Friday, 3 February 2012

Is Shanghai the Future?

Shanghai, China's most exciting city, is changing at breakneck speed. That transformation, along with the hope, fear, greed and nostalgia that it engenders, is the stuff of novels, yet its rate of development is frightening.
Brian Castro is one author who draws inspiration from Shanghai.
"It was a mythical place for me, and it was a kind of dream world for him," says Castro, who was born in Hong Kong in 1953 to Eurasian parents.
Castro describes lavish parties on river piers where his great-great-grandfather showered money on rickshaw drivers who brought the guests.
"Can you imagine how obscene that is? But that was the kind of magical scenario I was brought up with," he says.
He says the scale of the transformation means is such that Shanghai feels like a completely different city, and he laments the lost worlds that will never reappear again.That Shanghai is constantly changing also has led Castro to contemplate "transience, and how memory and forgetting works, and how cities sink and rise." Shanghai is clearly ascending...
"It's like a star rising. It will take Hong Kong over in its pure industry and energy, yet at the same time, there's a lot of loss of the past."
Born in Shanghai in 1953, Qiu Xaiolong now lives in St. Louis and writes detective thrillers set in his native city.Qiu uses the city as a mirror to reflect the changes sweeping China, and how ordinary people, like his poetry-loving detective, Chief Inspector Chen, are caught in that transition and demonstrates the impact of crime upon architecture.Chen tries to change with the city, but can't help missing the old ways, author Qiu says. "He doesn't have a clear-cut answer whether this [change] is good or bad."However, Qiu believes that the city's essence lies in its ability to embrace the new: "Shanghai in China is always … changing with new trends. I don't think that kind of essence is changing."
Mian Mian, whose work speaks to a younger generation of Chinese readers, acknowledges the debt she owes to growing up in Shanghai.

"Shanghai is the most open city in China. We're more brave … I'm very lucky to be Shanghainese if I want to be a modern writer."
The author is a reformed heroin addict, and her books venture into the seamier side of China's reform era, with a cast of characters including drug addicts, gangsters, slackers and artists all products of the Megalopolis.Ten years ago, she described Shanghai as a "beautiful young bitch who loves money." She still characterizes the city as a "super-superficial" young female.For Mian Mian, the mood of the city has changed in the past decade. In the 1990s, Shanghai was like a small town, where everyone knew everyone and people were positive about the future.
Now, she says, the country is changing too fast. "Everyone is pushing and running because of business."
Shanghai, too, is rushing headlong into the future, towards the cosmopolis, even as its inhabitants struggle to deal with the present. It's racing to become a showcase settlement, a paragon of modernity. And yet in building a new tomorrow, it risks forgetting, or even erasing, its own past.


  1. that was touching, i really didn't know about Shanghai until now, nice post

  2. Thanks, yeh China really is looking like the future at the moment

  3. Wow , i'm genuinly impressed that turned out be a really great read .

  4. Shanghai seems like an amazing place, now following!!