Shanghai, Take II

Bund in Shanghai just after a rain
The rainy weather we had for one day turned the skyline into a spooky atmosphere.

Although I’ve been to Shanghai before, having my brother in China visiting me was a reason enough to go there once again and see the financial capital of China. And since the city has many places of interest it was surly not a problem to come again. Places that I had not seen the last time include the Lu Xun Park, a nice park with a lake that reminded me of Central Park in New York – not because of its size but because of it’s location nestled between multi-story buildings. This park was not listed in my travel book – that might be a reason for not seeing any foreigner what made that park quite authentic. Quite contrary to the park around Lu Xun’s tomb was the “Old City” quarter around Yu garden that I did not go the last time was full of tourist and full of people trying to convince passer-by to buy shoes, DVDs, T-shirts or fake watches.

Lu Xun Park in Shanghai
Lu Xun’s tomb in a park named after this famous writer.

The “Old City” area seemed to be (re-)constructed during the past years, and might be expanded. Because right next to the tourist streets when going through a small entrance one enters one of the last Hutong areas left in downtown Shanghai. Those small streets with tiny houses do not feature the best living conditions (sometimes no heating or water, no toilet inside the house), but they make up the atmosphere – a totally different one than in the renovated “Old City”.

Shanghai Street in old design
The old town where the city wants the tourists to go to.

One many of the small Hutong houses the Chinese character 拆 (chai, to dismantle, to take apart) was written to mark their last days – some have already been destroyed to make room for high rises, streets or tourist areas. There are propaganda banners glorifying the abandoning of the old houses as a step to a better city that the results will be positive for all residents. As a matter of fact, families are receiving money for their will to 动迁 (in Beijing this is called 拆迁, but Shanghai preferred to not use the 拆 character in their banners). With the money it is possible to buy a new flat in a suburbs of Shanghai that are currently reorganized and centrally developed.

拆 sign in Hutong streets in Shanghai
拆-sign on a demolished house, behind is a construction site for new houses.

The master plan for development until hosting the World Expo in 2010 and a long term program to turn Shanghai and the county around it into a green area for living as well as for doing business can be seen at Shanghai’s Museum for Urban Planning. What has started with recognizing the Pudong area as a special economic zone in the 1980s has turned the east side of Huangpu river from a farming area into China’s financial center within 20 years. The achievements are huge, but nonetheless, the master plan is quite ambitious and especially emphasizes the ecological problems that have to be solved by cleaning rivers, creating green areas and using modern technology.

Model of Shanghai in 2010
Shanghai’s plans for the city in 2010 – the model does not have a lot of room for the old Hutong-style houses.

Another event we went to was also focusing on the ecological development, not only in China, but in the whole world. On Saturday afternoon we just heard (just by chance) that one of the nine Live Earth concerts will be in Shanghai. It did not reach the other concert’s audience or international catchy celebrities – however, sitting with about 3000 other fans just below the Oriental Tower (Shanghai’s famous TV tower) was nice, although it started to rain…
The speech by a representative of the United Nations featured some advice how one can protect environment (although I think most of them were not very applicable for China), but also showed the figures of how much glaciers are endangered in China. This English speech that was translated into Chinese was was followed by a Chinese only speech by a representative of the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau who was highlighting what China’s central government and Shanghai city government has achieved in protecting environment. Thereafter Chinese stars played a some songs, most of them I had not heard before.


Video made during the concert.

But we were not only looking for the Shanghai of today, at the French concession we found Shanghai of the past and the circumstances of the early Republic: We saw the museum for the first congress of the Communist Party and the former residence of Sun Yat-sen. The first one is of course displaying the view of the party of their struggling in their first years for a revolution in China, the first board already reveals this position: “During the years when the Chinese people were suppressed by western imperialist, capitalist powers…” Of course the thought of Mao is presented in various ways and Mao himself is displayed on many photographs. It is interesting to see that in fact Mao although being a founding member was not the leader of the movement so the photos are cutouts to put him into the center in order to present him as member of an “inner circle”. On the largest display, showing the 13 delegated debating at the original setting, Mao is the one who is taking the lead and making a speech, according to historians he was not the number one person among the communist at that time. Ironically, in the same block of the museum, is Xintiandi area, a westernized commercial area where western brand products are sold for astronomical prizes.

Garden in Suzhou
One of the famous gardens in Suzhou.

Before we got to Shanghai, we first stopped at Suzhou to spend one day. Along with Hangzhou, where I went to in early April, the city counts as the “paradise on earth” because of the plentiful gardens and channels and was therefore promoted world cultural heritage. You notice this when entering one of the nicely arranged gardens where a hefty entrance is levied fee each time – and there is not reduction available for students. Nonetheless, we climbed the North Temple Pagoda for a view over the city and went to two gardens. In the evening we also walked along Shantang River Channel (built in 825) – during the day one has to pay 25 RMB, but in the evening the locals go there to eat considerably cheap food. In the morning we followed the waterway in the opposite direction to a street market that did not only sell tasty food for breakfast, but also showed us how to extract frogs’ legs from a still living frog.

Channels in Suzhou
Suzhou is called “Venice of the east” because it has a lot of waterways.

Going back to Beijing was quite relaxing: The night train took about 10,5 hours for the smooth ride back to the capital. As our train was only having “soft sleeper” we had a comfortable ride that ended at 6:50 at Beijing railway station, we changed into the subway and I was at Beijing University at 8 a.m. just in time for class after a 1400 km way to school…

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3 Responses to “Shanghai, Take II”

  1. Olga Says:

    哇!愛鼎 好久不見了
    其實我一直有看你的文章和照片
    很感謝你選擇用英文書寫
    因為這樣子對德文不好的我閱讀起來比較親切一些
    (像愛銓和愛菊我只能欣賞美麗的圖片)
    我以前都不知道你有一個兄弟,是哥哥還是弟弟呢?
    上海真的好漂亮~我這個月初參加一個大陸營隊
    本來想藉這個營隊得到一個去大陸看你們的機會
    才會報名參加的 而最後也有贏到了
    (因為我們扮演的上海隊擊敗其他 成都 青島 天津 杭州 廣州 等八大城市
    成為繼北京之後大陸經濟首都!)
    只可惜這營隊最後是決定去海南島和上海而不是北京
    這樣我還是遇不到你們而且旅費也沒有比較便宜
    所以放棄了(不然我現在應該也是待在大陸 四處參觀喔)
    從你的文章中我感覺到你很關心胡同未來逐漸消失的問題
    畢竟那是代表著中國的文化建築
    可以告訴我你是贊成還是反對拆除胡同呢
    我想我大概知道你的答案 但還是想聽聽你更多的想法
    在台灣想念你們大家的朋友 Olga

  2. beijing07 Says:

    Olga, 好久不見啊!
    謝謝你的評論. 我忙不過來回信回得更快,因為我這個星期要考試,而且最近當我弟弟的導遊. 我的弟弟比我小三歲,跟他一起去旅遊十分好玩.

    你請我表對胡同的态度.好的, 我試一試:在我看來,胡同就是中國城市裡的文化的一部分,漸漸拆它,也破壞一部份的中國文化. 對那邊住的居民可能有好處,政府給他們所謂拆遷費,支持他們在市郊找個新的房子.不過,在城市裡的高樓的氣氛完全不一樣,在上海去浦東和去逛老胡同的感覺不一樣.
    我有機會的話,可以加一偏作文關於這個話題,因為在學校裡,我們的一個作業就是關於胡同的問題.

    很可惜你沒來北京看我們! 你還是打算將來去德國嗎?
    在北京想念你們大家的朋友;-) 愛鼎

  3. Olga Says:

    當然~我很想去德國
    不知道會不會申請成功

    我等你考完試再讓我更了解你對胡同比我更深入的看法

    下禮拜我會遇到一些從杜賓根來台灣學習的新朋友
    希望到時候我會覺得日子更有趣一些
    總是期待一些新的刺激…

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