Just when I opened a new entry before me and wondered what to write to day, Stephen left a comment, which can be a very good topic to start a discussion.
I was reading the website of the restaurant where you celebrated your birthday, to my surprise the restaurant features “French Concession” as a selling point. Since the Shanghai public concession has been abolished since last government, is people today still fond of the past history or they prefer the infrastructures left by the foreigners before the war?
Mixed Feeling about Shanghai History
Shanghai is a very unique city. Its founding was because of a treaty – the Nanjing Treaty, one was always referred as unequal treaty in China.
From the day one of the modern Shanghai since 1840s, the city was mixture of Chinese and westerns, and of cause the culture of Chinese, and western culture.
If you see Shanghai as a child, he has a Chinese mother, and a western father. The western culture is actually put into the blood of this city. The intimacy of this city and the whole western world is by culture blood line.
You see this connection easily by architect – the whole French concession was well kept, and the building along Bund. But most importantly, it is the way people in Shanghai behaves – the respect to contracts, hobbies about decent nice restaurants, and many westernized things. If you walk on the small streets in Shanghai, you can feel the deep connection.
The Painful Conflicts
After being in Shanghai for 14 years, I can see the struggle and conflicts in the mind of Shanghaiese. Just like an abandoned child with a foreign father, Shanghai cannot admit its connection with the western world in the last half century, especially the forming of this child is because of a rape.
People try to avoid that embarrassing history of this city, but the city itself is the evidence of that embarrassing history for China. On one hand, all students in China were taught to “hate” those countries who invaded China during 1840s to 1940s, and described that period of time as the darkest time of Shanghai, on the other hand, that was the most prosperous ages for Shanghai. Why so many people still loves the 1930 style of Shanghai?
Back to the French Concession
Today, many people in Shanghai is trying very hard to rebuild the elegance and gracefulness of the old 1930 times. But they did it without claiming anything, because it is something that you cannot claim in public. It is pride mixed shame. It is love mixed with hate. It is also a memory people try to pickup but avoid to mention.
P.S. I wrote a Chinese blog article about my observation: A mixed blood named Shanghai.