Friday, September 11, 2009

Keeping the Red Flag Flying There

Shanghai girls – high achieving, hard working, high earning, high maintenance and high spending. Our (female) guide in Shanghai described how they always eat out and spend loads on fashion, make up, and personal grooming.

Shanghai boys – the opposite to the above.

Shanghai boys are said to make the best husbands in China.

Shanghai girls are said to make the worst wives.

In spite of living in a very 21st Century city some old habits die hard in Shanghai – not least the one that means men have to provide totally for the woman upon marriage. And pity the totally laid back Shanghai boys who finds himself landed with one of the driven Shanghai girls. The boys are considered to be the best husbands in China because they never argue with their wives – in fact they tend to be afraid of them. One of our guide’s married female acquaintances was displeased with her husband for some misdemeanour and made him spend an afternoon kneeling on an old fashioned wash board. We found it bizarre to say the least that he accepted this punishment, but China truly is another country.

Something else we found odd about Shanghai was that feng shui is still taken very seriously indeed by the inhabitants. There was a long article in the Shanghai Daily News when we were there, talking to young women who swore that the good fortune they had recently achieved had been done to consultation with feng shui masters. On the other hand there stands behind a temple which we visited, a testament to what happens when the feng shui exerts a negative vibe. We visited the Jade Temple and behind it is a tall and very modern apartment block of flats – all of them unoccupied and likely to remain so. Apparently one of the worst things one can do to disturb the feng shui positivity is to look down upon a Buddha. When people first moved into this apartment block there were numerous reports of ill fortune befalling the residents, and the net result of them all was that everyone in there moved out, and no one else is prepared to risk the wrath of Buddha by moving in. Mind you – looking at this photo of one of the Buddha’s there, one might understand a certain reluctance to annoy him further!

Shanghai is an incredible city. It contains areas known as ‘concessions’ that were once enclaves for foreign nationals which were so apart from the rest of the city that they would even have their own electricity supplies. There is a French concession which is street after street that looks just like Parisian boulevards, and The Bund by the river which was the British concession area. It was a strange experience to walk along it next to buildings that would not be out of place in the City of London. One especially amazing building there was the former HSBC building – now the Shanghai Pedong Development Bank building. One is not allowed to take photos inside of this building, and this picture I found does not do the ceiling justice but will give a good idea of how elaborate it was.

During the Cultural Revolution when such a ceiling would have been under threat from the Red Guards the bank employees covered up the ceiling so that it would hopefully escape being vandalised and it remained covered up and forgotten about until fairly recently.

The only things that suggested that these various buildings along The Bund were not British were the flags flying above them all. Or at least those flags suggested something to most of us.

By the time we visited The Bund we had been in China for 9 days. It was therefore slightly embarrassing for us all when one of our party turned to our guide and asked her what exactly all those red flags signified?

Obviously there are limits to how educational travel can be!

Isn't my 18 year old son gorgeous, and how lucky was he to celebrate his birthday in such a fabulous and exciting city?


JoeinVegas said...

He took a girlfriend along?
And really, China truly is another country? Who would have thunk it

J.J said...

It is a strange other country of which we know little Joe!

I wish his girlfriend had been with us - especially now I have seen his mobile phone bill which I pay for him (a mobile phone contract turning out to be a somewhat ill advised birthday present!)

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Blimey - you passed on those 'stunner' genes to your boy didn't you? He definitely has your good looks!