Search

Shanghai Pathways Blog

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

Category

History

Chinese Woman’s Beauty Change

chinese-beauty-2

It is always interesting to see how beauty standards have changed in a country through history.  Beauty does not has a fixed look. It very much depends on when and where you lived. Continue reading “Chinese Woman’s Beauty Change”

Advertisements

Women’s Life & Trends in China – Part 1

traditional chinese women

When a son is born,
Let him sleep on the bed,
Clothe him with fine clothes,
And give him jade to play…
When a daughter is born,
Let her sleep on the ground,
Wrap her in common wrappings,
And give broken tiles to play…

From the Book of Songs (1000 – 700 B.C.) Continue reading “Women’s Life & Trends in China – Part 1”

The Empress of China – Wu Zetian

wu-zetian-feature

The Chinese TV drama The Empress of China is hot among audiences recently. Actress Fan Bingbing, who plays the role of Empress Wu Zetian, is a fabulous beauty.

Continue reading “The Empress of China – Wu Zetian”

Lost and Forgotten Shanghai – Years of Heavenly Lights

Most people think that Shanghai has only a short history, starting with the Opium Wars in the 1840’s. However, Shanghai has a much longer history, with its beginnings as a small fishing village. The more you explore the history of Shanghai, the more you will find it  fascinating, as this city has a special power to attract interesting people from all over the world.

To explore these hidden parts of the city, I love to walk around the old town and try to reveal some of the lost stories.

The oldest Shanghai city corner, known as Qiao Family Road, dates back to this amazing city’s origins. This small street is now only 539 meters long, but in the very beginning, it was a small river creek with traditional Chinese houses along both its sides. This area was the heart and soul of Shanghai where temples for the Medicine God and the first local government were located. You can still find 700-year old trees and some century-old family houses here.

The Qiao Family

On Qiao Family Road, there are amazing stories of some of the richest Chinese families in Shanghai. One of the most famous is the well-respected Qiao Family, former governors of Shanghai.

During the Ming dynasty, in 1618, thirty year old Shanghai-born Qiao Yiqi took the national military examination, in which he won first place and became the best warrior in China. Later in life, he was promoted to one of the highest ranking generals. He was also famous for his contributions to classic poetry and traditional Chinese painting. At the age of forty-nine, he lead the battle against intruders from the Jing kingdom. Qiao’s army lost the battle. In the end, he committed ritual suicide by jumping off a cliff as a form of protest against the intruders. You can still find the residential compound of this well-known general on Qiao Family Road. He is the most famous member of the Qiao family.

Qiao Yiqi became established as a heroic example, as his action evolved into a standard epitome of loyalty in Chinese culture. His descendants were forever granted governorship status in Shanghai.

The Richest Chinese Artist

Wang Yiting (also known as Wang Zhen) was born in 1867 and lived in this area as well. He was a celebrated modern Chinese artist of the Shanghai School. Wang Zhen was a master calligrapher, as well as a painter of flowers, birds, personages and Buddhist subjects. He was closely associated with and considered the disciple of the painter Wu Changshuo. Numerous people believe that many of his teacher’s paintings were from Wang Zhen himself.

Apart from being a well-known artist, Wang Zhen had also achieved a very successful business career. From a poor kid working as an apprentice at a local Shanghai framing workshop, he later on become the chief representative for the Japan & China Trading Co. Many Western people, including Einstein, visited his beautiful house in Shanghai.

In 1923, the Great Kantō earthquake occurred in Japan. It was the deadliest earthquake in Japanese history, and at the time, it was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in the region. Wang Zhen represented China and donated tons of food and huge amounts of money. The ship he sent was the first one to arrive in Japan to help. He was called “Wang Buddha” by the Japanese. Later, the Japanese emperor sent his best architect to Shanghai and built Wang Zhen the most beautiful Japanese roof on top of his Western-style garden house on Qiao Family Road.

However, Wang Zhen’s association with the Japanese has led to his undeserved lack of respect from his countrymen. When Japan started the war with China, Wang Zhen left everything behind and went to Hong Kong, as he did not wish to work for the Japanese government. He became a monk instead.

Heavenly Light Lane

The most amazing thing is to walk on Heavenly Light Lane, the very first street where Shanghai set up electric street lights. In the very beginning, it was called Bamboo Palace Street. Later, locals regarded the light as sent from heaven that guided people safely home and changed the name of the street. During the Qing Dynasty, this street was very close to the local Chinese government building. It was also near one of the top three gardens in Shanghai, Ri She Garden. Therefore, it was a very important location, once the paradise of the rich and famous.

The Secret Garden

In the end of the Heavenly Light Lane, there is a secret garden house. In the past, it was known as the Secluded Library, the remnant of a lavish garden complex built in the 16th century by a famous scholar. He lived alone in his vast mansion, surrounded by literary treasures. He named his garden house the Secluded Library because he treasured all his books so much. A 12-meter wall separated the house from the outside and was built in a way to deter any fires. The house covered 2,272 square meters and many locals think that it has a total of 99 rooms because its large size.

During the 1900s, the rich Guo family from Fujian, China moved to Shanghai for trading and business. They bought this garden house and made it their home for over 100 years. During the Cultural Revolution, a toy factory, a metal factory and workers’ dormitories came to occupy this once regal courtyard. Many amazing stories have happened inside this house.

Every time I guide people around this neighbouhood, they end up asking me how long this area will be there, as none of them could believe such places still exist in Shanghai. Honestly, I don’t know how to answer such a question, as the old Shanghai has been disappearing everyday and we can only wish and hope for the best.

Peace Hotel: High-Tea

The famous green roof Peace Hotel
 
China may be a land of contrasts, of high rise cities and rice paddies tilled by oxen, but few cities offer the varigated past of Shanghai — colonial port city with a history of war, capitulation, blockades, and stunning architecture that spans almost a 100 years of style and design. One of the icons of that past is the Peace Hotel which started life as the Cathay Hotel, built by Victor Sassoon as part of his real estate empire in Shanghai.
 
The Peace Hotel Lobby
 
The original hotel officially opened on August 1, 1929. It was widely known as the “Number One mansion in the Far East “, due to its prime location along the Bund and for its luxury, including the distinctive copper-sheathed roof 77 meters above ground, white Italian marble floors, and priceless Lalique glass artwork. It was also the tallest building in Shanghai and hosted many famous guests over the years including Charlie Chaplin, George Bernard Shaw, General Marshal, Noel Coward and President Bill Clinton. It was known for its Old Jazz Bar and band, which has been resurrected and plays again today. From 1949 to 1956 it was used for government offices, but in 1956 it resumed its use as a hotel, the name being changed from the Cathay Hotel to the Peace Hotel. A major 3 year renovation was just completed in 2010 to bring it back to its 1920′s glory.
 
The gorgeous high tea experience
 
Yesterday, I ended tour at the Peace Hotel with a lovely British couple – Michael and Adrienne, they have been married for 49 years. Adrienne’s eyes lit up when she discovered that it is still the high tea time in the hotel’s Jasmine Lounge. In her words, it is the perfect way to recalling Shanghai’s ‘Paris of the Orient’ and its fame for having introduced European high tea to the city in the 1930s.
 
It was a lot for tea, can’t find any space for dinner afterwards
 
To me, I could never resist good food and it is wonderful to have British people confirming that the quality of the high tea in Shanghai is as good as what they have in London. The other thing is that you don’t really have to dress up to enjoy it 😉

Nanjing Massacre

I decided to do a short overview sheet for an up-coming trip to Nanjing Massacre Museum on 14th Feb, and yes, somehow 38 people picked the most unusual event for the Valentine’s Day. 

The Nanking Massacre or Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking, was a mass murder, genocide and war rape that occurred during the six-week period following the Japanese capture of the city of Nanjing (Nanking), the former capital of the Republic of China, on December 13, 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Timeline:

  • Aug 1937, Japanese army invaded Shanghai, Nov 12 Shanghai was captured
  • Nov 22 – The International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone is organized by a 15 foreigners to shelter Chinese refugees, area of 3.86 km², with 25 refugee camps  
  • Dec 1, capital relocation–Chiang Kai-shek left Nanjing on Dec 7
  • Dec 5, prince Asaka appointed as commander and issued an order to “kill all captives”
  • Dec 9, Japanese army arrived outside of Nanjing urging the surrender within 24 hours
  • Dec 10, no response was received from the Chinese by the deadline
  • Dec 12, general Tang Shengzhi retreated, 100.000 untrained soldiers defending Nanjing
  • Dec 13, Nanking fell to the Japanese by nightfall, six-week period of Nanjing Massacre, Japanese troops engaged in rape, murder, theft, arson, and other war crimes
  • Dec 14, The International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone lodges the first protest letter against Japanese atrocities with the Japanese Embassy
  • Dec 18, General Iwane Matsui knew the rape, murder, and looting in the city
  • Jan 1938, the Japanese army forced all refugees in the Safety Zone to return home
  • Feb 18, 1938, the Nanking Safety Zone International Committee was forcibly renamed “Nanking International Rescue Committee”, and Safety Zone effectively ceased to function.
  • Feb 19, 1938 – The last of the 69 protest letters against Japanese is sent by the Safety Zone Committee to the Japanese Embassy
  • Late March 1938, the end of the massacre
  • May 1938, the last refugee camps were closed
  • Mar 10, 1947, Hirohito and Matsui was prosecuted, prince Asaka got immunity

DEATH: Nanjing Massacre total death of 300,000 Chinese.

RAPE: 20,000–80,000 women were raped, including infants and the elderly.

Contemporary Art in Shanghai

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Went on a full day art tour recently, good contemporary art is always inspiring and make people think.

Contemporary Chinese art was born with the death of dictator Mao Zedong in 1976, whose Cultural Revolution had barred Western influences and stifled creative expression for years. Suddenly China started to get Western books and magazines and learn about all the Western art movements since 1949. So in the early ’80s, Chinese artist had their own versions of these movements.

From the performative works in the 80s to installations in the early 90s, art groups in Shanghai were always the first in China to experiment with new artistic languages and presentation tools. 

People go to Shanghai and see it is an absolute boomtown with buildings going up every day, and they become curious about the history of Chinese culture and fascinated with images of contemporary life. It is not easy to cover Shanghai’s contemporary art in one day, as there are over 6 different major art areas in Shanghai. But just like the 798 Art Community in Beijing, M50 is a blossoming arts district that now is the center of Shanghai’s art scene.  

However buying Chinese contemporary art is not for the faint-hearted. There are no museums in China to offer the validation that contemporary-art collectors in the West desire, and few independent critics or curators to judge whether a living artist’s work is good enough to stand the test of time. Yet that is not putting off buyers. Last year Asia accounted for nearly a quarter of global auction revenue, nearly twice what it was two years ago.

The Grey Gardens in Shanghai

 

I just had the strangest Xmas eve and it has been all over my head. Everything started with my hopless curiosity towards Shanghai’s hidden buildings and its fascinating history.

At the off the beaten part of the oldest Shanghai corner, there is one small street called the heavenly light lane – walk inside the lane and looking for a wooden house with two beautiful Chinese red lanterns. Across from it, you will find a big black gate with a huge stone outside with the sign of Shanghai’s Gov. Protect building. 

Few people know about the story of this lane’s name, the heavenly light lane is the first place where Shanghai put the 1st public street electronic light, locals regarded the light as it has been sent from the heaven and guides people to their home.  So no one will be lost or suffering from the dark night.  Inside the big black gate, there is a big traditional family house with 3 gardens, it is over 250 year old and around 2000 square meters in size.

It feels like such a desserted place in the most crowed part of the city, standing by the gate, you don’t even sense any alive human beings inside.  Once you get in, the beautiful building is falling apart in front of your eyes. There is only a 89 years old woman and her 58 years old daughter live inside, it is hunted, overwhelming and you can tell how pretty this place was – and it is still unquestionably pretty.

The old lady speaks English and shared stories of her family, her daughter loves talking and always wanted to jump into the conversation even that she don’t understand much English. As mother and daughter, their difference is striking, one thing in common is that each of them has a crazy son and they are both trapped in this place or held back by their sorrows. 

“Don’t you feel this is sad? Don’t you have any compassion? ” – this question shots into my heart. I wonder if I ever should visit this place.

What can I say when I know that it is not up to me to change anything, the local gov. is offering the mother and daughter 5 million RMB to buy the place so the renovation could be done, but the daughter wanted more money. Their relatives have all been moved out and running successful business, they are the only 2 who are left behind to look after the old house. The older son of this 89 years old woman is a successful university professor in Canada, but her heart is always with her crazy younger son in Shanghai’s hospital so she don’t want to move to Canada. The divorced daughter said that she wanted to travel, but she also have to take care of her son who is in the hospital as well.

Is this sad? Yes and No, the house has become decrepit, but it is home to them. Life is not easy for everyone but there were happy moments, photos of this 89 years old woman who was an educated and beautiful Shanghai girl dressed in elegant Qipao. Paintings of her clever husband who was the most famous expert of ancient architecture in China, the daughter’s lively water-color flower paintings hanging on the walls of their house…

Life goes on, people have to move on.

Just like everything in Shanghai, things happened so fast and who has the time to be sad? Now, both of them are retired, the mother enjoy to chat with her old neighbors and the daughter like to dance in the park and charges an entrance fee towards the visitors, they argue with each other and they rely on each other. 

Anyway, I will go back again, I need to understand more and see what I could do.

After the trip, Xmas eve, I watched Grey Gardens – a movie based on the life stories of the eccentric aunt and first cousin of Jackie Onassis (both named Edith Bouvier Beale aka “Big and Little Edie”) raised as Park Avenue débutantes but who withdrew from New York society, taking shelter at their Long Island summer home, “Grey Gardens.” As their wealth and contact with the outside world dwindled, so did their grasp on reality. The two women become reclusive and known around town as the highly eccentric proprietors of Grey Gardens, which has become decrepit and full of stray animals taken in by the Beale women. They were reintroduced to the world when international tabloids learned of a health department raid on their home, and Jackie swooped in to save her relatives.

By the mid of the night, a “lost in touch” childhood friend contacted me for a merry Xmas, how strange is that we used to hang out together all the time during our teens. Now we have completely different life styles and the changes has been dramatic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

KFC’s Success in China

If there were just a few things that China has wholly embraced from the West, it would be our love for Kentucky Fried Chicken, or KFC as it is more commonly known. Bloomberg reports that “Colonel Harland Sanders’s image is a far more common sight in many Chinese cities than that of Mao.” It was the first Western fast food chain to arrive in China. In 1987, this fast-food operator opened its first outlet near Tianamen Square in Beijing. Even McDonald’s is no match for KFC in China as Colonel Rules Fast Food. By 2008, KFC had twice as many outlets in China as McDonald’s, a reversal of the ratio in other parts of the world. 

Today, KFC customers can purchase a bowl of congee, a rice porridge that can feature pork, pickles, mushrooms and preserved egg, as well as buy a bucket of its famous fried chicken. In 2010, Yum(KFC’s parent company) expected to make 36 percent of an estimated $2 billion operating profit from 3,700 restaurants in China — eclipsing for the first time its total earnings from the 19,000 Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Long John Silver’s and A&W restaurants it owns in America. Yum announced on Jan. 18 that it will sell its Long John Silver’s and A&W chains in part to focus on China.

However, nothing breeds imitators like success. I found this noodle store in Fengjing watertown, it is very  funny and I can’t help but wondering who is the designer behind the idea .

City of Life and Death (Nanjing! Nanjing!)

Yet another movie which I had to watch to fully understand the Nanjing massacre. It’s gruesome suffering all the way so my friend did not finish it, I guess it is not the best kind of movie to watch during the weekend or in the evening if you want to have a good sleep.

Harrowing and unflinching, a savage nightmare so consuming and claustrophobic you will want to leave but fear to go, “City of Life and Death” is a cinematic experience unlike any you’ve had before. It’s a film strong enough to change your life, if you can bear to watch it at all.

The third film by formidable Chinese director Lu Chuan, “City of Life and Death” takes as its subject the infamous atrocity known as the rape of Nanking. That was the 1937-38 Japanese takeover of China’s then capital city that led to the deaths of an estimated 300,000 civilians as well as sexual assaults said to number in the tens of thousands.

Shanghai/China in 10 minutes

About China

 

About Shanghai

The Rape of Nanking

Ever since that I got a group request of visiting the Nanjing Massacre Museum for Feb 2012, I started to reseach more about this part of the Chinese history. 

Little by little, I got access to books, photos and archives, but I did not read The Rape of Nanking until today. The reason is simple, the person who recommended me this book has said that herself could not finish the first 10 pages as it was very depressing to read, even its author Iris Chang suffered a nervous breakdown and killed herself in 2004.

Looking at Iris, she is beautiful, the best-selling author, mother of a boy… I am not sure what to say towards her tragedy.  So when I am finally decided to looking into this book, I have been prepared and ready to absorb all the disturbing historical infos….still it has been really overwhelming and too powerful to handle, cruel images and the craziness of the war filled up with my head and making me feel uneasy with the comfort of my real happy world.

Yet, I am still counting on the date of visiting the Nanjing Massacre Museum and the emotional feelings which will embrace me.

China has endured much hardship in its history, as Iris Chang shows in her ably researched The Rape of Nanking, a book that recounts the horrible events in that eastern Chinese city under Japanese occupation in the late 1930s. Nanking, she writes, served as a kind of laboratory in which Japanese soldiers were taught to slaughter unarmed, unresisting civilians, as they would later do throughout Asia. Likening their victims to insects and animals, the Japanese commanders orchestrated a campaign in which several hundred thousand–no one is sure just how many–Chinese soldiers and noncombatants alike were killed. Chang turns up an unlikely hero in German businessman John Rabe, a devoted member of the Nazi party who importuned Adolf Hitler to intervene and stop the slaughter, and who personally saved the lives of countless residents of Nanking. She also suggests that the Japanese government pay reparations and apologize for its army’s horrific acts of 60 years ago.

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.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: