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Tianzifang Bazaar

Tianzifang Bazaar

Not long ago, Tianzifang was a sleepy jumble of residential structures and small factories nestled in an unassuming quadrant of downtown Shanghai. These days, the area has reinvented itself into a charming tangle of local boutique shops, designer studios and galleries, intertwined with a healthy heaping of open-air restaurants and cafes. Like Xintiandi, Tianzifang is comprised largely of old shikumen housing structures. However, unlike its more famous counterpart, Tianzifang has developed organically and has retained much of its gritty character, with residents continuing to hang their laundry overhead and loose electrical wires jutting out of several dilapidate buildings, to the delight of the local hipsters and urban trendsetters. In an effort to stave off governmental redevelopment, several years ago a motley collection of artists, residents and local business owners banded together to preserve the area’s original architecture while giving the alleys an artistic twist in order to support the local ecosystem. While the area has grown increasingly famous over the past several years, Tianzifang remains largely hidden and insulated from the main roads which surround it, and despite the area’s pleasant gentrification Tianzifang does not appear to be overly renovated. As a result, each of Tianzifang’s winding lanes houses countless hidden curiosities, ranging from handmade novelty items to storied antique furniture, and as a living component of Shanghai’s cultural heritage Tianzifang is a veritable vanguard of creative expression.