Shanghai browsing by tag


Creating the Landmarks: of Heritage Restoration

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010


One of the things that foreigners enjoy lamenting in China is the destruction of architectural heritage. It is understandable, modern China has a terrible record of heritage destruction, and today there are cities with 2,000 years of history where it is hard to find any trace of old construction. But the worst is that you can witness the destruction ongoing even today, before your very eyes.

It is true that in the last years there is a growing awareness of this cultural loss (and the loss of tourism revenues), and the authorities have started to take measures. Unfortunately, these measures come in the form of “restoration”, usually by the method of demolishing and re-building something vaguely similar, in brand new materials. Of the many infamous examples of this, perhaps the concrete-and-plastic Jing An Temple in Shanghai is the most obvious. Click to continue »

Language Thursdays: Shanghainese Writing

Friday, April 30th, 2010


This week I have little time to do the Language post, partly because I have been busy writing a short story, partly because I have already discussed a good deal about language in other blogs. I take advantage of this to do the post with my final views on Shanghainese after the long discussion we had on the Wu blog.

The discussion started with an unrelated comment on a language learning site. But what really got me heated up is the painful realization that many Shanghainese speakers – or more precisely Wu speakers – not only don’t protect their beautiful language, but they are in fact actively destroying their rich cultural heritage out of pure ignorance.

If you have been reading me for a while, you probably know that I feel very strongly about languages, and particularly about disappearing ones. Perhaps part of the reason is that I come from a culture where we spend a significant amount of our resources to promote a minority language, so small and useless that it has about 1% of the speakers of Shanghainese. Stupid perhaps, but it is our language. Click to continue »

Photo of the Weekend: The Stars Exams

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Saturday there was some alarming movement down the road. Starting early morning masses of unidentified individuals concentrated near the intersection, partially blocking the traffic. They were visibly nervous, but their expression was firm, clearly they intended to hold the position. They had been there for almost 2 hours when I arrived with the camera.


When I approached, I saw they were parents waiting for their children. It was the “Shanghai City Common English for Children Stars Level Exam“, an official certification of English level for children in 小学 (6-11 yo). From what I understood, it is organized by some bureau of the City of Shanghai one of many private companies. The levels are given in stars: 1 star, 2 stars, 3 stars, and the exam emphasizes oral communication. Click to continue »

US-China relations good: Change Sex

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

Today I just wanted to share this picture, taken by one of the brave reporters in the Oriental toilet paper, who were first on the scene:


This is a brand new sculpture called “communication”, just arrived from the US to Shanghai to commemorate the 30 years of the opening of relations between the two countries. It is a great initiative, following the old tradition initiated in Troy and continued with the Statue of Liberty…

Except that, wait a second! Who are these guys? Do they represent Nixon and Mao? And why are they dressed up as two grannies getting ready for tea? Perverts! Click to continue »

Job Posting: Cover the EXPO 2010

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

China Files is looking for an English native speaker based in Shanghai for a part time job during the EXPO shanghai 2010.

  • Preferably with journalism or media related experience.
  • Experience in video and photography will be an advantage.

We’re looking for someone clever, active and with excellent communication skills. This person will be in charge of the press coverage of one of the most interesting pavilions in the Expo: writing press releases, covering their activities and interviewing the biggest personalities they will invite.

Interested please send your resume to

CNY NOTE: This is posted as a favour for the the multi-lingual blog China-Files.  I am not paid for this ad, I agreed to publish it because it might be useful for some reader. The position is paid and I think there are perks like a press card to access the  Expo, but please contact Natalia directly for the details. Good luck.

UPDATE: The Death of a Shanghai Newspaper

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Last week I did a post where I gave three reasons why I thought the Oriental Morning Post was going to the dogs. This week I read an article on the DeluxZilla blog from Shanghai that makes the following observation:

Despite being a party newspaper, I am more a fan of the Shanghai Morning Post (新闻辰报) than the relatively less government-oriented Oriental Morning Post (东方日报). I find the Shanghai Morning Post to have more stories related to the city I live in, though the Shanghai paper sells out quicker outside my apartment building than the Oriental Morning Post, so I often have to settle for the Oriental if I make it outside past 10 a.m.

When I read this I realized why I almost never see the SMP and I am stuck with the Oriental. In the convenience store down my road it is exactly the same situation: most mornings the SMP is sold out by the time I get there, whereas the Oriental is still hanging like a stale fish when I am back from work in the evenings.

To confirm this information I sought the aid of a professional. Not the local Lawson’s store, but a proper newspaper selling stand:

Click to continue »

The Living Cells of a Sheep Foetus Injection!

Monday, March 29th, 2010

IMG_2508-4Of all the amazing things that happen to me in China, the SMS messages I get in my cell phone are one of them.

When I first got to Shanghai 3 years ago I was young and my heart was full of ambition. Eager to make a name for myself in the local business circles, I handed out my name card liberally to all those smiling locals that pullulated in the networking events, actively introducing themselves and offering their cards in the lovely Asian two-handed fashion.

It took me a few weeks to understand how things work in Shanghai, and by then my card had already become a commodity in the IDs market, classified right up there under the header: First Class Expat Suckers.

The downside of this is that a good 75% of the text messages I receive since then are adverts. The good side is that these adverts are among the most extraordinary that I have ever seen, giving a good insight of the resourcefulness and creativity of the Shanghai underworld. Click to continue »

Shanghai: Opening of The New Bund

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Today was the opening day of the new Bund. After a decade with the elevated road flowing into this street, the urban planners have finally realized that a 5 lane highway is not the best thing to have in the middle of your famous promenade. This year they have been busy getting that ring road buried underground, in my opinion the most needed urban transformation in Shanghai. Here are the results in pictures:


Three workers take a short break to enjoy their new creation, as hundreds of pedestrians invade the former automobile exclusive zone. Click to continue »

Sexy Laowai blogger covers Expo!

Friday, March 19th, 2010

I just noticed this picture I took this morning in the little lane. The intention was to illustrate how the Olympic spirit is finally coming to the Shanghai local communities. The result is I unwittingly took a cool portrait of myself reflected in the announcement board glass cover.


This is the typical Chinese motivational message that can be seen everywhere, often in the form of rhyming Dos and Don’ts. For a while now many of them are appearing with the Expo as central theme. The Oriental Post had an article yesterday announcing new measures in some districts to have locals take responsibility for their street’s cleanliness. Click to continue »

The Expo is coming to Shanghai!

Friday, March 19th, 2010

I visited an Expo for the first time as a kid, when my school took all my class together to Seville ’92. Spain was living a crazy year, the Olympics where happening at the same time that Summer, and the Expo was designed to be one of the largest ever. Like now in China, there was some debate about the corruption and the money squandered, and people didn’t really know what the show was all about.

In many ways, that first Expo was very similar to the one China is doing now. Spain had to prove something,  it had passed its own 改革开放 (reform and opening) in the late 70s with the transition to democracy. Then it went on to  join the European Union in the 80s, and by 1992 it was finally starting to look like a developed country. The old pessimistic phrases “Spain is different” and “Europe starts behind the Pyrenees” felt already like something from the past.

Granted, the Reform here has “Chinese characteristics”, and massive population of China needs more time than Spain to complete the Development.  But overall, there is a clear parallelism between Spain 92 and China 2008-2010, and that is one of the reasons I am so excited about the Expo. It was great stuff in 92, and I have some cool memories of chunks of icebergs in the Chile pavilion, or an outdoor temperature control system that was unseen at the time. Click to continue »

A Blue Spring is coming to Shanghai

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Finally, after a long week of intense NPC-CPPCC coverage, the first signs of the spring are starting to bloom in the press of Shanghai. The Oriental Morning Post opens with a picture of the large billboards promoting the EXPO on New York’s Times square, while its archrival, the more conservative Shanghai Morning Post, shows the two Big Bosses of the city speaking to a congress of Haibaos.

shang morn post 81921267980983312

The Shanghai Morning Post has the most interesting headlines, both coming from the press conference given yesterday by the Shanghai delegation in the NPC. Both statements are of interest: Click to continue »

Startups: Technology for the gentleman

Monday, January 25th, 2010

All this G talk of the last days has brought me a lot of readers from the tech world, and I feel a responsibility towards them now to report the latest innovations. That is why yesterday during my Sunday walk I decided to stroll into the local public lavatory, where the latest developments are always cooking in the field of signese.

A bit of background: signese is the Chinese humour contained in public signs before they are translated to English. It is not Chinglish, it goes much deeper into our cultural differences, and it is funny because it shows an unexpected approach to life. Look at this sign below, it is a classic of toilet signese, a sign that hangs above millions of urinals in China, from the Summer Palace to the smallest alley in Shanghai:


A small step for man, A great leap for civilization

Approximately 50 million urinals carry this sign in the mainland. I wonder if somebody has told Neil Armstrong in his old age that his famous and well rehearsed line is remembered today by 1/5th of humanity as a hygienic measure for urinating gentlemen.

Bad aiming skills in the toilet is a common ill in all societies, any lady will tell you that. But in China the problem is most acute, and sub-urinal ponds are part of the landscape. Some ascribe it to the natural optimism common in most Chinese males. I prefer to think it is a matter of multi-tasking abilities: speaking on the phone while smoking a cigarette is not the best way to ensure full control.

In any case, the Ministry of Health prefers to not leave anything to chance, and already a tech startup is taking care of this:

Click to continue »