Saturday, May 25, 2013

Shanghai: then and now ... by gimleteye

These photos were shot from approximately the same location in Shanghai nearly forty years apart. i took the earlier photo. The date on the back is July 1976. Remember how Kodak stamped the date on the back of the photo? Never mind. I had just graduated and was on my first trip to Shanghai as a businessman. The view was from the only hotel accepting westerners; the Peace Hotel. I remember thinking, somebody really ought to fix this place up. The hotel had an Art Deco ballroom that was faded and dirty after decades of communist rule. It must have been a swell place in the 1920's. My hosts took me to a movie screening in the ballroom, filled with party functionaries. The movie was a five hour revolutionary opera. I took it, I was the guest of honor. After about two hours I was ready to shoot myself. Every scene built to a revolutionary climax I prayed would be the end, and then it started all over again. I spent the rest of the time switching my watch from one wrist to the other, trying to find something to do.  In between, I stared down the aisle of seats and understood my fellow movie watchers had learned to fall asleep with eyes wide open. They had all gone into some distant space, anywhere but here. I thought the place would never change.


Anonymous said...

If you have HBO (and better if you have HBO on demand) check out the VICE piece on China's ghost cities and the real estate issues there. It'll be very interesting to see how that ends.

In Shanghai have you made it to the Urban Planning Museum? Some propaganda there, but they have a nice model of the entire city.

Anonymous said...

What did they do with all the trees?