Since I started reading Eileen Chang, I’ve learned that she is almost single-handedly responsible for the resurgence of interest in 1930s Shanghai.
It makes sense.
After her books started making their way back to the mainland in the 1980s (pirated versions, of course), Chinese citizens grew interested in Shanghai’s decadent 1930s. And then that interest mushroomed when Eileen Chang died in her California studio apartment weeks before her 75th birthday. She’d lived alone and her neighbors referred to her as “the old Chinese lady.”
Months ago I posted another postcard of 1930s Shanghai that I sent to my grandma in 1995. Like that one, the one posted here depicts a street scene (Nanjing Road) from 1930s Shanghai.
In this postcard, I wrote to my grandma:
I hope you are keeping cool. We are all in Hubei province and will go to my in-laws tomorrow. Today we just finished a 3 day cruise on the Yangtze River. We all had a great time and enjoyed the scenery! It was too bad Jonathan (my brother) had to go before we took the boat, but he had a good time while he was here. The weather is still about 100 degrees, but we are used to it now. I hope all is well there.
I must have bought this postcard at the Peace Hotel gift shop a day or so after my parents, uncle, and brother arrived in China for my wedding in July, 1995. Staying at the Peace Hotel was the highlight of that summer. It was my only encounter with luxury for three months, and even then the hotel wasn’t in great shape. (It certainly wasn’t anything like it is today!) Although I wrote that I enjoyed the Three Gorges cruise, we basically roughed it, sharing a cabin with rats and subsisting on food we bought over the boat’s rails from dock side vendors.
But back to the postcard. Nanjing Road, shown in the picture, was the shopping street in Eileen Chang’s Shanghai. When I stayed in Shanghai in 1988, 1991, and 1995, Nanjing Road hadn’t recovered from the cold days of the Mao era. I much preferred Huaihai Road, which was once called the Avenue Joffre.