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隐字上海 Uncovered Signs in Shanghai

£25 ($34 / €28)

This new exciting book includes more than 170 previously unseen ‘ghost signs’ that have been fortunately captured by photography over the past six to seven years through the cracks of the rapid urban regeneration in Shanghai. It is produced by The Type and three local photographers who have been tracking the ghost signs throughout Shanghai — Colleague Dong, Jiayu Shi and Jianwen Shen.

Ghost signs in Shanghai have been ‘uncovered’ in surprising ways in recent years: deep in the alleyways of Shikumen, on the street corners that have not yet been taken care of by urban renewal, exquisite handwritten signs go unnoticed by the everyday passerby, only to be captured by lucky photographers; behind the fallen walls that have not yet been completely demolished, or warn-out banners just taken down by the recent campaigns of cleansing and standardisation of the streetscape, signages from even earlier times make unexpected appearances, to the delight of those who pay attention.

The uncovered signs in Shanghai tell an extraordinary visual history. Over the past century, China’s language norms and writing patterns have undergone dramatic changes, and ghost signs become a microcosm of these changes: the rich, full-bodied signboards in traditional script often date back to the Republic or even late Qing Dynasty; the socialist slogans, in latinised pinyin or temporary extreme-simplified characters bear witness to the language and writing reforms after the founding of the People’s Republic; and the dedicated department stores with their former administrative division names and numbers are products of the planned economy in the 1950–60s.

In Shanghai, a city that is being renovated day and night, urban history in the form of signs are largely ignored and discarded before new signs are erected in its place. The thrills of the recovering are bound to be short lived — little can be done to prevent these signs from being painted over, recovered or destroyed. At the time of the editing, we found that most of the signs in our book have been hidden from sight again, possibly forever disappeared. Although some of the signs can still be found through ‘street views’ in online maps through an act of digital archaeology, most of these signs will most likely only find visual records in this little volume.


Colleague Dong
Born in Hengshan Road and growing up in Xuhui, Shanghai, Dong is an urban wanderer and independent researcher of Shanghai history. He is also a collector of old objects like house number signs, photos and ephemera.

Jiayu Shi
Born in 1994, he works in historical building conservation and started to document Shanghai in the midst of changes and changes in 2015, and has been taking long-term rescue photos of the life in the neighbourhood at Laoximen, a part of Shanghai’s old town in the progress of demolition.

Jiawen Shen
Journalist and editor, she edited the City Walks section of The Paper in Shanghai and has led numerous of walking events with urban enthusiasts.

Notes on Design

Ghost signs are hidden in the cracks of the city: small but carrying a thick history. The book is therefore also in a small A6 format, echoing the grass root efforts that made this visual preservation possible, the silence of the urban ruins in contrast to a grand narrative of city development. The translucent orange-red plastic sleeve, on the other hand, recalls the covers of dictionaries and colourful plastic notebooks common in the 1980s China.

The lettering on the cover and chapter headings comes from the local type designer Eonway Ying. The character forms were inspired by his collection of hand-painted art lettering from the last century on advertisements and packaging. Ying has preserved the traditional and variant lettering styles of the time, to show the style of contemporary typography with ghost signs.

This book was awarded “Independent Photography Book of the year 2020” by Chinese Photography Magazine , finalist for the 2020 abC Art Book Awards, and deemed “Excellent Work” for the Tokyo TDC Annual Awards 2022.

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Published by: The Type
October, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-9162848-1-4
Languages: Chinese and English

Size: 105×148mm (A6)
Pages: 372pp
Binding: thread-sewn soft cover, screen-printed PVC cover
Colour: full colour

Photography: Colleague Dong, Jiayu Shi and Jianwen Shen
Editor: Richor Wang
Cover and title typography: Eonway Ying
Design: Yan Chen, Hengbin Yang
(Atmosphere Design Office)


2020 年,The Type 与三位追踪这些文字的摄影师——格里董、施佳宇、沈健文——共同制作了《隐字上海》这本小书,收录了他们过去六七年间拍摄到的一百七十多处珍贵的「隐字现场」。在编辑过程中我们发现,这些「隐字」中的绝大多数已被再次遮盖、粉刷,甚至随着建筑的拆除而彻底与我们告别。如今你只能在各种街景地图里「数字考古」,看到它们曾经所在的街区。





1994 年生,网名李波斯基,历史建筑保护从业者,「拍照的人」。2015 年开始记录变迁更迭中的上海,并对上海老西门动迁地段的里弄生活进行长期的抢救性拍摄。



隐字藏在城市的缝隙,渺小而又带着厚重的历史。书籍因此也采用小而厚的 A6 开本,呼应题材的民间性和独立性,正如藏在城市角落废墟中的旧时字迹与宏大叙事之间的无声对立。橙红色的亮面胶套则让人回忆起上世纪八九十年代常见的字典和彩色塑料笔记本的封面。



本书入榜 2020 年《中国摄影》杂志「年度自制摄影书」奖项;最终入围 2020 年 abC 艺术书奖;2022 年东京字体指导俱乐部(Tokyo TDC)大奖优秀作品评定。


出品:The Type
2020 年 10 月

开本:105×148mm (A6)
装帧:锁线活背装,丝网印刷 PVC 封套