Lulling hours in Shanghai, where old meets new

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, Yuyuan, Shanghai 2011.

Along the streets at Yuyuan, Shanghai.
Text and Photo © CM Cordeiro 2011

Waking up in China’s largest city that is Shanghai, amongst its more than 24 million inhabitants certainly puts a perspective on how much of an impact you might make during a single day in your life when you finally step out the door and make your way around with your errands.

In just about twenty to thirty years, Shanghai as a city has grown at an amazing speed. The skyscrapers seen today along the Huangpu River, The Bund and Lujiazui were non-existent just a stone’s throw back in time, where it would’ve been difficult for most anyone to recognize the landscape and skyline of the central finance district between these decades if you were not at first shown pictures of the landscape from then till now.

The past decade alone has seen a paradigm shift in Shanghai from a city with Communist ideals to one that is cosmopolitan with a global outlook. Much of this is the fruitful result of the Chinese government’s efforts at economic reforms in China beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

If any organization could trace and reflect an aspect of Shanghai’s modern history in global trade and the resulting impact of the Chinese government’s efforts at bringing China and its state-owned enterprises to the global scene, then Baosteel Group Corporation, the second largest steel producer in the world with approximate annual revenues of around USD $21.5 billion would be a good case study to examine. With 45 wholly owned subsidiaries in markets across the world, in countries with as diverse cultures such as Brazil, France, Germany, Russia and in Asian and Southeast Asian countries such as Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore , Baosteel reflects the speed and tenacity at which Chinese organizations are able to make themselves visibly global whilst simultaneously catering to their very demanding and highly competitive domestic market.

Still, amongst the city’s global ambitions supported and run by its busy inhabitants who seem to maneuver through the city via just as many noisy and exuberant vehicles that never cease their honking, you’ll find in Shanghai that some waking hours beckon a certain lull to the senses, and are in effect… quieter than others. And it is in these hours that you can sit, think and breathe the calmer soul of the city as a mist that invites you to contemplate its living as an artfully drawn landscape, one perhaps seen in Chinese watercolour on silk or paper. It is these brief lulling hours of Shanghai, at dawn or just after dusk, that paints a picture of the place both past and present, juxtaposed in front of your very eyes in material form.

This time in Shanghai, I found myself drawn time and again to Yuyuan Market. It was fantastic to watch the shops open their doors to the day’s business that begins with people thoroughly engaged in their own activities beneath the blanket of Shanghai’s quiet morning air, the momentum slowly building for the day.

Below, some pictures from the daily activities at Yuyuan Garden and Yuyuan Market, where in my view, standing in the middle of Yuyuan Garden gives a surreal picture of old Shanghai against a backdrop of new Shanghai.

Where old meets new

Yuyuan, Shanghai 2011, main street.

Main street, Yuyuan.

Shops at Yuyuan, Shanghai.

Shops along Yuyuan.

Yuyuan, passage way into the garden, Shanghai 2011.

Covered walkway.

Open passage way into Yuyuan, Shanghai 2011.

Open walkway.

Skyline of old and new, Yuyuan, Shanghai 2011.

Yuyuan, against a backdrop of modern skyscrapers, Shanghai 2011.

Architecture Yuyuan, up-close, Shanghai 2011.

Through the garden walls.

Koi gazing, Yuyuan, Shanghai 2011.

Koi gazing and feeding.

A piece with a story

Another aspect of old and new in Shanghai is what you can find in the shops and along the streets of Yuyuan Market. Almost every piece of item seemingly carelessly placed outdoors for anyone to peruse comes with a story of its own. And if you’re interested, all you need is a little time to listen to their stories and how these items found their way to the market place.

Wall decoration, Yuyuan, Shanghai 2011.

Wall decoration.

Shop with antiques, Yuyuan, Shanghai 2011.

Shop with antiques.

Beads, Yuyuan, Shanghai 2011.

Beads and wood carved boxes.

Cloth shoes, Yuyuan, Shanghai 2011.

Embroidered shoes.

Christmas and Chinese New Year decorations, Yuyuan, Shanghai 2011.

Decorations of two festive seasons – Christmas and Chinese New Year’s.

Come sundown, I found myself once again walking through a quieter Shanghai that seduces the senses with its living. Chinese songs fill the air in the evenings in the public parks against dampened traffic sounds, songs that invite anyone who wish to dance the evening away to do just that.

And it is in this moment of a step across time, from rush hour to dusk, that you can sit, watch and ponder, the workings of such a city that dances at night and conquers the world with its global organizations by day. Surreal.

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