Among Shanghai’s oldest and least known buildings is the Qing dynasty 书隐楼 (Shu Yin Lou — ‘The Secluded Library’ or ‘Hidden Book Building’.) Built in 1763, today the building houses only one resident: Madame Guo.
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Madame Guo is a humorous and lively woman, 64 years of age. She talks with a mixture of pragmatism and warmth - and is cautious, but decisive, in who she chooses to trust. All of her family have moved abroad now, including her mother who used to live there, but she remains because her son has autism and lives in a hospital in Shanghai. She has been divorced for some time, so is the only person he has left.
The house was temporarily occupied by a toy factory with some 400 workers during the Cultural Revolution, and they tore apart much of the building to accommodate machinery; you can still see some of the original machinery in the stable courtyard, and the non-smoking signs in the back courtyard that Madame Guo uses as a kitchen.