22 February 2013

The "Old Quarter", Shantou



Shantou, formerly known as "Swatow", is the easternmost big city on the Guangdong coast before you get to Fujian Province.

In 1858-or-so several western powers bullied China to sign the "Treaty of Tientsin". The treaty allowed Britain, France, Germany and the USA to get access to several Chinese coastal cities as "Treaty Ports".  One of these was Shantou.

The western countries were able to get various commodities into China via the Treaty Ports, the most notorious of which was opium.  Shantou also became a place from which many labourers went all over the world.   Don't take my word for it; here are a couple of links:











 By the 1930s Shantou was a very prosperous place, built on trade and money remitted home from overseas.  Many of the buildings from this period are still standing (just) in an enclave in the southwest of the city.

(This is where Stu in Hokkaido can buy his "Ipud").......the "Ipple" store - where else ?











After 1949 the buildings fell into a state of neglect. It appears that the local government doesn't seem to know what to do with the buildings, but I'd say that renovation, where possible, would be a brilliant way to boost the local sense of identity, and create a unique, but still distinctly Chinese tourism attraction.  







Some locals are aware of the importance of the buildings. A University student was pleased to get me to fill in her questionnaire about them.

Anyhow, it looks like the powers-that-be in Shantou are just waiting for the buildings to collapse out of neglect.  I know there may be complicated ownership issues here, but it would be a great pity if this kind of architectural heritage was lost.

Here in Hong Kong we've bulldozed plenty of "Heritage" in the past thirty years or so.  Shantou ! Don't make the same mistake !


10 comments:

  1. Looks like a set from a post appocalyptic movie!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I felt the same way... I like the one with trees growing on them best

      Delete
  2. Can I order my Ipple iPud online? Washing line perhaps?

    These look wonderful buildings well worthy of saving and restoring. My guess is that if it were going to make someone money it would have been done by now but perhaps someone has a vested interest in total collapse. They could then build a hotel and sell the individual rooms as non-residential units for silly prices. Now that would never happen in HK, would it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "sell the individual rooms..." it would never happen in HK, we're FAR too sophisticated for that !!

      Delete
  3. Visited Beihai last year, same story there. Nigel

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nigel,

      Nice that Beihai still has some of these...but a pity it's the same tale of neglect !

      Delete
  4. Where are the birds, John?! Just kidding. Nice set of images. Very rustic and romantic feel to them.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great pics and a story that is all too familiar somehow. This seems to be happening in so many places around the world! All I can say is that on my travels, I am so glad to have painted some of these old places before they were bulldozed!
    Really wished I had the money and influence to save some of these - would love to actually live in one (some) of them (after a bit of fix-up of course) - what wonderful studios they would make!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Jeremy,

    Thanks for commenting... I thought these would appeal to an artist.

    Great studios with the high ceilings, etc. and a people-friendly scale to the town environment.

    But there's no "quick buck" in conserving them, so I think they'll just crumble away.

    ReplyDelete