In the old city of Shanghai, I visited the Xiaonanmen Bell Tower. The structure of the tower is an interesting mixture of concrete and steel forming an arch: it directly relates to the Eiffel Tower.
According to online reports, this Bell Tower was built in 1909 by Shanghai City’s firefighters’ association. It used to be the tallest building in the old city (35,2 meters high).
It was also Shanghai’s earliest modern fire control structure: it allowed to watch the area and in case a fire started, it was able to be quickly noticed by the guard who would ring the bell to alert the firefighters. But this place also played a part in the revolution against the Qing empire. In 1911, revolutionaries tolled the bell to call on Tongmenghui (同盟会)1 members – an organization which had been moved from Tokyo to Shanghai – to start the uprising against the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
An official sign indicates that the building was registered as protected architectural heritage in 2005.
On top of the tower, where two birds live but where I could not find a bell, one can realize how Shanghai grew vertically: the tallest building in the old city is now surrounded by high-rise towers.
What was really interesting about this place was how the architecture of the tower integrates with other buildings such as Shanghai typical residential houses. There are many ongoing daily activities of inhabitants at the bottom of the tower; for instance, as this visit happened just before the Dragon Boat Festival, women were preparing large quantities of « zongzi » (glutinous rice pastries) in the yard.
- Tongmenghui, or Revolutionary Alliance, was founded in 1905 by Sun Yat-sen in Tokyo. It was formed by the merging of several secret society organizations such as the Xingzhonghui (Regenerate China Society), the Guangfuhui (Restoration Society), the Huaxinghui (Prosper China Society), and other groups. ↩