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Shanghai Longtang Life

Longtang (old alley) is a typical residence of Shanghai people in the past. It is a window to see through the life of Shanghai. But nowadays the Longtang is getting less and less with the new buildings built up, the old and ancient buildings have to be torn down to make way for modern development.

Rambling along the Longtangs, visitors can glimpse the life of Shanghai people who still live in the old houses, such as no clear-cut boundary between public and private space. In the past, when air-conditioning, refrigerators and television sets were not available or affordable, people had to share cooking and water facilities. Residents went about their many daily activities, such as doing the laundry, cooking, brushing, washing and even taking a shower, in the common space. Since the rooms in the homes were very small, residents would move many family activities from indoors to the streets, such as having meals, taking a nap, reading and playing chess.

The special features of the Longtangs have profoundly shaped people's manners, lifestyles and cultural habits. Unlike living in modern apartment buildings, life in the Longtangs is far more transparent with very limited privacy. Yet, on the positive side, neighbors are more familiar with and intimately involved with each other.

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