Shanghai Pathways Blog

Understand ​China​ ​From the Local ​Perspect​ive


November 2011

Zhang Huan Q Confucius

Idealy confucius should be a GOD, always looking correct, dressed up, and distant from any human beings, so most Chinese people can’t accept this controversial art show – as it is very shocking for us to see a naked confucius with a grand beating heart, or the crazy one in a cage with the monkeys.

However, I loved it, so fascinating and makes you think… it is about conservatism versus innovation, tradition versus creation in human history.

In China, Confucius’ legacy was the basis for social ethics and morals for over 2000 years, his theories always has been rooted in our culture.  One of his famous phrase: At fifteen my heart was set on learning; at thirty I stood firm; at forty I had no more doubts; at fifty I knew the mandate of heaven; at sixty my ear was obedient; at seventy I could follow my heart’s desire without transgressing the norm.

This show will be on till the end of Jan, the Rockbund Art Museum is an international platform for the promotion and exchange of contemporary art.

Up the Yangtze

Today, I went on a trip with a friend from Danmark, what amuses her the most are older generation in China who went through so much changes and difficulties in life, but still, they manage to find the inner peace and happiness.

Over 30% of the visitors to China will take the cruise down to see the the Three Gorges Dam across the Yangtze river in Hubei, China.  The experience will be very different than visiting a big modern city like Shanghai, this film is rich in detail about ways of life, dreams, and aspirations and is a great view into the reality of Chinese life.  

Up the Yangtze, it was directed by famous Chinese director Yun Chang.  The film follows the life of the Yu family as their lives are affected by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, the largest mega-dam and a symbol of growth and progress in China.  Yu Shui, the daughter in the family, leaves home to earn a living on a tourist cruise liner while her family packs their belongings to escape the rising water line.  From the film’s website: “All the while the ship charts a course towards its controversial destination, traveling upriver through a landscape of unprecedented upheaval, as ancient and revered sites give way to the burgeoning candy-colored towers of China’s neon future.”

Classical Chinese Opera

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Yesterday night, I went to see an Chinese Opera show done by the Shanghai Opera School, all of the actors and actress are young students aged between 16 to 18 years old, truely impressive.

However it is also sad to be aware that now days few young Chinese people are interested in the traditional opera, we are more into internet, computer games, American movies and night lifes. There was one fun mid-aged man sitting behind me and keep commenting on the preformance, it is was interesting to listen as my knowledge was also quite limited towards such topic.

Yi Fu Theater has the longest history and the largest scale of any Chinese opera theater in Shanghai. It was once known as Tian Chan Theater. Since its establishment in 1925, Tian Chan Theater has featured Peking Opera performances and has been favored by many famous Chinese opera artists. Early on, it became the ‘Largest Theater in the Far East’.

Young and Restless in China

Whenever I meet interesting young people in China, I always felt a simarlity, it is like looking into the mirrors and suddently see myself in it. 

Chinese people want practical happiness, the current social trend is “Get rich as fast as you can, and start a good life – big house, fancy car and a good job”.  The reason behind it is that people have been so poor for the past 100 years, so we are like poor hungry kids got inside the candy store, we want a lot, a lot and a lot. 

“Young and Restless in China.”  It’s about nine Generation X-ers (including a doctor to a hiphop artist to an environmental activist to two migrant workers) who set out to make it on their own.  It follows these nine X-ers over the course of five years to see how they grow and what they learn about life.

Chinglish of the Week

It actually means non recyclable waste 🙂

Bound Feet of Chinese Women

Find a pair of woman’s shoes at the Peasant Painting Village. The shoes belong to an artist, the old woman in this photo was her grandma in Shanxi province with the 3-inch feet. She will be 110 years old, if still alive.

Before 1911, for approximately one thousand years, some Chinese girls’ feet were bound with long strips of cloth to keep them from growing and the toes were broken and bent towards the soles of the feet. The ultimate goal was to achieve the “golden lotus”, a 3-inch long feet, arched and pointy resembling the lotus buds. Few women achieved this ideal. It was the standard of feminine beauty, eroticism, social status and a passport to marrying into wealth.

Gabby on the tour is feeling how small it is by holding it…

The Best Soy Sauce

Guess what? The world famous food writer Michael Pollan is in Shanghai!! He just did the tour of  Handmade Heritage Soy Sauce. Story about this soy sauce producer will be featured in his next book regarding different fermentations around the world. 

I loved some of his food ideas: ” the whiter the bread, the sooner you will be died”

Michael Pollan is the author, most recently, of “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.” His previous book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals”, was named one of the ten best books of 2006 by the New York Times and the Washington Post. It also won the California Book Award, the Northern California Book Award, the James Beard Award for best food writing, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is also the author of “The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World”, “A Place of My Own”, and “Second Nature”. A contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine, Pollan is the recipient of numerous journalistic awards, including the James Beard Award for best magazine series in 2003 and the Reuters-I.U.C.N. 2000 Global Award for Environmental Journalism. His articles have been anthologized in Best American Science Writing, Best American Essays and the Norton Book of Nature Writing. Pollan served for many years as executive editor of Harper’s Magazine and is now the Knight Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at UC Berkeley.

Chinese literary society: League of Left-Wing Writers

New place in Shanghai, a mystery~~~ with politics and stories which are not really known by the people.

The League of Left-Wing Writers founded in 1930 included Lu Xun (魯迅) among its leadership. By 1932 it had adopted the Soviet doctrine of socialist realism; that is, the insistence that art must concentrate on contemporary events in a realistic way, exposing the ills of nonsocialist society and promoting a glorious future under communism.

Chinese Liberal Educator: Cai Yuanpei

If there are 2 most important educators in China, the credit goes to Kongzi(Confucius) and Cai Yuanpei.  

Oddly enough, Cai Yuanpei is not very well known in current China by young people, so I went to dig some info at his former residence in Shanghai. It is hidden inside a very quiet leafy neighborhood, Spanish style building.  

The visit was quite amazing, Cai was born in a Chinese banker family but his father died when he was less than 10 years old, all they had at that time was an empty house, few money. But with hard study, he passed the imperial exam at the age of 18 and had an official job at the Qing government. However, he was disappointed with the useless government and decide to find a way saving China.

Studied Japanese and German… went to Germany, and worked and studied over there for 4 years. Cai believed that he could find the answer.  

When Cai Yuanpei came back, he became the leading liberal educator of early twentieth-century China.  He was also the principle of the Peking University. 

–          Zhouen Lai, Chen Yi was sent by him to France, as part of the Hubei students group.

–          Mao Zedong(Chairman Mao)was working for Peking University as a Librarian admin, Mao also had the chance to study in France together with the Hubei group but he decided to stay in China and he tried to have a cleaner’s job at first.

–          The first Marxist group was started in Peking Univeristy. The founder member of the CCP: Cheng Duxiu and Li Dazhao both were the teachers at this university.

Interestingly, Cai Yuanpei is a nationalist – KMT party member. This simply shows that he is an open-minded man.

His love story is special as well:

–          Married 3 times, never divorced.

–          For the 2nd marriage, he wanted to find a woman with “heaven feet”(nature feet), educated, willing to remarry if he dies, willing to divorce if they don’t love each other, note that in 1900’s all woman has 3 inches feet in China, no divorce, not educated….however he find one, amazing, right?

–          The last wife of him is his student, with 24 years age difference, born 3 children for him, the youngest daughter was born when he was 60.

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