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the scourge – in defense of Shanghai
Posted By Christoph On November 4, 2009 @ 04:29 In Nightshots,Shanghai,Things... | 11 Comments
I never liked this city.
Too large, too busy, too much bling bling. Too aggressive, too fashionable, too many lame foreigners munching on lame foreign food.
Just a bunch of tall buildings crowding up one of the least Chinese places…
…in all of China.
But a few weeks ago, when I had come back from Inner Mongolia, I made a discovery that seemed long overdue.
I picked up a cheap photo book in a store on 福州路 (fuzhou road). It was basically just a photo album about Shanghai, featuring historical shots from the late 19th century up until today.
On one page, there was an old black and white photograph from a park gate in the 1920s. Dogs were not allowed, it said on that sign, and neither were ball games or bicycles.
Chinese… not allowed, except as servants to foreigners.
This got me thinking. Maybe Shanghai hadn’t always been like this? Maybe it was MADE into the way it is now?
The city has been the country’s major hub to the outside world for at least 200 years. During these two centuries, it has been hacked up and battered by the Europeans, the Japanese, and whoever else could get their hands on it.
Still, during all this time, it managed to remain a beacon of hope, attracting swarms of foreigners and Chinese alike, who kept rushing to the city by the hundreds of thousands.
They were soldiers of fortune, gold diggers, locusts, flies.
Soon the local residents were outnumbered, and the face of the city changed.
Obviously, it didn’t always change for the better: in the 1920s and 30s, Shanghai got nicknamed “Paris of the East”, apparently for its nightlife, and up until now the English verb “to shanghai” means to abduct or kidnap someone.
Today, Shanghai is a very busy and internationalized place that doesn’t always show its most charming face to the visitor.
Most people don’t realize that all this cannot necessarily be seen as something that the people from Shanghai have brought upon themselves.
Instead, it looks like they have been overrun, and they are only trying to make the best of it.
The old folks sit on short stools and look at the city rushing by.
Sometimes they go for an evening dance in one of the parks that they would not have been allowed in when they were little.
But mostly they just look at the city rushing by.
People from the rest of the country like to call people from Shanghai stuck-up and wicked.
But do they really know who they are talking about?
Soundtrack – Run DMC - “It’s Tricky”
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