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Confucian Temple.
NEIGHBORHOOD GUIDE

A guide to local favorites in the Old City

Confucian Temple.
  • By Lisa Movius
  • Photos by Yue Wu
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Old City
Shanghai
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Parts of Shanghai’s Lao Cheng, by its Mandarin name — the original port city established in the 1290s — are demolished every passing month, but large swaths of the old neighborhoods remain. Little specialty shops hatching fresh eggs and handmade snacks cram the lanes. The oldest buildings here date back more than 400 years, but most are only a century or two old. While the section north of Fuxing Lu includes the tourist-overwhelmed Yu Garden, the City God Temple, Fangbang Lu and the Huxingting Teahouse, the area to the south is still authentically residential. Old City residents like to get an early start to their busy days of sitting in their doorways, watching what remains of their world.

Meet Lisa Movius

Lisa has lived in Shanghai since 1998, working as a journalist covering art and culture around Asia but with occasional side gigs working at rock club Mao Livehouse and teaching college journalism. She misses the open-water swimming of her native California but plunges into as many of Shanghai’s pools and murky lakes as she can.

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Old City

Dajingge and Old City Wall Museum
Shanghai’s city wall, first built in 1553 to keep out Japanese pirates, was demolished in the 1910s, though its outline can be traced along Renmin and Zhonghua roads. Dajingge, the only remaining watchtower, now contains a small museum. The old photographs and maps are fascinating even if you cannot read the mostly Chinese information, and the old building itself is the primary attraction.
Shanghai Old City Wall and Dajing Ge Pavilion, 269 Dajing Rd, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
Xiaotaoyuan Mosque
Built in 1917 and expanded in 1925, Xiaotaoyuan is an architectural gem merging Islamic, Shanghai lane and Art Deco architectural styles. Its name means “little peach garden.”
52 Xiaotaoyuan St., Lao Xi Men, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
Confucian Temple (Wenmiao) and book market
Shanghai’s Confucian Temple was constructed in 1294 during the Yuan Dynasty (1279 to 1368), rebuilt on its current site in 1855 and restored in 1999. As students come to pray for good grades, the streets around the temple are full of shops catering to Shanghainese teens with things like anime action figures, as well as a variety of street food. On Sunday mornings, the temple hosts a long-running used and antique market for books and other paper goods.
215 Wenmiao Lu, Lao Xi Men, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China 200010
Kongyiji Grogshop
Possibly Shanghai’s best restaurant, Kongyiji serves cuisine from the literati city of Shaoxing, in Zhejiang province, in a traditional setting. Brave the chou doufu (stinky tofu) — it is worth it — and try the huixiangdou anise-marinated beans and taitiao huangyu (deep-fried yellow croaker). Kongyiji brews its own huangjiu, or yellow Chinese wine, and neighbors stroll in to stock up, carrying their grog home in plastic bottles.
36 Xuegong Jie, Shanghai, China
The houses of Longmencun
One of the best-preserved old lanes in Shanghai, the elegant Longmencun was first established in 1865 but its current 76 mansions and lilong houses were constructed between 1905 and 1934. The traditional gate at its Shangwen Lu entrance is one of the city’s most striking.
Shangwen Lu Lane 133, No. 1-105, Huangpu District, Shanghai, China
Ren Space
Enjoy fine art by some of China’s top talents in the setting of Longmencun’s most magnificent mansion, which retains its original style.
Shangwen Lu Lane 133, No. 10, Huangpu District, Shanghai, China
Jiujianlou
The family home where Xu Guangqi (1562-1633), the Matteo Ricci convert who first introduced Christianity and modern science to China, was born in what is listed as downtown Shanghai’s oldest extant building. This Old City house is also the site of China’s first Catholic chapel.
238 Qiaojia Rd, Lao Xi Men, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
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Lisa Movius
Lisa has lived in Shanghai since 1998, working as a journalist covering art and culture around Asia but with occasional side gigs working at rock club Mao Livehouse and teaching college journalism. She misses the open-water swimming of her native California but plunges into as many of Shanghai’s pools and murky lakes as she can.
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Yue Wu
Yue is a contributing photographer based in Shanghai.
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CITY GUIDES