Sign In

[Offbeat]: The Da Tong Bar Mall
By Feb 4, 2010 Nightlife


We are on the eve of a great and wondrous time here in Shanghai -- a new renaissance, a cataclysmic rebirth, a period of unparalleled affluence and prosperity. We are entering the era of the Da Tong Mall.

Get used to the name: "The Da Tong Mall."

Located beneath a park at Julu Lu and Ruijin Lu -- as well as at the swirling vortex of the prevailing commercial, social, and cultural currents of our heady modern Shanghai times -- the Da Tong Mall is this city's newest F&B(&T&A) hub, currently under construction and set to open in March-ish. A petulant bastard child of Xintiandi, New Factories, Cool Docks et al., The Da Tong Mall will offer some 40 hole-in-the-wall bars, at least four massive and craptacular dance clubs, a mini outdoor amphitheater, a shop or two, a café or two, a restaurant or two, an indoor walking promenade, and -- hail Satan! -- so much more.

So far... who cares. Who cares, right? Another bullshit "lifestyle hub". But wait! Wait! Unlike Shanghai's other bar/resto destinations, The Da Tong Mall commits to a certain base honesty and blunt degeneracy hitherto unprovided by a place like the New Factories. This is where a bunch of the Tongren Lu bars are going. This is where more of their ilk will set up shop. Combine that with about four banging hip hop clubs chewing up and spitting out rural youth by the cab load, and now we're really on to something here. It's going to be a terrific clash. A terrific clash.

Earlier clones of Xintiandi pertain to emulate a sober depth and maturity that, incidentally, isn't even really conveyed in the original. In failing to copy something that was never there to copy, Shanghai F&B hubs are boring, stiff, and lifeless. Not so with the Da Tong Mall. At the core of this massive, multi-million rmb project is cool resignation to the truism that humans are monsters. We're monsters! Give us corruption. Give us perversion. Give us moral decadence. That's what we want. That's what we want! Fuck culture. Fuck tapas. Give us depravity. Give us 900 bars in a pit.

In reverent anticipation of our impending doom, St. Cavish and myself snuck in today to have a look at the ongoing construction (those are his arty photos). When you pull up to the park, it's really quite serene and innocuous. Old people are milling around and kids are playing basketball in a nearby court. The whole area seems untouched by Western ambition. As you breach the area into the center of the park, however, the whole thing opens up into a yawning cavern, and the mid-day reverie is shattered by the calculated hammering of industry. This is just one of the three or so open courtyards around which all manner of wackness abuts. We walked furiously past the guards talking loudly of blueprints, projected construction plans, and the daily grind of "sourcing" things.

The overall aesthetic is, wisely, rococo. Replicants of cherubs and nudes adorn the walls, redundant but ornate Solomonic columns are placed throughout, and there are even a few jarringly contemporary interpretations of classic frescoes. Very nice. Combined this with the purple and pink bric-a-brac already overflowing from the dance clubs, and the effect is not unlike visiting a museum curated by a drag queen.

And the size of the place. It's massive and intricate. We visited while half the province of Anhui was hard at work finishing construction. It was like being implicated in some larger being's nefarious game of SimCity. Who's paying for this? Where is the money coming from and going? What do I have to do to get some of this money? Can I -- at the very least -- hang out with the people with this kind of money? Each twist and turn opens up into yet another jubilantly vile addition to a larger monument to drunken self-gratification. Look at this. Someone is opening some kind of bar in something that looks like a crashed plane! God, that's good.

As an open-air crater in the middle of some strange neighbourhood, it's entirely possible that the Da Tong Mall is just an enormous, glittering venus flytrap in which to lure Shanghai's baser elements, and the authorities can just, quietly one night, bury us all alive before the Expo. We'd have the music on too loud and wouldn't notice the rumbling bulldozers dumping dirt onto our heads. I think it would be entirely fitting if that were the case, and I welcome such a fate.

We've had a good run.



Please register to reserve a user name.
  • ZJB

    Oh China, always out doing yourself

  • rob.r

    I hope you all realize this place has been lying dormant, waiting to spring itself on us for two or three years now.

  • psinology

    Great article, place looks like a great weekend getaway into Alice in Wonderland: Rome Redux.
    And \"We visited while half the province of Anhui was hard at work finishing construction\" is by far the funniest thing I\'ve read all week. Nice one.

  • titian

    Soooo, awesome. thank you for sharing.

  • cali

    in a word....niiiiiiiiiiiiice

  • qingdaoaggie

    Oh, hell yes. Well written article.

  • jadrey

    holy shit this looks incredibe

  • Unverified User

    craptacular - i think this is the most fitting description of such places that, fortunately for us, abound in china. anyone ever been to the fake paris outside of hangzhou? you should, it\'s craptacular!

  • pixel

    no need to go to the venetian in Macau, any gambling dens?

  • countchocu1a

    Our father who art in heaven hallowed by thy name thy kingdom come something something ahhh fuck it thank god this is going to be great

  • Nedved

    Built for hallucinogens...

  • Zammo

    heaven, we\'re in heaven, and the heart beats so that I can hardly speak...

  • Aar0n

    I can\'t wait for the next David Laris concept to pop up in this den.

  • enron666

    im allready loving it.

  • alotofit

    Nedved\'s comment denotes a need for a \"like\" function on smartshanghai, akin to facebook\'s.

  • Andy Best


  • jbs5869

    i call dibs on first to boot on a statue and pass out in the river

  • sici

    very mice place such as a beatiful pic,all fill with art smell

  • radpaa500

    I went last night and it is way to cool.... it will be great when it is all opened......

  • granolabar

    is it da tong mall or da tong mill???? (see last picture)

  • Melanie27

    What a delightful abomination. Going rate for that Rococo masterpiece at the headline? Something commendable about flaunting hypocrisy - America could use a little more of that. Strip-malls simply lack such flagrancy.

  • MariaK

    Funny article – love it. “(---) the effect is not unlike visiting a museum curated by a drag queen.” Yes, yes, yes, exactly like that!!! lol. Went there this Wednesday and it was so much fun!!! When this place opens up fully it’s going to be beyond awesome!
    BTW I think it is Da Tong Mill, at least that’s what the sign over the entrance says, but maybe the Anhui workers misspelled it. :)

  • carlonseider

    Is this place actually open? Has anyone been?

  • Shanghaimagic

    Yes, I went a few days ago. It\'s full of ugly hookers, poorly designed \"bars\", dirty old men lurking and on Fridya night empty as empty can be. Don\'t go. It sucks.

  • olivepixel

    Yes, I went last night. It\'s full of ugly hookers, poorly designed \"bars\", dirty old men lurking and on Wednesday night empty as empty can be. Go! It\'s amazing!

  • flyswatter

    I saw a photo of Datong M$ll on the cover of the evening paper when I popped into Alldays just now. The caption? \'Datong Mill: An underground Xintiandi\'

    Not sure why they\'re putting it on the cover now, they\'re even slower off the mark than Shanghaiist, but I wanted to record that caption here for posterity

  • Recent Articles
  • Popular