Here we go again. I know I’ve already posted plenty about 1930s Shanghai and how it’s become not just a genre unto itself but a downright cliche. Still, I just love that period and can’t get enough.
When I was last in Shanghai 15 years ago, the postcards with present-day images weren’t too exciting. Cranes rose up like dinosaurs across the Huangpu (Whampoa) in Pudong. Huaihai Road was waking up after decades of decay. Nanjing Lu was lined with dumpy state-run department stores. Yawn.
What excited me were relics from the past. I found postcards like this one, depicting 1930s Shanghai. I think I bought this one in the Peace Hotel, another gem from before the revolution. I didn’t remember seeing 1930s Shanghai advertised at all in 1991, the last time I’d been there. Besides the postcards and the Peace Hotel, I spotted Chinese paperbacks about notorious warlords and gangsters. China was embracing it’s bourgeois past and I loved it.
In this postcard to my grandma in Albany, New York, I wrote:
We are in Shanghai now and just arrived by ship from Wuhan. The boat ride was fun, but I am glad to be in a large, modern city. Shanghai has changed so much since I was last here. Parts are just like Hong Kong, but the old city is still the same as before.
I must say I wasn’t truthful about the boat ride, but if my memoir is ever published, you can read all about it there. I shudder to think about those horrible trough toilets on that boat.
I’m sure if I step foot in Shanghai again, I won’t recognize much of it. And I know I’ll miss the old city, a throwback to the past.