The history of Xintiandi – a representation of Shikumen buildings

The history of Xintiandi

Xintiandi is a popular pedestrian shopping and entertainment district located in the Huangpu District of Shanghai, China. It is a trendy destination that attracts locals and tourists alike, offering a mix of modern entertainment, shopping, and dining, while also preserving the traditional architecture of old Shanghai.

The history of Xintiandi can be traced back to the mid-19th century when the area was known as the “Shikumen” (stone-gate) neighborhood. These traditional Shanghai alleyway homes were constructed with walls made of grey bricks and black tiles, with a central courtyard for each home.

During the 1920s and 30s, Shanghai became a major international city, with a diverse population and a booming economy. The Shikumen neighborhoods of the city’s center became a hub of activity, with Western and Chinese businesses opening side by side. The Xintiandi area, in particular, was known for its vibrant nightlife, with jazz clubs and teahouses attracting Shanghai’s young and fashionable crowd.

However, the area fell into disrepair after the Communist Party came to power in 1949. The Shikumen neighborhoods were neglected, and many of the buildings were abandoned. In the 1990s, the government decided to restore some of the old neighborhoods, including Xintiandi.

In 1997, Hong Kong-based Shui On Land Limited signed a contract with the Shanghai Municipal Government to develop the Xintiandi area. The goal was to transform the dilapidated Shikumen buildings into a modern, fashionable entertainment and retail destination while preserving the traditional architecture.

After four years of restoration and renovation, the new Xintiandi opened to the public in 2001. The developers managed to preserve the original brick walls, stone gates, and courtyards while adding modern amenities such as elevators, air conditioning, and plumbing. They also added an underground parking garage to accommodate the influx of visitors.

Today, Xintiandi is a vibrant district that attracts millions of visitors each year. The area is home to over 200 shops, restaurants, and bars, as well as a museum dedicated to the history of the Shikumen neighborhoods. It has become a symbol of Shanghai’s modernity while preserving its unique cultural heritage.

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