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The guard

(2010-11-11 04:12:02)
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杂谈

Venue: Moganshan 120


V/A: How long have you lived in this area?
Z: 28 years.

V/A: What has happened in this area during the past 28 years?
Z: The Shanghai Flour Mill was here (now Shanghai Fuxin Flour Co., Ltd.), which was responsible for providing 10 districts and 10 country towns’ flour from Shanghai – a unique site with a long history. It was established in 1897, and the original equipment of the manufacturing sequence was imported from the United States. When it was rebuilt later, it introduced new grinding equipment from Buhler – a Swiss company. I was transferred to this factory from Chongming District in 1976 and I was responsible for the machinery in the Flour Mill. I participated in installing the new equipment of Buhler1. Their equipment is really efficient.

(Buhler is the global specialist and technology partner in the supply of plants and services for processing grain and food as well as for manufacturing advanced materials.)

V/A: What is the most significant historical aspect or most important phenomenon of this area as far as you can remember?
Z: It is the factory, which was the best in the whole area. Not only the previous warehouses with dry wall and 10 meters floor height were impressive, but also the whole old architecture in this area. They all looked just like the architecture on the bund.

V/A: What happened then?
Z: After the reforms and the opening-up policy, the Flour Mill moved in 2006. Actually, I already left the factory in 1982.

V/A: Why have you still been living here even after you’ve left?
Z: When I lived in my old house, it was too small for a place to bathe. At that time, I lived in a Tingzijian2 on a surface 12 square meters. I discussed the bath problem with the project leader of the factory. It’s too embarrassing if I came to the factory everyday just to take a bath. Then, he decided that I could be a guard here. As a result, I have been a guard here for three years.

V/A: How long has the factory been left in the present state of ruins?
Z: Since 2001, almost 10 years.

V/A: What experiences did you make within the past 10 years?
Z: Every one can enter this area to do graffiti. There were several doors, they were closed, now all are accessible and you can easily pass through.

V/A: What aspect of this area still triggers good feelings in you?
Z: Only the flour factory. I often think about how good it was, contrary to its present devastation.

V/A: Were all your neighbors workers in the flour factory?
Z: Most of them were.

V/A: We tried to find you last weekend, but we heard that you went to check out your new apartments. Also, what will happen to your relationship with your neighbors once you move?
Z: We have seldom contacted each other, since people here are narrow-minded and selfish, whether you are rich or poor.

V/A: Are you going to keep your job as a guard here?
Z: No, only until the new apartment is ready. My job is quite similar to living in a friend’s house and taking care of it.

V/A: Has your attitude towards this area changed since 1976?

(“Tingzijian” is the term for a small room located at the turn of the staircase within a building. It usually faces north, so the small room would be cold in winter and hot in summer. House owners used to rent them out for extra income. During the 1920s and 1930s many highly educated people and artists came to Shanghai to escape social and political unrest in other regions of the country. Many of them were single and a Tingzijian (fig 8) was a cheap, convenient form of accommodation for them. In these humble rooms, they studied arduously and wrote prodigiously. Many famous writers such as Lu Xun, Cai Yuanpei, Guo Moluo, Mao Dun, Ba Jing, Ding Ling and Feng Zikai have been strongly influenced by this lifestyle. Reflecting their individual experiences in Tingzijian and Shikumen, their work hence was dubbed “Tingzijian Literature”.)
Z: This was the best flour mill in the Far East. Previously, the daily car flow here was so busy, no less than on Nanjing Road. There were lots of beautiful architectures , even the worst building destroyed was better than in the M50’s now. Anyway, that’s the decision of the Shanghai textile holding group. Removal of the factory was no good for the workers, only the cadres benefited from it. Once the removal took place, the workers had to lay off, while the cadres got money immediately. I already have no feelings left for the factory. Actually, I just worked in the flour factory for six years. Formerly, I was engaged in machinery, and then I was going to do my own project outside, but unfortunately, I was sick and no more work has come up since then. My condition is worse than those of the strangers who have pensions… The warehouse was so pretty, the bucket warehouses stored 25000 tons of wheat, which was dragged by tugs to the factory for the further processing from the million ton boats on Wu Song Kou. At that time, the route from the Suzhou River to here was incredibly busy.

V/A: How many houses were there altogether?
Z: Too many. Originally, the factory covered an area of the 106 acres, ranging from warehouse No. 1 to warehouse No. 12, all were all made of wood. In 1981, someone said he could rebuild the warehouse. That’s a thing one cannot officially talk about, because it had to do with a high-level contact in bureaucracy. The foundation of the warehouse had been made by wooden pegs that were 24 meters long and sized 50 cm x 50 cm. Once they pulled out all the wooden pegs, the Shanghai TV station came in for an interview, which alerted the Municipal Bureau of Culture in Putuo District Shanghai. Only then, they realized that it was such a treasure in terms of warehouses. The 24 meters long wooden pegs were so beautiful, probably made by the British, and so stable even after the warehouse was blown up by directed blasts twice in 2003.

The reason for using wood, just as in the Park hotel (the former tallest building in Shanghai), was the resistance of wood that avoided any sinking. The previous techniques were really efficient, old-time things were really wonderful, for sure. So was the furniture used in the halls. Tables, chairs and lounge chairs inside were all redwood. If people could live there now, they would probably all be white-collars, while in the old days, they were the housekeepers. During the Cultural Revolution, stealing, looting, knocking off happened everywhere.
There was a family that lived upstairs and a family that lived downstairs in the house that I am living now, two families were the majordomo who were in charge of the factory. Workers were workers, while majordomo were majordomo. Workers lived there, while majordomo lived here. Workers lived in bungalows, while the majordomo lived in two storey houses.

A worker is a worker, a steward is a steward. Workers live there, the management lives here. The houses of workers were cottages, the houses of stewards were two storey houses, a Tingzijian with a studio, a front parlor and a rear parlor, all very comfortable. Because of the Cultural Revolution, people were squeezing into the houses. You occupied one room, I occupied another and then all things went wrong. The houses were as beautiful as those in Xintiandi. There was a lot of robbery and occupying of houses going on during the Cultural Revolution. The houses should have belonged to the factory, but during the Cultural Revolution, the factory delivered all the space to the local Real Estate Management Office. For example, you occupied a space, you registered your name on a paper to state which room you were living in and then that room belonged to you. From the perspective of the local Real Estate Management Office, the workers of the factory were “robbers” occupying and dividing space.

I got my house when I was transferred here by the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Grain in 1976. At that time, I was going to marry, but my parents’ house was too small, so the factory assigned a house to me. The previous owner was a couple, that house was too small for them as they had two children, while I needed a house for marriage and that was just enough for a new couple. After the coordination, they moved to a newer, bigger one. On the other hand, if I hadn’t had a good relationship with the leaders in the factory, I wouldn’t have gotten the house. If you said you wanted to get married and required for a house, you could do nothing if your leaders answered you that there was no house available. Because I was responsible for the machinery, I had a good relationship with various leaders, I got a house in the end. In most cases, that was impossible.

I still remember the first time I came here. This factory was really beautiful, full of plants. But now… Anyway, cadres have cadres’ ideas, regardless of the workers’ needs. I definitely have emotions for this place. It’s also my own fault that I left the factory. However, even if I hadn’t left the factory, I would also have been laid off. The factory has moved to Longwu Road, near Xupu Bridge. Because the land prices here are too expensive. The Swiss equipments also have been moved there. Actually, Buhler’s boss had joked to take me to Switzerland.
But I know that a joke is just joke…

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