Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Shanghai Urban Hike

I deliberately chose a creaky 1920's era hotel for my base in Shanghai, which made it all the more shocking to emerge into 21st century Shanghai.

"Do you need the company of a woman?" asked a conservative-looking thirty-something woman, pacing the street outside.

Today, I walked a twelve mile, somewhat random loop from my hotel. The billboard at the top of this post confronted me early in the walk. It would have brought death to the perpetrators in the Mao era. 

Today, old Shanghai, the Shanghai where families had one room apiece, is quickly fading under the wreckers' ball. My first priority was to catch that world.
I've been reading Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong, set in the late 1980's when the Mao era was unraveling. Walking through neighborhoods like this brought the story to life.

After the alleys and laundry of a Shanghai that is being demolished, I visited old places that are being preserved.
The Temple of the Town God dates back to 1403. During the Mao era it was used as a jewelry store. In the 1990's it was restored to its original purpose.

I loved walking through the various portals in the 400-year-old Yuyuan Gardens.
The way the buildings and landscapes progressively revealed themselves was a lovely experience.

Next I walked alongside the Huangpu River.
On one side, colonial buildings were well-preserved; on the other, 21st century Shanghai was sprouting.
As I completed the loop, I was treated to the sights of brides, grooms, and their helpers seeking perfect photographic opportunities. Sights that would have been impossible 40 years ago.

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