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CPC100 - From Bamboo Poles and Scholarship to Modernization


27 May 2021 | By Li Xianmin, Niu Lichao | Songjiang News

  • Zhugan Hui in 2004

    Photos by Zhou Ping

  • Zhugan Hui in 2004

    Photos by Zhou Ping

  • Pinggao World Trade Center

    Photo by Zhou Ping

T

here is a famous and historic alley in Songjiang called Zhugan Hui whose name translates to bundles of bamboo poles or bamboo pole exchange. Qing Dynasty emperor Kangxi stopped by here twice during the early 18th century, but not for the bamboo.

“Farmers used to flock here to sell bamboo in the old days,” explained Qian Mingguang, a scholar of local history. “That’s how this place got its name.”

Not everybody agrees with Qian. Some attribute the alley’s name to three dignitaries from the area who won success in the Qing Dynasty imperial examination, becoming “Jinshi”.  They point out that flagpoles were traditionally erected in front of the houses of Jinshi.

One prestigious family produced three Jinshi

Following the Sui Dynasty, the imperial examination system gradually became the sole way of selecting talented officials for the state bureaucracy. During the Song dynasty, the system was developed into three tiers, with the court tier the highest. Those who succeeded in the final court test were called Jinshi, and took up the highest official positions in the land.

Jinshi were as scarce as feathers on a fish, and yet the Wang family that lived in Zhugan Hui managed to produce three of them.

The house where they lived, known to the locals as Cijin Yuan, which can be translated as the “Garden of the Golden Treasure”, was the ancestral home of Wang Hongxu, who won second place in the court examination in the 12th year of Emperor Kangxi’s reign. He worked for a time at the Hanlin Academy, where scholars performed secretarial and literary tasks for the court, and with another official called Zhang Yushu he compiled the Ming Dynasty Historical Archives.

Wang Hongxu was the youngest of three brothers. The oldest brother, Wang Xuling, became a Jinshi when he was 32 and remained at court for more than 50 years. When he was 82 years old, and thinking of retiring, emperor Yongzheng refused to let him return to his hometown. He died two years later, when he was 84. The emperor suspended his handling of state affairs for one day and had an edict proclaimed requesting that all the officials who used to be in his charge wear mourning dress and pay their condolences.

The middle brother, Wang Jiulin, was a famous poet who became Jinshi in the 21st year of Kangxi’s governance.

In 1705, emperor Kangxi paid a visit to Cijin Yuan and wrote down in his royal script the characters “Song Zhu”, meaning pine tree and bamboo. In China, pine and bamboo, together with chrysanthemum and plum blossoms, are the four plants that represent scholarly integrity and nobility. So this was very high praise indeed from the Kangxi emperor. Impressed with the place, Kangxi came back in 1707 for a second visit.

In the three hundred years since Kangxi was carried along the flagstones of Bamboo Alley to write those noble characters, the place has undergone all sorts of vicissitudes and been transformed into a modern business street. 

Modernization of Zhugan Hui

These days, high rise buildings and modern plazas can be seen in Zhugan Hui.

“Pinggao World Trade Center lies to the north and the car park of Ludu International Commercial Plaza is slap bang in the middle of the former alley. The residential area is to the south of Zhugan Hui, and that’s where the famous house once stood,” according to history enthusiast Zhang Feng.

Last century, this area was abuzz with vendors hawking goods and machines roaring. From 1911 to the late 1980s, factories here produced light bulbs, chemicals, and consumer goods like toothpaste, perfume, face cream and clothes. The alley was full of grocery shops, tea houses, dye houses and vendors selling tofu and sauce. The hubbub of yesteryear lives on in the memories of the older residents.

Over the last 15 years, Zhu Ganhui was incorporated into the city’s renovation plan. Hundreds of households were relocated and the ancient history was absorbed into the silhouettes and contours of modern buildings.

 

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Tel : +86 (21) 3537 2378

Email : news@shisu.edu.cn

Address :550 Dalian Road (W), Shanghai 200083, China

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