In Shanghai, evidence of contemporary development is everywhere!
陆家嘴 (Main Financial District):
“Eastern Pearl” Tower:
人民公园 (People’s Park):
But to me, one of the most interesting places in the city is one whose roots go back the farthest;
Lao Xi Men, or the Old West Gate (to anyone who sees it, sorry for the weird looking “gate”).
Lao Xi Men is considered the “Old City” of Shanghai, and the gate referred to was a literal gate in a defensive wall that stood in Shanghai until 1912. For much of Shanghainese history, this area was the seat of governmental authority in the area – 上海的中心, Shanghai’s “City Center”. For a time, due to a string of international events, this area was one of the only self-determined areas (with respect to the Shanghai government) in Shanghai; various “concessions” to the north and west of Lao Xi Men were under varying significant degrees of control by European countries.
Present day China seems to be concerned to a significant extent with maintaining “Chinese-ness” in it’s culture and institutions, in many ways. While in America this can easily be seen as somewhat xenophobic or isolationist (and indeed, the “issue” of foreign access to Chinese land and markets is often framed in this way), here in China these concerns seem to be largely motivated by reactions to past foreign imperialism and colonialism, and a desire (parallel to how American propagandists would put it) to “maintain Chinese values and the Chinese way of life”.
(Some may argue that the Cultural Revolution wasn’t exactly concerned with preserving Chinese heritage’s place in society, but it’s actually been very interesting for me to discover that many facets of the revolution, and tenets of the prevailing political doctrines at the time, actually reflected (or at least could easily be traced back to) the values and ideals of the times from which evidence and influence were simultaneously being eradicated from society and collective memory.)
With this in mind, I wanted to present a few pictures from a trip that I and someone special took recently to 豫园公园 (Yu Yuan Garden) in the Old City. For more information about this Chinese national monument, check out this page. While there is far more to China (and indeed even Shanghai) than this, I wanted to present what was easily one of my favorite and most moving experiences of this city – and in doing so, present a place where the city is (arguably) doing the most to preserve important parts of it’s history both in “stone” and in collective memory. I hope you all enjoy!
View approaching the garden from the Yu Yuan Market area, and from the 9 Bend Bridge
Apparently it’s good luck to take a picture of the fish in this pond, so… Just putting this out there 🙂
This dragon’s tail extends all along the top of this wall, which seems to wind through the entire garden somehow. This is quite a simplification, but in this area of the world the dragon actually is an animal (or cloud spirit, or…) that will fight against “bad spirits” and that will engage humans in ways that will lead to their growth as “good beings”. It has also become a symbol of Chinese heritage – something that the common feline seems to be entwined with as well, given the love for housecats that I’ve seen in this country!
Same cat, different time, totally different area of the garden 😉
This old couple’s boat has an old saying written on it; something about how in good weather and in bad, the old couple stayed in the boat together and kept rowing. Something like that, my Chinese isn’t great!
Foreground is the garden (note the continuing dragon’s tail), beyond that is part of an old Shanghai lane house, and even further out are the skyscrapers. Interesting.
Back out in the Yu Yuan Market area, there is a short old-school moving picture show for the kids! In case it’s not obvious, the man on the right (c0mplete with costume hat, glasses, and fake beard/moustache) is providing the pictures and the story narration, much to the wonder and enjoyment of these smiling kids. Yes, they were smiling, we checked.
Then, we returned to 老西门, Old City Shanghai…
And enjoyed some of the amazing food that this city has to offer (this was a combination barbecue and hotpot buffet; frickin’ amazing)!