The Bund, Shanghai
Walking Down Nanjing Road, 25 May 2001
During our first full day in Shanghai, we went to see the premier shopping district in the city — Nanjing Road, just in from the Bund. Although they had read about the heightened level of Chinese consumption after the reforms starting in 1979 in class readings at Butler, the students were amazed at the penetration of foreign products. It seems like everyone in Shanghai is out to make a buck, and spend it! Pictured are Liz, Matt, and Jeff walking through an arcade on Nanjing Road, before they exhausted themselves with a full day of walking around the city.
Walking around the city is also designed to help the students orient themselves to the local social and cultural setting. We took a bus down from Fudan University, located to the north of the city, down to the Bund in the east-central part of Shanghai. Before everyone can split up for their projects, they have to get used to maneuvering around on their own. After a full day of Shanghai, everyone seems to be much more comfortable about China.
Shanghai Museum, 25 May 2001: Tea Break
We split up later in the day, with half the group going to the Shanghai Museum and the other half going to the Shanghai Art Museum. After watching the children playing in the fountain at People’s Square, Becca, Jen, and I saw the exhibits at the Shanghai Museum (Liz, Matt, and Jeff saw a Dali exhibit in the Art Museum). After getting chased away by a museum security guard, Becca and Jen took a tea break in the museum’s cafe.
Becca and Jen were chased away because of a special opening ceremony for a new exhibit of Tibetan cultural relics. There were many dignitaries attending the opening — we did not get to see the actual exhibit of Tibetan relics because the opening was by invitation only! We hope to visit the museum again to see this special exhibit, and drink more tea in the museum cafe.
City God, City Street, 27 May 2001
Today we visited other parts of the city; it was Sunday, and many Shanghai residents and Chinese tourists to Shanghai were out touring, despite the light drizzle. We first went to the Yu Gardens area in the old Chinese part of Shanghai and stopped by the City God Temple. We then walked down Huaihai Road to see the French Quarter, an area in town that has become a major commercial and shopping district. The impact of globalization in Shanghai is visible everywhere, even close to the City God Temple — there is a Starbucks located in this heavily trafficked area.
Squid is not Lamb, 28 May 2001: Searching for Yang Rou Chuan
Today we split up — Matt, Liz, Jen, and Jeff were on their own, while I took Becca to the Shanghai office of the American Chamber of Commerce. Spicy lamb kebabs, called “yang rou chuan,” has become a popular food for the gang. In the evenings, street vendors selling food are everywhere, and yang rou chuan is just the snack needed after a full day of walking around the city. This evening, Matt, Liz, Jen, and Jeff went out to explore the neighborhood in the early evening, and in the darkness didn’t realize that they had ordered squid instead of lamb — barbecued squid was still tasty, but the texture was not what they expected!
Little Red Books, 28 May 2001
We visited a part of Shanghai today that has preserved many of the buildings from “colonial Shanghai” — the city of the early 20th century that Westerners called the “Pearl of the Orient.” Many of the buildings have been carefully renovated to give visitors a feel for this historical period in Shanghai culture. We also visited the home of Lu Xun, a Chinese writer that was part of the “New Culture” movement in the early 20th century, whose literature inspired generations of activists and leaders who sought to revitalize China. In the picture, Liz is buying inspiration from another Chinese leader — the “Little Red Book” of quotations from Chairman Mao. These “Little Red Books” were carried by Red Guards for inspiration during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
Virtual China, 30 May 2001
It was another drizzly day in Shanghai, but at least the temperature was cool. While I made arrangements for our visits to a factory and the Shanghai Stock Exchange, the China gang was scattered through the city. They now know how to get around the city, and check in with me each day so that I know that they have made it back home safe. One thing that has struck them (although not as much as I thought it would have) were the number of internet cafes scattered throughout the city. The students themselves, as you know because of the emails you receive, also spend some time in “Virtual China” each day. This has been very useful for their research — for example, Becca Dayhuff has had to visit the physical American Chamber of Commerce and the virtual Shanghai AmCham, to download some literature. The pictures above are the internet cafe that the students use the most — it is located just across the street from our dormitory, and is very reasonably priced (less than one US dollar per hour at peak time).
Together Again, 31 May 2001
Dinner with Chinese students
Although goal of this project is to allow everyone to conduct fieldwork on their individual projects, it was good for us to have a chance for the group to all get together for a meal — it has been a rare occasion this past week for all of us to be in one place! During the day, Jeff, Liz, Matt, Becca and Jen followed their own leads; but for dinner, we were scheduled to have a meal with some Chinese students. Other than the other study-abroad students in our compound, they had not had much interaction with Chinese students their own age. We had a thoroughly enjoyable evening with a group of six students; the Butler gang were pleasantly surprised about how much they had in common in terms of university life.
Jade Buddha Temple, 1 June 2001
Watching Sutra Chanting
What was Jen watching? She was seeing and hearing Buddhist monks, pictured on the right, chanting sutras at the Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai. Some members of the group visited this temple on Saturday (which, coincidentally, was International Childrens’ Day — a popular secular holiday for children in China). Although many young people in Shanghai are not as active in religious practices, there are still people who do participate in a variety of religious traditions. Various strands of Buddhism, in fact, are reviving here in China, and younger generations are showing renewed interest in learning about Buddhism and other religious traditions.
Eating with the God of Wealth, 2 June 2001
Some members of the group attended a concert last night in a club across the street; different bands played basically “hard rock” to a group of Chinese and foreign teenagers and college students. It was not a late night; by 10:30, the bands had finished playing. Today, everyone scattered again to follow their fieldwork leads. Matt, Liz, and I went out to eat lunch, and found a nearby restaurant that had a shrine to the God of Wealth prominently displayed, situated next to the refrigerator with cold drinks! Signs of popular religion, such as shrines to the God of Wealth and Guanyin, are visible in China — even in more secular and progressive Shanghai. At the height of the socialist period (1949-1979), such displays were officially discouraged. With the “reform and opening” policies that transformed Chinese economic practices, many cultural practices such as popular religion have also resurfaced.