The Dragon of Dongsiwenli

DongSiWenLi 东斯文里 is the largest and one of the oldest traditional Shikumen 石库门里弄 communities in Shanghai. First built in 1914, DongSiWenLi is composed of a distinctly Shanghainese typology of terraced houses combining the British urban layout with typical courtyard houses. By October 2015, most of the inhabitants have been relocated leaving the alleyways almost empty 空. The demolishment of the community is part of a broad blueprint to increase the pace of urban renovation and so-called slum removal, which creates some mixed and nostalgic feelings within the remaining residents.


As part of his Street Art project “Legend of the Dragon”, Phil Akashi appropriated the empty “空” space number 9 to create a dialogue with the remaining inhabitants of the lilong. He created an installation made of 9 elements. First, he spray-painted on 8 concrete walls and doors placed by government to hold off inhabitants to come back to their houses. Then he added a touch of poetry to the installation by adding a mattress wire found in the Shikumen which appears like an immortal, surrealistic soul floating in the air. The installation represents the dragon as a spiritual symbol of the Lilong’s unity. The concrete walls and doors are covered with blue traditional seals imprints with Chinese characters “龍的傳人“ / descendants of the dragon.


From celebrations to the Zodiac, to historical emperors, the Legend of the Dragon has played a large part in China’s rich history and culture. In modern China, the dragon remains a strong, profound and respected symbol of strength and prosperity. The number 9 is considered lucky in Chinese culture. This is also reflected in the depiction of the Chinese Dragon, composed of 9 different animal resemblances. The color blue symbolizes eternity, truth, devotion and peace. Long life to the lilong…



Phil Akashi The Dragon of Dongsiwenli Shanghai Shikumen

Aerosol spray on government concrete walls and doors, mattress wire, and balloons with seal imprints with Chinese characters: 
“龍的傳人“ / descendants of the dragon. Shanghai 2015. 10 x 4 x 4 m 







Phil Akashi Street Art Shanghai Lilong 2015




Fireflies gathering 2015




Phil Akashi Lilong 2015














In booming urban China, the largest ever built shikumen lilong in Shanghai, Siwenli, has lasted over a century. Jérémy Cheval, PhD student of Tongji University and the School of Architecture of Paris Belleville, passionately recounts Siwenli's living legacy through its dynamic transformations up to the Fireflies gathering where 68 artists, painters, photographers, dancers, actors, poets... interacted with both the place and its inhabitants.


From Dong Siwenli to Kong Siwenli, the book, lavishly illustrated, gives us an account of the place from an architectural, social, literary and aesthetic viewpoint, including the precious testimonies of residents. It forces us to question the future of shikumen lilong.  



Lilong lives Vies d'un Lilong Shanghai 2015 Phil Akashi



Author: Jérémy Cheval 
Edition: Les Xérographes 
Collection: Explorations Urbaines 
Size and number of pages: 21 X 16 CM - 267 pages 
ISBN 978-2-917717-39-4
EAN - 9782917717394

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