Nanjing Road: Then and Now

Nanjing Road in Shanghai has been compared to Fifth Avenue in New York.  In the 1920s and 1930s, it was the mercantile and commercial hub of the city.   As I was strolling along through the now pedestrian-only street, I got a nice surprise:  I realized that I was standing at the exact same intersection that has been pictured in this 1930s poster that will be in the exhibition Shanghai:

Nanjing Road – From Series of Views of Shanghai, after 1932

Nanjing Road – From Series of Views of Shanghai, after 1932

After having looked at this poster for the past six months, the image has been burned into my memory.  So, with this image in mind, I sought to take pictures of the same frame.

I first took a street level shot, which I think is the closest to the poster image, with the Wing On department store (on left) and the Sun Sun department store (on right) still standing today:

Nanjing Road, 2009

Nanjing Road, 2009

Still unhappy with this view, I went up to the terrace of a hotel across the street for this breath-taking aerial view of the intersection and still-bustling Nanjing Road:

aerial view of Nanjing Road, 2009

aerial view of Nanjing Road, 2009

8 Responses to “Nanjing Road: Then and Now”

  1. noelcornell  on September 23rd, 2009 at 10:37 am

    I really enjoy what you did here. It reminds me of an interesting set I stumbled upon on Flickr months ago where someone re-shot scenes from Hitchcock’s Vertigo which was filmed here in San Francisco.

    I think the ground shot you’ve got is probably closer to the angle of the 1930’s poster. Unfortunately it appears that angle is probably floating somewhere in the air between your two shots so getting it lined up perfectly might prove a very difficult task indeed.

    The aerial view is nice though – demonstrating hustle and bustle of the volume of people in the more contemporary city.

  2. edeb  on September 30th, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    This is a great reality check on the anatomy of this particular place in Shanghai.

    I enjoyed comparing what has changed in these images from the artist’s rendition in the 1930s to your photographs from 2009.

    What was the artist in the earlier image wanting to convey by the inclusion of so many motorized vehicles and no less than eight airplanes surely doomed to crash? In your photo, cars are now banned from this pedestrian-only area of the city. Is this progress coming full circle from the thrill of heavy machinery (then) to the purging of those same machines from urban environments to survive (now)?

    The two large buildings are still standing only to be eclipsed by lots of people and contemporary neon signs, and dwarfed by the skyscraper beyond evoking some sort of giant robot.

    These images convey both the solidity of Shanghai’s history and the dynamism of its present. Thanks for sharing them.

  3. Cicie Wang  on February 2nd, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Any old Shanghainese people would tell you Nanjing Road is not really the 5th Ave of Shanghai. In Shanghai, we say Nanjing Rd is the front lawn of a house where the visitors go. it’s targeted towards mid range priced items. keep in mind, most of Chinese people are less well off than Shanghai locals. The backyard where the real locals hang out is Huaihai Rd with high end shops.

    Nevertheless, I still have al ot of fond memories of Nanjing Rd including the department store where my grandpa was a buyer and the many stores I used to wonder around because my dad worked near by. going shopping was a way of life like the Californians like the out door

  4. Yin-wah Ma  on February 5th, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    The correct identification of the department store on the right is SINCERE Co. Ltd, not Sun Sun as you indicated. Two signs with its Chinese name are clearly identified above its front entrance and along Nanjing Road (can see clearly on the cover of Treasures Magazine, January 2010). Founded in 1900, SINCERE is the oldest and first Chinese-owned department store in Hong Kong, and opened its Shanghai branch in 1917, two years before Wing On Department Store (on the left) opened its Shanghai branch.

  5. Dany  on April 26th, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Yin-wah, you are correct–guess I typed too fast for my own good :-)

  6. I Left My Heart in Shanghai « 五香路 Five Spice Alley  on June 22nd, 2010 at 6:53 am

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  7. Katie  on July 14th, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    China is witnessing an era of rapid change and development, so it’s quite startling and fascinating to see how some things have hardly changed at all.

    Perhaps Nanjing East Road is not really comparable to New York’s Fifth Ave; it’s more like Times Square, a tourist hub. But I would think Nanjing West Road, with shopping malls like Plaza 66, might be a better comparison.

  8. Caroleus  on April 1st, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    Is it possible to buy the poster of Nanjing Road in 1932?

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