Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shanghai past and present

Well, it's Day One of my 'blog tour' (see below) - at least in the US - which makes it all a little confusing, but keeps me on my toes! Anyway, I have turned up for work, so I guess that's the main thing, isn't it? 
It's a strange thing writing these pieces not knowing if anyone will ever read them, or worse still, reading them and rolling their eyes, but I suppose it's not all that different to writing a novel in a way, in the sense that you never get to see who is reading your work - and you can only hope they don't hate it. Or, if they hate it they do so quietly. :-)
Anyway, as promised, I am posting some more photos. For those of you who have read Chenxi and the Foreigner, you will know that it is set in Shanghai in the late 1980's. Shanghai has changed enormously since those days, in fact, it is unrecognisable from the Shanghai of my student days. When I first moved to Shanghai to stay with my father, in 1989, he lived in the tallest building in the whole city. I think it was only fifteen or twenty stories high. Now, it boasts some of the tallest buildings in the world and to me has become a city that looks a lot like that 1920's futuristic film Metropolis
Gone are the shabby street vendors, babies with split pants and wind-chapped bottoms, and gnarly-faced old grandmothers scaling fish into the gutters. All this has been replaced by a sleek modern city of shining towers and glossy window displays of extraordinarily expensive handbags. 
The last time I was in China, I was complaining about this to a Chinese journalist I met on a train; Oh, how I missed the old Shanghai! He scoffed and said, 'It's all very well for you to think that those tiny coal-filled apartments look romantic on postcards. We much prefer living in clean new apartments, thank you very much!'
So, as a tribute to my student days, here are some 'before and after' shots of The Bund, in downtown Shanghai. The bottom one was taken in 1990, the top one in 2008. (Thanks for the photos, Dad!)

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