Wednesday, February 27, 2008

East meets West (Feb. 15)

Overall, Shanghai’s essential draw and character has been defined by its not being a deep traditional Chinese city. It has always been a mix of styles and influences, especially from the West. There are deep involvements of the British and French and that is very represented in its architecture. This mixture is deeply evident, along the Huangpo River, which has traditionally been the hub and main shipping connection to the city. The Western side of the bank, known as the Bund was the traditional edge of the city, and has been lined with a mix of neo-classical and art deco buildings built in the 20’s and 30’s, providing one of the most famous and picturesque portraits of the city. I wasn’t particularly moved them, although the context seems to be different here, and what they actually represent, as the Chinese were never colonized, and such physical manifestations represent the plurality of Shanghai, not a dominating force exercising its might and will at the expense of many people. Right near the Bund is a section of Old Town, representing the more traditional building types.

While the growth and explosion in culture, consumption, migration to the cities is very much a recent phenomenom, Shanghai has always been such mix, much more so than many other countries in the developing world that I have been. One of the beautiful things about Shanghai was my ability to move about and do my thing relatively unnoticed, as a tall red-headed white boy.

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