Book China Travel

1933 (Old Slaughterhouse)

Shanghai, China

One of the dominant structures in Hongkou district of Shanghai is the 1933 Old Slaughterhouse or the ‘Old Millfun’. As the city grew more prosperous in the early 1900’s, the demand for meat by the affluent citizens also went higher and the need was felt for a large-scale slaughterhouse. The building plans were drawn by Master architect from the UK, Belfour’s and constructed by the Yu Hong Ji builders in 1933 with imported British cement, which though hard to work with, did lend the structure strength and an eternally imposing countenance. The Shanghai Slaughterhouse was the biggest one in East Asia with 4 floors spanning an area of 32,500 square meters. There were three such imposing structure built around the world but this is the only one standing.

To get to this Gothic aesthetic structure, tourists will either have to take a taxi or a local bus as there is no subway stop in walking distance. Bus line 854 will land you closest at Liyang – Zhoujiazhui Road station, though other bus lines also make the trip in the general area. It is open at all hours for visit and there is no charge for entry. However, commercial activity inside goes about the general working hours of 10:00 to 22:00.

There are certain aspects of the slaughterhouse which are of particular note. Amongst these is the interesting geometrical face of the Old Millfun with the windows facing west. This way the slaughterhouse had good ventilation helped by Shanghai’s westward wind direction. The outer concrete walls are hollow on the inside to provide a comfortable interior no matter the time of year. And the umbrella-esque columns supporting the building in place of support beams may have been built in a slaughterhouse but the artist mind space was not abandoned and there are Art-Deco motifs to be found upon them.

The 26 seemingly suspended bridges all have textured surfaces so that animals (and workers) did not slip. They are also of varying widths so that herd speed could be regulated. Crevices and narrow staircases were in-built so in case of animals going out of control, the workers could take refuge within these.

On the highest floor, there is another remarkable engineering work in the form of the Sky Theater. Within the heart of the 1,500 square meter theater, there is a glass dome of reinforced material which can endure weight of up to 400 kgs. Unfortunately, it is only open for special events or shows so walk-in tourists can not access and admire the view below. The original purpose was to be an inlet for natural light from the top, illuminating the building with help from the west facing windows.

After being retired of its slaughtering days in the 60s, the 1933 Slaughterhouse underwent many changes and even sat forgotten for a time till it was finally made into a creative center of today. Tourists and locals enjoy all facets of the place but none more so then the selfie opportunity it provides.

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