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Restoring the old Shanghai's churches [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2010-5-26 17:11:01 |Display all floors
Glab to see the Shanghai has launch its restoring of old churches and reopened them to foreigners. The foreign existence is the main part of SHANGHHAI'S history which should not and can not be ignored by anybody.
We should face it when shanghai is welcoming the whold world for its Expo.
the restoring of the old churches may help generate a  feeling of home for the foreign visitors whose father or ancestors once lived here and prayed in the old churches.
Good decision to restoring these building to remind us the real prosperous history of Shanghai

New testament to the old city

THE doormen outside the headquarters of Shanghai’s commission on municipal education have a new colleague these days. On Friday evenings and Saturday mornings they are joined by a young Israeli, a Mandarin-speaker, who keeps an eye on those coming in and out. The ivy-covered compound, built in the 1920s, is also the home of Ohel Rachel, one of Shanghai’s last surviving synagogues. This month, for the first time in almost 70 years, it reopened for regular Sabbath services. Members of Shanghai’s foreign Jewish community are once again free to pray, chant, and read scripture under the high-domed ceiling of what was once Asia’s largest synagogue.

That Ohel Rachel was reopened, despite Judaism’s not being included among China’s five officially recognised religions, is one of a number of signs that Shanghai may be picking up pace in coming to terms with its past. After 1949, many of Shanghai’s grand old bourgeois buildings were put to new uses, and much of the city’s history swept under the carpet. Some of these buildings had been designated for protection in recent decades, but the heritage signs posted on them typically give little detail about their previous significance. The city’s former foreign residents have been particularly ignored. (The childhood home of J.G. Ballard, an English novelist and perhaps Shanghai’s most famous foreign literary son, has twice been gutted, and most recently converted for use as a restaurant.)

The Ohel Rachel synagogue, built by the Sassoons, one of the legendary Sephardic Jewish families which dominated Shanghai’s commercial world in the 1920s and 30s, was neglected for many decades. In the late 1990s it was partially restored, but the Jewish community was allowed to use it on only a handful of holidays each year. Even now, the 2,000-strong community has been promised regular access only until October, when the Shanghai World Expo ends. But Rabbi Shalom Greenberg, who led the campaign for its reopening, says that the city’s authorities have indicated unofficially that “they know it’s going to be very difficult to reverse the situation.”

Part of the authorities’ motivation for making the allowance in the first place, Mr Greenberg believes, is to show a welcoming face to a Jewish business community which is already contributing to the city’s development. He also suggests that Shanghai’s economic revival has made officials more confident in treating its complex history. He says they are “in a position where they are able to use the past to benefit the future–even if the past was not so much to their liking.”

The city’s Jews are not the only beneficiaries. Shanghai’s small Russian Orthodox community has, for the first time, received permission to use one of the churches built by the White Russians who lived here before the war. Shanghai’s former British cathedral, the Holy Trinity, long kept obscure inside a government compound, has been painstakingly renovated by China’s official Protestant church, its spire rebuilt, and the high wall surrounding it demolished. Peter Hibbard, a British historian of Shanghai who recently re-established the Chinese branch of Britain’s Royal Asiatic Society, says the church is a “landmark restoration, and a major success for the city–especially because it’s not based on commercial imperatives.”

Nearby, the Royal Asiatic Society’s own former headquarters have benefited from a restoration, of the area around the original British consulate, at the north end of the Bund, Shanghai’s famous waterfront. Even the original names of old buildings, such as the Baptist Publication Building, have been reinstated. “This is nothing to do with politics,” says Zhou Wei, governor of the district which includes the Bund. “This is about history and culture. This area is the root of the development of modern Shanghai.” Mr Zhou says that Shanghai is taking the protection of its distinctive history and culture seriously, “more so than we did in the past.”

Around the city, a number of signs detailing long-forgotten street names have been erected. The Shanghai Corporate Pavilion at the World Expo, funded by local state enterprises, commissioned a Pulitzer-Prize-winning photographer, Liu Heung Shing, to compile a book of images of Shanghai’s history, in the process giving him unprecedented access to the city’s archives.

Yet this more relaxed attitude towards history does not always beget more vigorous preservation of Shanghai’s heritage. In some areas of the city, where there are fewer obvious imperatives to protect old buildings, demolition continues. The demand for new infrastructure, or simply real estate, can be more than enough to trump the economic and cultural appeals of conservation. Parts of the wartime Jewish “ghetto” area in Hongkou district, for instance, have just been knocked down. Parts of the past itself are off limits too.

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Post time 2010-5-27 15:05:29 |Display all floors
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