Shanghai is the Second Unhappiest City

A recent City Happiness Index survey reveals that Shanghai ranked No. 5 of 6 surveyed cities: Hangzhou, Chengdu, Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, and Wuhan (in the order of Happiness Index position).

Shanghai enjoys the highest average salary of all these six major cities in China, but people in the city don’t feel happy. I can understand that. The pressure in the city is higher and people are so close to the trends – tech trends, fashion trends and house decoration trends. People struggle to catch the trends which may not necessarily lead to their happiness. I listened to a talk show on happiness regarding this survey result this morning. The result of the survey attracted broad attention on the happiness of people instead of economic figures, like GDP.

Here is a picture I draw one year ago about the city I am living in.


© Jian Shuo Wang


36 thoughts on “Shanghai is the Second Unhappiest City

  1. Maybe. Wuhan is too hot in summary. Hangzhou is a nice place in terms of whether and scene. Most importantly, Hangzhou is a city with many rich people but don’t have much pressure.

  2. Hi everyone

    A little advice to get more happiness :

    If YOU follow the modern trends and feel not-so-happy about it, then it’s time to look seriously what you are doing.

    The trends are made for you to spend your money on, and want things you really don’t need, and to make you compete with your “friends” in order to spend more.

    Real friends don’t care if their real friends does not have the lates fashion clothes or the newest mobile phone (basically you need to send SMS and to talk.)

    The value of life is only in your mind, you create it from what you want ! If you expect little it’s easier to fulfill, and hard if you expect all. Take your life in small steps.

    A fact is, that for a chinese the gadgets and the trends to follow are much more expensive as for a foreigner, as the income here is far lower (10-30 times lower), but the price is about the same in Shanghai as in other big cities.

    So, use your energy to take care of your family love first, mother and father, brother and sister (if you are so lucky to have a brother or sister), then think of what you eat, and keep yourself clean and clean up around you.

    THEN worry of the trends, if you have more time !

    Please comment…

  3. I wonder why people spend so much money buying the trendiest/latest items (gadgets, clothes, etc), all of which can’t really make one happy. Instead, why not try to give away some of that spare cash to those more needy? Am sure that would make one happier.

    A few sites to help people in need,

    – CARE,

    – International Committee of the Red Cross,

    – World Vision,

    I feel that money is inversely proportional to happiness. But then again, once u got money, which once gone makes one feel more unhappy, thus adding to the unhappiness.

    No wonder many of the rich are so unhappy.

  4. I FULLY agree with Carsten’s comments posted above!

    What Jian Shuo is mentioning about Shanghai is the exactly the same scenario here in Singapore! Its absolute craziness! What for buy the latest handphone every 3-4 months, all for the sake of “keeping face”? The amounts spent on such wasteful expenses could easily feed a family for months, in poorer countries.

  5. That’s a very good book and is one of my favorites. For me though, happiness is a feeling and you can only feel happiness when it comes from the heart. Because when the heart speaks, the mind cannot object thus it gives in to the lightness of the emotion.

  6. I lol when I saw what Carsten wrote “think of what you eat, and keep yourself clean and clean up around you.”. It is true. When someone is clean himself and everything around him/her is clean, he/she will feel happy.

  7. My impression is Chinese people aren’t happy until they get to big cities like Shanghai, so that they believe they are closer to Capitalism, are they?

  8. It seems that the problem is most of people in China lack religious belief.

    People are no longer happy because they cannot handle their lives and often feel frustrated.

    While I have been in Malaysia and I am a christian.

    Be real, be honest. God bless us.

  9. “Are the Chinese replacing the Japanese as the world’s most fanatical shoppers?”

    Is that possible? “Look, I’m rich.” What a shame! How many Chinese people are saying “Look at me, I’m so poor!”?

  10. Dear Lu Heli

    In fact I have now tried to write 2 long comments about some (possibly political ?) subjects here but everytime MY computer tricks me, just before i post it ! That’s magic, someone casts a spell on me !

    Can you tell me if you are a chinese or a foreigner ?

    Christianity is rare in China, that’s why I ask you, a Christian in China.

  11. We should consider some issues on politics before submitting the posts, agree?

    This is a blog which is in China mainland although it is in English.

    I’m from Shanghai and currently in Malaysia. I’m a Christian.

    Yes. It appears Chiristanity is rare in China. Most of Chinese residents have no relogious belief. Their lives are self-directed. But do you think people can direct and handel their lieves without God? In fact, the churches in Shanghai and even in the entire China Mainland are managed by the Government, which means the churches are not indepedent. You can contact me via email at

    The peace of God is with us.

  12. About religion :

    After I have read and seen millions of people get killed in the name of some religion or god through the time, I don’t believe in that anymore, even I am a baptised christian (my parents arranged that).

    I live happily without any religion, believe me !

    Basically, faith should be in YOURSELF.

    Try to look inside before searching outside.

    If no self confidence are found inside, a religion may be helpful.

    Many people all over the world forget to look inside and just hang up their problems and faith in the future on some god (too easy, I think).

    Then they want to spread their good experience to others which almost certainly don’t want it, and this causes problems (missioning, holy wars, etc.)

    In Shanghai the common faith is in material things and that has no “mind” value. Same thing in my country, even it has an official religion of christianity !

    People should try to forget the material stuff and look inside and ask :

    How do I want my life as a family member to be in 10, 20, 40 years ahead ?

    Meditation (and common sense, of course) can be helpful in finding the answer.

  13. Hi, Carston

    I agree with some of your comments in the previous post. But how do Chinese people have right attitudes to “material stuff” with beliefs while they are still in development? Christians say that their lives have been changed. You can easily identify the difference between Christians and others.

  14. Hi, Carston

    I have reviewed your post which was posted on June 16, 2004 09:16 AM. I fully agree with you now. Christians accept Jesus as their savior as they find the lives are not handled and directed by theirselves easily.

    Many people want to get more “material stuffs”, but they never really know what the purpose is for this. What is the purpose for life? We may be involved in the simple life.

    Plese comment…

  15. Dear Heli

    A little more of religion :

    I’m happy that you agree with my first note !

    I know a few religious folks and they have such a hard time to understand why I don’t need their gods, because then I will be “saved”.

    They will invite me to their churches to have joy and sing along with them (especially in Korea they are keen on that). I feel it a little odd.

    Definitely I don’t feel any need for salvation or rescue, as I live my life the way I like. As any others I have some problems, but not something a god can solve. All I want to say is, that people have to feel it natural and convenient for them to join a religion, if they like. Without any pressure.

    Anyway, the real purpose of the “artifical need” to posess material stuff is to make other people wealthier.

    It’s no news, advertising and trade has always been going on. In China it has been suppressed until recently.

    But if someone can persuade others to buy the things, then others will try too.

    Now the advertising has escalated to the extreme in Shanghai !

    Go to the Bund or Lujiazui at the banks of Huangpu River, you can read a paper in the night because of the bright advertisements !

    Then take a ride in the subway, change to a bus or a taxi – all places are TV’s with commercials for the most funny things. The funny thing about it is that people jump right into it. They believe that all others buy the stuff too, and they certainly won’t express that they are not following trends, do they ?

    Just realize : If noone buys the stuff, the advertisement will have no effect and it will die a quick death. So – be selective in your choice of things.

    And buy a good book and read that instead of watching the nonsense on the screens.

  16. Hi, Casten

    One more question is for you, where are you from? You are staying in Shanghai?

  17. Hi Lu

    That’s a fair question; I’m danish and I’m staying in Yichang temporarily, but usually I live in Puxi, not so far from Yuyuan.

  18. Hi

    I absolutely agree with what everyone has posted up so far. Incredibly, I have had the experience to live in Singapore, Australia, Malaysia as well as Shanghai (currently still here). I have noticed that it is really the society that is brainwashing individuals to become who they are. A city like Shanghai in my opinion feels like a city that has grown overnight (although it has been around for ages). Shanghai has never been able to grab a good handle of its roots (because of the colonial days). That is probably what makes Shanghai what it is today (good or bad). We are who we are from the influenced of friends, family, teachers, mentors and most importantly the place where we spend most of our life in.

    This is really just my opinion, so please feel free to comment.

  19. Comment to Lu Heli : Yichang is near 3 Gorges Dam (Sanxia, Hubei Province).

    Comment to Tan :

    It is not because of the colonial days. Think of Deng Xiaoping instead.

    The colonial period is completely forgotten, exept from those who whats to bury their nose in the past, because Mr. Mao erased everything.

    The colonial period ended a long time before Kuomintang and him began the fightings.

    You can read the book of Qiu Xiaolong ( I don’t know if you can here, and I don’t know if you can get it in chinese (?)) :

    Then you will find out that all things in Shanghai in 1990 was heavily influenced of quite other things than the colonial period !

  20. Religion may bring happiness to some, esp. the true believers. But it may not work for others.

    Most religions including the influential ones in China teach inner peace.

    In order for a religion to work, one has to be turned a believer. Chinese people (from the mainland) find it hard to convert. Why? Two reasons: …. Well, I won’t get into them.

    I want to talk, instead, about individualism. This is the very thing that will raise the happiness level, in China anyway. I like it my way thus I am happy. I don’t have to follow the trend of others thus I enjoy it my way.

    The word individualism refers to an idealogy that recognizes, allows, and promotes the realization that each person has his/her own values, likes, dislikes, and suitables, which may be entirely (or partially) different from those of others.

    This idealogy was not supported by Confucianism, China’s oldest and biggest non-religious religion. It was absolutely crushed by Marxism, China’s contemporary anti-religious religion.

    In my opinion, this “shameful” word was unjustly dismissed by latter-day Marxists due to a misunderstanding or a twisted redefinition. It was crushed in China by Chinese Marxists probably due to a mistranslation. Here is what I mean. Individualism is often taken as selfishism when it really means each individual has individual characteristics. When this was translated as GeRen ZhuYi it was given a selfishism flare. It really should be translated into GeXing ZhuYi (the poor guy in that Yantai hotel might retranslate this into single-sex-ism).

    Promoting GeXing ZhuYi in China will lead to self-respect, confidence, creativity, and eventually to sustainable and even greater economical boom. Believe it or not.

    The conservative communists may immediately want to kill me for promoting GeRen ZhuYi. However, I can easily point out that the fundamental principles of Marxist communism valued individualism (GeXing ZhuYi) from the very beginning. The idealogical model that Karl Marx worshiped was a society in which people would Ge Jin Suo Neng (each contributes that which he can) and Ge Qu Suo Xu (each takes that which he needs). When his children and grandchildren denounced individualism and revised these principles to mean aech contributes equally and takes equally, that’s when things started to come crumble down.

    It is my view that the west did not beat the east because of capitalism, rather, individualism did it for the west.

    In order for China to take the next giant step, she must restore individualism as GeXing ZhuYi and promote GeXin completely unabashed. If done successfully, this will reverse the sliding trend originated from Confucianism and worsened in modern China. There is no doubt that this in a long run will be good for China, good for the Chinese people.

    Individualism (GeXing) would be easier to accept by the younger generation, I mean Wang Jian Shuo’s generation and younger ones. That is why this topic should be discussed here, and widely.

    I was recently thinking of writing a longwinded article and sending it to QiuShi magazine. Surely a clear-headed editor (if there is one) there would see the tremendous value of such a debate, not unlike the “truth” debate after the cultural revolution. However, upon further evaluation, I say doing so does not fit my individualism.

  21. Well, it depends on which media you wish to pursue. To publish in the likes of QiuShi, you probably want to write in Chinese unless you can entrust the party’s official editorial machine to translate your writing. If it is written in English, you can try to submit to China Daily. In either case, I am sure they check your credentials before accepting the piece for publication.

  22. The american trends are moving in on us, even here in good’ol’Shanghai.

    Have you noticed the fat young boys and girls in the streets nowadays ?

    Fastfood is the reason, as I guess no chinese food can make people so fat, it’s too nutritient.

    Soon there will be a new movie coming here about this subject;

    see a preview and hear more on

    But take care of watching this if you like your double cheeseburger and the crispy chickenwings, you maybe don’t want to enter the fastfood palaces again

    so frequently !

  23. I am planning to join a company in Shanghai in IT as a process head. i m BE MBA and an Indian citizen ship with 9 yrs of exp . what shuould be my compensation .

  24. It is going to be wherever the negotiation stops, purely a chess game between you and the employer.

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  26. Why can’t Chinese people understand that, if you really are a cool/hip person, you do not need to advertise that – everyone already knows. Also, if you are really rich, you don’t need to wear brand name clothes, because you already know you’re rich. So, really anyone who walks around with an LV bag is saying “look, I’m not really rich, but I am trying to look rich, please look at me…” You know, in the U.S. many of the richest people live very normal lifestyles and buy very unfashionable, practical things. They look for coupons and sales and cook at home. Why? Because that is how you become rich. You don’t become rich by spending money, you become rich by being very practical with your money and knowng how to put your money to the best use – knowing how to make your money make you more money. When has an LV bag ever made anyone money (except for the company that owns LV)?

  27. Happiness is over-rated. A moderate amount of suffering is good for the souls.

    Catholics and Buddhists celebrate suffering, which supposedly nourish the brains.

    That’s why Shanghai people are much smarter than Beijing residents. :)

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