Last year, Shanghai resident Katya Knyazeva stumbled upon Ever-spring Hall, a piece of historic Shanghai that had fallen by the wayside. Located just 100 meters east of the Temple of the City God on Wutong Lu, it was turned into a gymnasium at some point in time and then left to rot. A shame for architecture for which the saying was penned, “First, there is Ever-Spring Hall; second, there is Yu Garden.”
Last month, she was able to head back there again. From her Flickr:
For months the lane off Wutong Lu was barred with a construction door; the workers were seen lodging in the side building. However, one fine July sunday, we walked in through the gate and nobody seemed to care. Workers thought we were important, apparently.
The open area in front of the Ever-Spring Hall is now cluttered with construction materials. The workers are rebuilding the long building on the side –and using Ever-Spring Hall as a tool shed. Before, a colonnaded gallery allowed easy access inside Ever Spring Hall, but now it is completely sealed off with sheet-rock. When the workers pushed away another cart of gravel we just ducked into the gap in the sheet rock and surveyed the changes inside.
As before, Ever-Spring Hall is full of bunk beds, fitness equipment and urinals. A stray volleyball is seen here and there. This time, the door to the sanctuary was open — the place I’ve longed to get into. No doubt, the sanctuary served as a platform for speeches (or performances) during ESH’s time as a primary school gym.
Inside the sanctuary, the view is breathtaking. A tall hull rises up in complex waves, and every surface is covered with most intricate ornaments. “J.H.S.” relief has been broken off, but two mysterious initials still glitter amid delicate laurel branches. I suppose, this part of the building and its decoration is entirely attributable to the effort of Candida Xu and her associates who converted Pan Yunduan’s residence into Shanghai’s first catholic church in 1640. Refined designs lost almost none of their luster, thanks to the crude artificial ceiling that kept them secret for decades.
Let’s hope someone brings attention to, and possibly restores, this disappearing piece of Shanghai. While only the temple is left of what once was one of the largest private house of the city, wouldn’t it be a shame if we lost even that?