For nearly two centuries, Shanghai’s residential alleyways — or lilongs — have been spirited hives of culture and community. Initially a haphazard response to an influx of rural migrants and foreign immigrants (from Europe, Japan and America) during the late 1800s through the mid-1900s, the narrow one- or multi-storey dwellings are an integral part of the urban fabric and an archetype that belongs solely to the city. Cloistered behind ornately carved wooden or stone doors, the homes — which often double as storefronts, grocers, tailors and other family-run businesses — feature small internal courtyards for social gatherings and combine traditional Chinese spatial arrangements and details with imported Western architectural…

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