Maogang Old Street, a cobblestone road no more than 100 meters long, is the historical epicenter of Maogang Town, with a history dating back more than 100 years.
For a time, the street enjoyed a golden heyday of commerce. Located at the junction of three rivers when waterways were a main form of transport, the street was connected to a rice market to the east, Pinghu Lake in Zhejiang Province to the west and the Jinshanwei area to the south.
During the 1930s, the street was a trading hub for agricultural goods from Zhejiang and seafood from the nearby coastal Jinshan District.
However, civil wars and political upheavals eventually took their toll. Business shriveled, buildings became derelict and young people moved to more the fast-growing, vibrant areas of Shanghai to work and live.
Today, the street is home to mostly elderly people still clinging to traditional ways of life.
“I am used to life here, and I just don’t want to change,” said local resident Zhuang Tanglin, 72, who was born on Maogang Street and has never strayed far from home.
When the harvest season ends, farmers from the local area still gather in teahouses on the street to enjoy local opera music while chatting about family, livelihoods and changes in the world around them that they don’t quite understand or even want to embrace. The short street today still hosts six old-fashioned teahouses.
Tang Mingzhu, 84, meets her “old sisters” every day in a small, shabby grocery store.
“It used to be the busiest place on the street,” said Tang, who has lived there for almost six decades. “I love living here. No matter how the world is changing, I’m not.”