Singapore has been in the rearview mirror for a week now and Shanghai is where I have landed. It is hot and yet the people move faster here than most anywhere else I have been. It is as though every one of the twenty-four million people are in a hurry. Can they possibly all have somewhere important to go? Of course maybe I am jealous as I meander the streets of this city seeing huge museums, the people’s park, old town, Yu gardens, skyscrapers galore, and wander alongside the Yangtze River, the third longest river in the world.
Or maybe they are glad to be out from under the colonial rule of Britain. Britain, for the good of the people of China, declared an Opium War to invade and stay in this country in the 19th century. Who would think that people especially could start a war over opium The English and the West have left their mark on this city. It can be seen as one walks past what is called the Bund today. The stately European style buildings on the Bund are here to stay although the Chinese politely asked the British to leave many years ago. Only one of the Bund era buildings was designed with Chinese architects. It has marks of traditional Chinese architecture in it. It is of course the China Bank building.
The world wondered what would happen after the British left. Would the Chinese people be able to survive without the civilizing nature of the British, no longer so strong? After years of sorting out the good and bad the Chinese seem to be able to make it on their own, as one takes their eyes off the staid European buildings and looks across the river. They see the second largest skyscraper in the world and the whimsical Pearl Tower. On one side are the neoclassical Bund buildings and on the other side an explosion of creativity and height few places in the world can boast. They now can pick and choose what European influences they want and the result is huge. So I can see why they needed the British; they have lost their grey gravitas.
So the people are in a hurry maybe because they want to make up for the lost time of colonial subjugation. They have built an international city that is strongly influenced by their Chinese culture. Yes the government is still very controlling but the lives of the average Chinese citizens have improved from the days of yore. Housing, food supply, and although it is still probably wise not to drink it, the water supply has improved. Their huge museums show their pride in their history and culture. And yes they still are interested in what the rest of the world is doing, as evidenced by the long lines at the Shanghai Museum’s 100 pieces of art that tell the story of the world from the British Museum. But of course this show is in the midst of four floors that share the glory of the Chinese. And that is the way it should be.