Lan Yan

13 minutes

In the shadows of high-rises, Shanghai’s small neighbourhoods struggle to survive

In China’s biggest city Shanghai, urbanisation and modernisation have led to the decline of shikumen – traditional neighbourhoods where families live alongside one another in shared residences on cramped, narrow streets. This short documentary explores the pleasures and stresses of life in Lan Yan, a shikumen that has survived as government-sponsored high-rise apartment buildings have swallowed up all the surrounding areas. A collaboration between students from San Francisco State University and Shanghai Normal University, the film follows Zhang JianXin, a bus driver and longtime Lan Yan resident, who is raising his daughter to share his fondness for a fast-disappearing way of life. Knowing the state’s drive for modernisation will likely soon sweep Lan Yan away, Zhang reflects on what is lost when tight-knit communities are replaced by high-rises that most residents don’t want and can’t afford.

Directors: Jamie Oliveira, Danielle Schmidt, Pawara Soh

Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter Sign up
Follow us on

‘Aeon is hands down my favourite publication to write for. Deadlines long enough to do the work justice, the best editorial input I’ve encountered and compensation which is respectful of writers’ time.’

Antonia Malchik, essayist and editor

‘Aeon is my favourite online magazine.

I have found no other place that so regularly provides interesting, clear and informative articles across academic disciplines on topics that matter.’

Dr Robert J. Hartman, University of Gothenburg

‘I read one article and decided that I wanted to support an organisation that promotes critical thinking around ideas that affect our everyday lives.’

John T, Canada, Friend of Aeon

‘Aeon is consistently the place to find excellent, provocative and thoughtful writing.

One of my favourite places to find new writers and new ideas.’

Professor Sophie Kerttu Scott, University College London

‘Every morning I look forward to seeing what’s in your email and there isn’t a day that goes by without reading or watching something you guys have published.

It’s like an oasis of sanity in a world gone mad.’

Jack D, USA, Friend of Aeon

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.
But we can’t do it without you.

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.
But we can’t do it without you.

Not your Tibetan Buddhism

Behind the beatific image of Tibetan Buddhism lies a dark, complicated reality. But is it one the Western gaze wants to see?

Mark Hay

Politics & Government
Everyday politics

Imperial Chinese conscription shows how ordinary people exercise influential political skills, even in a repressive state

Michael Szonyi