#TBT: Three Generations Reflect on Luwan's Disbanded District

By That's Shanghai, December 1, 2016

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Throwback Thursday is when we trawl through the That's archives for a work of dazzling genius written at some point in our past. We then republish it. On a Thursday.

By Emma Chi

Many residents made a pilgrimage to the Luwan District Local Government sign at 100 Chongqing Nan Lu to pose for pictures, knowing its removal was imminent. On June 8, Luwan was abolished, incorporated into greater Huangpu District. Because Luwan is so historically significant, the State Council had to approve its disbandment. 

Zhou Shaojun, a 28-year-old accountant, and her family have lived in Luwan for three generations. For them, the change is a sad, but it also gave them cause to remember many colorful neighborhood stories. 

“Huaihai Lu was my playground in my childhood. My happiest memory is rushing out of our alley to see all the colored lights on National Day,” Zhou says. Zhou’s great-grandmother, Xue Caiying, moved to Shanghai from Huzhou in the 1920s to trade silk. She met Shen Jinshan, a driver for a foreign company, and together they married and moved into the building that now houses the Xintiandi Starbucks. Zhou’s grandmother and mother, Shen Junpei, were both born and raised where people now purchase espresso.


“My granny used to say songs were always flowing out through one of the villas when you passed Lane 322 on Danshui Lu,” says 56-year-old Shen Junpei. The lane was home to Li Jinhui, a famous Shanghainese musician of the day. 

Zhou Shaojun’s grandfather, Zhou Fangzhi, came to Shanghai in the 1940s to work as a clock apprentice before the PRC was founded. He worked hard and opened his own watch-making shop on Huaihai Zhong Lu, today Infiniti Plaza stands in its place. 

Zhou’s mother met her father, Zhou Huaming working at Shengli Clothing factory. After they married, they lived in a Shikumen on Zizhong Lu. It was demolished in 2001 to make way for Cuiping Lake. 

“I feel proud of being a Luwan resident,” says Zhou’s father, Huaming. “Jiangnan Manufacturing Bureau was established here in 1865. It pioneered firearm, warship and steel production in China.”

More than 150 heritage sites are located Luwan, including the site of the First National Congress of the CCP, and the former residents of Sun Yat Sen, Chiang Kai-shek, Chairman Mao and Zhou Enlai. 

“A lot of the beginnings of the Communist movement took place here,” Huaming says. “This was the cradle of China’s revolution.”

“Luwan people are pretty bourgeoisie and have good taste, but aren’t flamboyant,” his wife, Junpei, adds. She lists off a handful of artists and scholars who inhabited the neighborhood. 

Their daughter, Zhou Shaojun, recalls the stories her grandfather told her about notorious Shanghai gangster Huang Jinrong (“Big-eared Du”): “He wasn’t actually so bad. He’d give people a little help on Lunar New Year – one yuan at the most, but that was quite precious at the time.”

Many of the families they’ve known in Luwan over the years have already moved. Once their houses were demolished in the 1990s to make way for new construction, many Luwan residents moved to other districts. Zhou Shaojun has two cousins who have moved abroad, but they too were sad to hear Luwan is disappearing. 

“People my age still enjoy writing letters and to think ‘Luwan District’ will disappear forever from the envelope is sad.” her father says. “Xintiandi, Fuxing Park and Shanghai Culture Square will all still be there but Luwan wont. Luwan is our home, all our innermost feelings are located there.”

This article first appeared in the August 2011 issue of That's Shanghai. To see more Throwback Thursday posts, click here.

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