The Shikumen is the residential houses in Shanghai with the most typical local flavor. The gates of these houses are made of solid and thick wooden boards painted in black. And the door frames are made of stone, hence the name-Shikumen, or stone gate houses. Entering the Shikumen-lined lanes, you'll be overwhelmed by the strong flavor of the Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s.
Such stone gate houses first appeared at the end of the Qing Dynasty. The most typical feature of these houses is the fusion of eastern and western styles. The typical Shikumen house is a brick-wood structure, two-storey house including courtyard, drawing room, wing-room, cooking stove, back door, garret and flat roof etc. The slope roof is installed with roof dormers and the outer walls are made of red bricks. Usually, there's a traditional Chinese style archway at the entrance of the lane. The gates of the house are made of two solid wooden doors pained in black. The doors are joined by wooden hinges and the striking of knockers always makes a resounding sound drifting inside the old stone-house lanes.
The door heads are often made of traditional carved bricks and black tiles. The overall row-house layout is after European fashion. Carvings of western buildings are adopted in the detail parts of the outer walls. The triangle or arch-shaped decorations on the door head also bear western style motifs. In those days, Shanghai people living in the stone gate house would listen to some western gramophone records and drink coffee, leading a somewhat westernized petty bourgeoisie life. In the culture of old Shanghai, the Shikumen reflects the elegance, boom and petty bourgeoisie of Shanghai life. Its east-meets-west feature embodies the spirit of the modern metropolis. The unique features of Shanghai have given special characteristics to its people and formed its own city style.