Last updated
A shikumen lane in Tianzi Fang, with houses now converted into shops, studios, cafes and bars. Shanghai Tianzifang Shang Hai Tian Zi Fang  - panoramio.jpg
A shikumen lane in Tianzi Fang, with houses now converted into shops, studios, cafes and bars.

Tianzifang or Tianzi Fang (Chinese :田子坊; pinyin :Tiánzǐ Fāng; Shanghainese: Deedzɿ Fãː) is a touristic arts and crafts enclave that has developed from a renovated traditional residential area in the French Concession area of Shanghai. [1] It is now home to boutique shops, bars and restaurants.

Chinese language family of languages

Chinese is a group of related, but in many cases not mutually intelligible, language varieties, forming the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Chinese is spoken by the Han majority and many minority ethnic groups in China. About 1.2 billion people speak some form of Chinese as their first language.

Hanyu Pinyin, often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet, and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.

The Shanghainese language, also known as the Shanghai dialect, Hu language or Hu dialect, is a variety of Wu Chinese spoken in the central districts of the City of Shanghai and its surrounding areas. It is classified as part of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Shanghainese, like other Wu variants, is mutually unintelligible with other varieties of Chinese, such as Mandarin.



The district comprises a neighborhood of labyrinthine alleyways off Taikang Road (Chinese :泰康路; pinyin :Tàikāng Lù), a short street which is today mostly known only for Tianzi Fang. Tianzi Fang is known for small craft stores, coffee shops, trendy art studios and narrow alleys. It has become a popular tourist destination in Shanghai, and an example of preservation of local Shikumen architecture. It is sometimes compared to Xintiandi, though in the latter precinct most of the houses were demolished and rebuilt, rather than renovated. [2]


Shikumen is a traditional Shanghainese architectural style combining Western and Chinese elements that first appeared in the 1860s. At the height of their popularity, there were 9000 shikumen-style buildings in Shanghai, comprising 60% of the total housing stock of the city, but today the proportion is much lower as most Shanghainese live in large apartment buildings. Shikumen is classified as one type of lilong residences, sometimes translated as "lane houses" in English.

Xintiandi neighborhood

Xintiandi is an affluent car-free shopping, eating and entertainment district of Shanghai.

Tianzi Fang is largely hidden from the neighbouring streets, as it grew from the inside of the block outward, although there are now shops on Taikang Road itself. Historically Lane #248 was a key entrance that, in order to gain access to the commercially developed area, required walking about 50m through whilst be surrounded by local residents' life, including bicycles, hanging laundry, etc. until finally emerging in the 'new' area. [3]


The neighborhood centres on a block of Shikumen residential development dating from 1933. The shikumen complex was named "Zhicheng Fang", where "Zhicheng" meant "realisation of ambition" while "Fang" meant "neighbourhood" and was a common suffix for shikumen estates. Today's Tianzi Fang precinct covers not only the former Zhicheng Fang, but also other adjoining houses, apartments and industrial buildings of various styles.

Located near the eastern end of the Zhaojiabang canal and the southern edge of the Shanghai French Concession, it was in the relatively downmarket part of the Concession. In 1954, the canal was filled in and the former canal basin became a busy transport interchange. Zhicheng Fang remained an ordinary residential neighbourhood until the last quarter of the 20th century, when the cheap rent but convenient location attracted artists to set up studios there. In 1998, the formerly busy wet market on Taikang Road was moved indoors. In 2001, the precinct was redesignated an artistic and creative quarter, drawing on its former popularity with artists. At the same time, the whole precinct was given the name "Tianzi Fang", a pun on Tian Zifang, a figure from the Warring States period and often referred to as China's earliest recorded artist. In 2006 it was slated for demolition to make way for redevelopment. Opposition among local business owners and residents, as well as a famous artist Chen Yifei who had a studio in Tianzifang, in addition to a group submitted a proposal to the local government to preserve the Taikang Road area and its traditional architecture and ambience.

Shanghai French Concession French sphere of influence in Shanghai, China

The Shanghai French Concession was a foreign concession in Shanghai, China from 1849 until 1943, which progressively expanded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The concession came to an end in 1943 when the French State under German pressure signed it over to the pro-Japanese Reorganized National Government of China in Nanjing. For much of the 20th century, the area covered by the former French Concession remained the premier residential and retail district of Shanghai, and was also one of the centres of Catholicism in China. Despite re-development over the last few decades, the area retains a distinct character, and is a popular tourist destination.

Warring States period era in ancient Chinese history

The Warring States period was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period and concluded with the Qin wars of conquest that saw the annexation of all other contender states, which ultimately led to the Qin state's victory in 221 BC as the first unified Chinese empire, known as the Qin dynasty.

Chen Yifei was a renowned Chinese classic-style painter, art director and film director.

Rezoning of Tianzi Fang into a tourist precinct began in 2005/2006 with nearby art schools and studios, and later small international business owners found out about Tianzi Fang through the local grapevine. Its development began very slowly with local merchants, a New Zealand store, Japanese restaurants, and a tea house setting up in the district. From the beginning of 2007, journalists, visitors and local residents began to visit the area and spread the word about a cosy little lane district that housed some interesting and creative businesses. Additional articles in both local and foreign media such as the New York Times helped increase awareness of this older and unusual community, that stood out among the more modern and commercial shopping areas of Shanghai.


Tianzifang has become a major tourist attraction [1] and has more than 200 diverse small businesses such as cafes, bars, restaurants, art galleries, craft stores, design houses and studios, and even French bistros. It is adjacent to the SML center which is among the largest shopping malls in Shanghai upon completion. It is also near the Shanghai Metro Line 9's Dapuqiao Station which is immediately to the south.

Despite all the businesses selling trendy craft and some foreign goods, the area does not have the look of having been overly beautified - electricity cables are still strung overhead, and air conditioning units are obvious on the outside of the buildings. The district is distinctly different from Xintiandi, another Shikumen redevelopment in central Shanghai further to the northeast, in that it has managed to preserve its residential feel, adding to its appeal.

See also

Related Research Articles

Luwan District district

Luwan District, formerly romanized as Lokawei, was a district located in central Shanghai until its merger with Huangpu District in June 2011. It had an area of 8.05 km2 (3.11 sq mi) and population of 350,000 as of 2001.

Huangpu District, Shanghai District in Shanghai, Peoples Republic of China

Huangpu  District, makes up the eastern part of Shanghai's traditional urban core and is today the most central of Shanghai's 16 districts. Huangpu district is the seat of municipal government, includes key attractions such as The Bund and the Old City God Temple, as well as popular shopping districts such as Nanjing Road and Huaihai Road. The Huangpu District is one of the most densely populated urban districts in the world.

Xujiahui neighborhood

Xujiahui, formerly spelt Zikawei, Ziccawei or Siccawei from Shanghainese, is a locality in Shanghai. It is a historic area of commerce and culture administratively within Xuhui District, which is named after the locality. The area is a well-known precinct for shopping and entertainment in Shanghai. It is served by the Xujiahui Station of the Shanghai Metro.

Hengshan Road

Hengshan Road, formerly Avenue Pétain, is a street in the former French Concession of Shanghai, China. A major thoroughfare that connected the heart of the French Concession with the Catholic district of Zikawei (Xujiahui), the boulevard was for much of the 20th century the centre of Shanghai's premier residential district. Since the 1990s, many of the mansions along the road have been converted into bars, night clubs, and restaurants.

South Huangpi Road station Shanghai Metro station

South Huangpi Road is a station on Line 1 of the Shanghai Metro; it opened on 10 April 1995 as part of the section between Jinjiang Park and Shanghai Railway Station;

City God Temple of Shanghai

The City God Temple or Temple of the City Gods, officially the City Temple of Shanghai, is a folk temple located in the old city of Shanghai. It commemorates the elevation of Shanghai to municipal status and is the site of the veneration of three Chinese figures honored as the city gods of the town. It is also known by some locals as the "Old City God Temple", in reference to a later "New City God Temple" which no longer exists.

Duolun Road, formerly Darroch Road, is a historic street in Hongkou District, Shanghai, China.

North Sichuan Road

North Sichuan Road is a shopping street in Hongkou District, Shanghai, China. From the Suzhou Creek in the south, the road crosses North Suzhou Road, Haining Road, and Hengbang Road among others, and connects with Shanyin Road in the north, giving the road an "S" shape. It joins Duolun Road, and runs to East Jiangwan Road then turns to the west, ending at Lu Xun Park.

Old City (Shanghai)

The Old City of Shanghai, also formerly known as the Chinese city, is the traditional urban core of Shanghai. Its boundary was formerly defined by a defensive wall. The Old City was the county seat for the old county of Shanghai. With the advent of foreign concessions in Shanghai, the Old City became just one part of Shanghai's urban core but continued for decades to be the seat of the Chinese authority in Shanghai. Notable features include the City God Temple which is located in the center of the Old City and is connected to the Yuyuan Garden. With the exception of two short sections, the walls were demolished in 1912, and a broad circular avenue built over the former wall and moat: the southern half was named the "Zhonghua Road" and the northern half the "Minguo Road". .

Benjamin T. Wood is an American architect who designed Shanghai's famous Xintiandi, which means “New Heaven and Earth,” a refined cluster of traditionally styled Shanghai brick town houses near the old French Concession district.

Huaihai Road Road in Shanghai

Huaihai Road or Huaihai Lu is one of the two major shopping streets in Shanghai, China; the other is Nanjing Road. Compared with the more touristy Nanjing Road, Huaihai Road is more upscale, and is the preferred destination of local residents. Huaihai Road comprises three sections, the main section being Middle Huaihai Road in the former French Concession of Shanghai. Middle Huaihai Road is also well known by its former French name Avenue Joffre.

Power Station of Art former power station, contemporary art museum in Shanghai, China

The Power Station of Art is a contemporary art museum in Shanghai. Housed in a former power station, it is China's first state run contemporary art museum. Converting the building cost $64 million which was paid for by the Shanghai government.


A longtang is a lane in Shanghai and, by extension, a community centred on a lane or several interconnected lanes. It is sometimes called lilong (里弄); the latter name incorporates the -li suffix often used in the name of residential developments in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Shanghai longdang is loosely equivalent to the hutong of Beijing. As with the term hutong, the Shanghai longdang can either refers to the lanes that the houses face onto, or a group of houses connected by the lane.

Shikumen Open House Museum

The Shikumen Open House Museum is a museum in the Xintiandi area of Shanghai, China that presents a house in the traditional shikumen style.

Wukang Road Street in Shanghai

Wukang Road, originally Route Ferguson (福开森路), is a historic road in the Xuhui District of Shanghai, China, located in the western part of the former French Concession area of the city. In 2011 Wukang Road was recognized as one of the National Historic and Cultural Streets of China.

1st National Congress of the Communist Party of China

The 1st National Congress of the Communist Party of China was held in Shanghai and Jiaxing between July 23 and August 2, 1921. The Congress established the Communist Party of China. The congress began in a shikumen building of the French Concession area of Shanghai. In early June 1921, Dutch national Henk Sneevliet, also known as Ma Lin, a representative of Comintern, arrived in Shanghai, and urged various Communist cells in the country to get together for a national-level meeting. Russian Comintern representative Nikolski also attended the meeting. At the time, there were 57 members of the Communist Party of China. Notably, the two founders of the party did not attend the congress: Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao.


  1. 1 2 Pitts, Christopher (April 2013). "Top Sights: Tianzifang". Pocket Shanghai (3rd ed.). Lonely Planet. pp. 58–59. ISBN   978-1-74179-963-7.
  2. "Rising Taikanglu". China Daily.
  3. Yang, Andrew (2007-03-04). "A High-Fashion Lane in Shanghai". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-24.

Coordinates: 31°12′36″N121°27′53″E / 31.210011°N 121.464668°E / 31.210011; 121.464668