The Many Faces of Shanghai

As I ended my time in Shanghai, and then a brief stint back in Beijing, I tried to take it all in (I apparently took too much in, getting sick the last day in Beijing before leaving China).

Artists ply their trade on the street in an artsy area of Shanghai. Recognize anybody?

Shanghai is a river city. On one side of the Huangpu River is the city that began as a colonial settlement of the British, French, and yes, even the Americans.  This architectural heritage survives along the Bund, the area along the river.

Modern Shanghai looms over the colonial Bund area.

And around this core, the modern city has grown, most strikingly across the river in Pudong. This area was undeveloped just 20 years ago, now it looks like Manhattan (without the charm as of yet).

Futuristic buildings at the Expo site in Pudong.

The Grand Hyatt occupies the top floors of the Jinmao Tower in Pudong.

Business is now king in Shanghai (and other parts of China), and the city also sees itself as a new fashion capital as well. There are a lot of high hopes for this high rising city.

A golf equipment demonstration outside a subway station.

Looking as pretty as a picture outside a mall entrance.

The young are flocking here in droves, and the Europeans and Americans are back as well.

A bride and groom pose for pictures in a city park.

As modern and forward thinking as Shanghai is, stepping into a Buddhist temple here definitely feels like stepping back in time.

But every city has its alleys, and in some of Shanghai’s, the past lingers.

An obedient pet? Dinner? Or both?

And in a small alley neighborhood night market, the fish are cut and ready to buy,  and they were still moving!

There was even room in the markets for old representations of those not so market friendly.

China today is a complex place, changing in many ways, and seeing this in the market just left me with more questions than answers.

Colorful statues of a dark past.

Who is this for? The holdout Maoist who looks fondly on the Cultural Revolution that led to persecution, murder, and ruin for the country? Or is it for the curious tourist wanting a piece of the past?

Now the little red books are found in markets as relics of the past.

It does seem that China, as a whole, does not look fondly back at those dark days, and since the opening up begun by Deng Xaioping in 1978, the country has been on a steady track of both development and the loosening of restrictions on people’s freedoms. And I think they may even be developing new and better ways of organizing the workings and relationship of government and business.

But they clearly have a way to go, since innocuous Websites like Facebook and WordPress were blocked, and China still executes far too many people every year. This should not happen in a truly modern and open society. I think in time they will get there. And one day, this picture may be graced with a reminder of a more dignified past that will also point to what promises to be the Chinese century.

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2 Responses to “The Many Faces of Shanghai”


  1. 1 jeff G. May 28, 2010 at 3:06 am

    Seems so foreign to me, pun intended.

  2. 2 Julie Wuest May 29, 2010 at 3:51 am

    Thanks Peter! Can you just travel and take photos for us? These are fabulous, don’t stop!
    Safe travels too!


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