Wangyima Lane (王医马弄), one of the oldest lanes in Old Town dating back to the 13th century.

Some lanes had cookie cutter European flower designs stamped overhead in narrow alleys, other lanes enjoyed beautiful and intricate carvings that more well-off residents enjoyed.

The most unique are standalone shikumens that captured the spirit and influence of a household, with carefully chosen symbols of peaches for longevity or an elephant to signify wisdom.At the height of their popularity in the 1930s, there were 9,000 shikumen-style buildings in Shanghai, comprising 60% of the total housing stock of the city, according to Ruan Yisan, director of the National Historic Cities Research Center at Tongji University.Sadly, more than three thirds of the city’s shikumen housing has since been demolished.~ 上海人 Longtang (弄堂) is a colloquial term for lilong (里弄), a neighborhood of lanes populated by houses which had evolved since its creation from 1842 to about 1949, coinciding with the Western presence in this port city.They have evolved into five types: 1) the old shikumen (石库门) longtangs, 2) the new shikumen longtangs, 3) the new-type longtangs, 4) the garden longtangs, and 5) the apartment longtangs.In the early 20th century, these residential structures were often owned by a single landlord who would house a multi-generational family and sometimes rent out smaller rooms to migrants.

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