China - A Planner's Journey

Shanghai

Nanjing Donglu

This 'pedestrian only' street was created at the turn of the century. Given that our hotel was located half a block away, it became quite familiar. The street was the jumping off point for walking excursions to other Shanghai neighborhoods. It is a microcosm of Shanghai, with all the vitality minus the fear of being struck by a taxi rushing by. Here one can relax without missing the city's excitement.

The Bund

The Bund is the former center of the European concessions that divided up much of Shanghai prior to WW II and the Chinese Revolution. There seems to be a real appreciation today of the Bund's historical significance and the importance of its preservation. A magnificent promenade has been constructed along the Huangpu River frontage with pedestrian subways providing access beneath the Zhonghan Dong Yilu frontage road to the buildings of the Bond.

Xintiandi

Xintiandi almost was bulldozed to the ground. It was saved due to the advocacy of an American architect and the money of a Chinese developer from Hong Kong. It consists of several blocks of renovated and rebuilt traditional shikumen stone framed houses and tenements built in the early 1900s. They have been updated to create one of the most popular entertainment districts in Shanghai. Its success has given hope that not all of Shanghai's traditional heart will fall to the wrecking ball.

Nevertheless, traditional districts surrounding Xintiandi have been leveled and rebuilt as highrises. A large park arose from the ruins next to Xintiandi in a frenzy of effort over a six month period.

The scale model at the left shows the envisioned future of the entire area. The restored heart of Xintiandi is the tiny area at the lower center. The park with its excavated lake, that was created in record time, lies adjacent to it.

The small percentage of the traditional city that was saved is sadly representative of much that is currently occuring throughout China. Recent statements from higher up in the Chinese government indicate an increased recognition of what is being lost in this headlong rush to modernize. Hopefully, the word will reach and be heard at the local level before it is far too late.

Shanghaied in Shanghai

Shanghaied is putting it strongly - tourist scam is more accurate - but Shanghai was the one place where my naiveteĀ“ got the better of the suspicious side of my nature. Two young Chinese came up to me in People's Park to 'practice their English'. Said they were a sister and brother who had arrived that day by train from Henan and were staying with a cousin in Shanghai. I found her pleasantly assertive. After some conversation, they asked if I would like to join them at a tea tasting. Sounded innocent enough and I figured a slight detour from my planned stroll through Shanghai's older section might make an interesting adventure.

The tea tasting was legitimate, with a nice show by the woman demonstrating the various teas. The products for sale at the end (tea and pots) seemed a little steep at the time, but given that 'Ling Ling' was buying also, my suspicions were allayed. However, a red flag should have gone up when she suggested that I pay half the cost for her 'baby brother' and when she had to transact her credit card in another room. Oh well, I think I was overcharged some $35 and I learned something. The experience was worth the cost in the end.

The photo of the two of them to the right above was taken as they left in the direction of People's Park. Given her intelligence and smooth approach, I would guess that she was quite successful in her tourist contacts that day. The victory sign was most appropriate.

Yuyuan - Old Town

Yuyuan is an older section of Shanghai surrounding the gardens of the same name. It is slated for preservation under current plans. The scenes below were viewed during my meandering walk through this more traditional section of Shanghai. One of the more intriguing places visited was the City God Temple honoring China's Taoist religion.

Click on the box to the right to generate a series of photos taken on the walk through Yuyuan

YuyuanYuyuan - Old TownYuyuan - Old Town

H Graem Ā© 2007