We accidentally stumbled on what might be the area with the most preserved old buildings in Shanghai: Gaoqiao (高桥古镇), in the far north of Pudong.
Gaoqiao is pretty unknown and has a pretty unimpressive Dianping page: just over 1000 reviews, and a really badly picked photo on the top.
The buildings (perhaps a hundred of them?) here are a mixture of Jiangnan style (江南) and Huipai architecture (徽派), but unlike the latter, the gable wall isn’t stepped but curved, named a Guanyin Crown (观音兜)’. Most of them are built at the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1912).
Some history students provided pointed out the Horsehead ornaments (马头墙), which are also seen in Huipai, and a shushu told us about the bird ornaments: Roosters with a close beak belonged to a civil official (文官), those with an open beak belonged to a military one (武官).
Why did so much remain here? Many old buildings in Shanghai didn’t survive decades of surging GDP, unprotected by law. But Gaoqiao has mostly been spared, perhaps because of its location; far out of Shanghai’s city center, yet not directly on the shoreline.
There are so many plaques here, showing buildings now protected by the law.
We just discovered it because we went for coffee at 一尺花园 (One Step Garden), which is a group of fantastic restaurants/coffee stores, always housed in well-preserved old houses. We just didn’t think that this time, the area would be equally amazing.