It is somehow difficult to believe but I have been blogging about Old Shanghai since 10 years. Starting with an opening post in July 2006, this blog developed over the summer of 2006. It was originally called Shanghai Old and New and was designed to take notes about research in Old Shanghai and how life in new Shanghai was somewhat parallel to it. Being in the beginning of my search of Old Shanghai, some of the posts were somewhat naive (or sometimes plain wrong). There were also more personal posts, like my favorite “10 years in the red“, “A l’arrière des taxis” or “Decadence on the Bund“. Shanghai was by far not the international city that it is today, although the number of foreigners was increasing rapidly.
The Shanghai of 2006 reminded me more of my life in Budapest or Vietnam before, having still a strong communist aftertaste that it has now totally lost. China had was not yet at the forefront of technology evolution and the whole organisation felt sometimes back to the 60’s (a little bit like in the new place I have moved to, that is run by a state company, see post “Leaving route Kaufmann“). Information about Shanghai life was mostly available through paper media (remember That’s Shanghai?), directions were found on paper maps, discounts in store came in the form of an actual booklet (apps did not exist yet) and free postcards were a effective way to advertise (see picture).
2016 seems very close and very far away at the same time. Expo 2010 has come and helped the city re-transform into a global point. Once again Shanghai is at the head of innovation, including architecture wonders like the latest Shanghai Center (the 2nd tallest building in the World). The muddy waters of Pudong in 1930’s Shanghai have turned into the center of the financial system for the country and the region. Another massive phenomenon is Chinese tourism both in China and abroad. Hidden places in China like Gu Lan Yu (see posts “The revival of GuLanYu” and “Night on GuLanYu“), or Tianjin former Italian Concession (See post “Piazza Regina Elena, Tientsin“) have become overcrowded with tourists. Streets of the Shanghai French Concession, have nicely transformed into something like Greenwich Village or Saint-Germain, with people zipping coffee on terraces. While many old buildings have been destroyed, some have been happily restored (see post Wukang Lu tourist information center) and some of the old names of streets can be sometimes seen.
The main change is surely that Old Shanghai is not a taboo anymore. Official history is no longer that foreigners were evil and brought all troubles to China. Thanks to movies and TV Series (See post “Shanghai Shanghai“), the ideas that seem to dominate among young Shanghainese is that Old Shanghai was a Chinese metropolis with strong foreign influence, very modern for its time (See post “Ordinary metropolis, Shanghai a model of urbanism” ). This strongly connects with today’s modernity in Shanghai.
Having spent more than 13 years in Shanghai, events and places that from the early days now seem far away. Having recently moved, I found back a box of old advertising post card from 2004 to 2006. As I put the above picture on social medias, I realized that this sounds like so far in time for many people in today’s Shanghai. This period is quickly becoming part of Old Shanghai as well.