上海弄堂
SHANGHAI ALLEYWAYS

    上海人喜欢讲“弄堂”这个词。
    实际上等于其它地方的巷子,成群结片,是当年上海地皮紧张的结果,上海人的精明性格也是在小弄堂生活里磨练出来的。
    仅仅从十九世纪末至二十世纪三十年代,近两千三百万平方米的弄堂房子在数年间就吞噬了上海滩的大块地皮。
    彼时正是上海的大暴发阶段。
    那也是一个中西合璧的时代,弄堂的格局采用中式结构,欧式联排的方式,在一条纵轴上依次展开,前后排排伸展,上海最初的“小区”就是这样如棋盘展开,确立了城市的空间。
    最经典的弄堂是从“石库门” 开始的,有石框的黑门,进门是天井,两侧是厢房,从天井进客堂,后头有通向二楼内室的楼梯,有朝北的亭子间,通过客堂去后天井,和厨房、储藏室等附属用房。
    到了“新式里弄”,就西化了一些,砌上了水泥墙,安上钢窗,还有卫生间。
    二十世纪三十年代以后,法租界的林荫道复兴路、衡山路上冒出了高级奢侈的花园式里弄,连排的小洋房,每家都有三、四个开间宽,房前有自己的私人花园。这样的一种精致和排场,却是与弄堂房子作为密集群体住宅的本意相背离的。
    至此,欣欣向荣了大半个世纪的弄堂建设才告一段落。
    弄堂是近代上海人最重要的公共生活空间。长时间里被七十二家房客抢占争夺,就都要拜大上海的发达所赐了。移民的代代繁衍,致使上海人口暴增,弄堂建筑的功能和体量全部经过了精打细算的压缩,空间不断地被分割、局促。每一条弄堂自成一个小世界,上海人在这个小世界里精打细算地生活,练就了小螺丝壳里做大道场的本事。
    等到新的爆发,老上海推倒重来。
    十年不到,老式弄堂房子拆了,弄堂的意义也淡化了,成了“路”的代名词。在虚拟的弄堂里,还看得见砖石的硬朗、窗的优美线条、比率、半截木头楼梯的颜色……细节是如此精致漂亮。
    弄堂在今天渐渐地变成了上海往事的一个定格,一个浩瀚城市百年变迁的片段。

It describes ordinary lanes thronged together in a particularly Shanghainese way--crammed. Living in them requires plenty of Shanghai ingenuity.
During the short period between the late 1800s to the 1930s, almost 23 million square meters of houses in nongtang covered most of Shanghai.
It was the time of Shanghai’s big growth spurt.
It was also when East was meeting West. Nongtangs reflect this mixing with their Chinese structure and European joining, houses extending one after the other in row after row. Like a chessboard, the Xiaoqu, or residential quarters, laid the foundations of the whole city.
A typical nongtang starts from a shikumen, a black door framed with stone. Inside is a small yard called tianjing, flanked by two wings. Entering the reception area, you will see stairs leading to the second floor and a garret facing north. Walking through to the backyard, you will encounter the kitchen, storeroom, and other common use rooms.
New nongtangs are more Western, with cement walls, steel-framed windows and toilets.
In the 1930s, sumptuous garden nongtangs, which contain rows of western-style houses, emerged on Fuxing Road and Hengshan Road in the French Concession; each house had three or four rooms and a gorgeous garden in front. This kind of elegance and luxury, however, deviated from the original spirit of nongtang, which were built for the density of the masses.
Then, the continual Nongtang construction, which had lasted for more than half a century, came to an end.
But not far in the recent past, nongtang was still the most important living style. Shanghai’s longtime prosperity was the reason. Immigrants seeking their fortune flowed in nonstop, causing rapid growth in the population. With space at a minimum, the nongtangs were filled to bursting. Every nongtang was like its own little world, a snail’s shell into which the Shanghainese retreated after a day out in the world.
Then the new prosperous era came and pushed over old Shanghai.
Over the past ten years, nongtangs have been demolished at such a rate that the concept of nongtang itself is also fading out. Now the phrase has become a synonym for street. Its great beauty exists only in memory. The sturdiness of the bricks, the lines of the windows, the color of the wooden stairs…all the exquisite, beautiful details.
Nowadays, the nongtang idea is a slice of Shanghai’s past, a testament to the great changes that are always happening in this city.

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