1.25.2006

The Great Firewall

It was with some melancholy that I bid farewell to the Rui Jin Guest House, my first residence here during my vacation days. It is located in Luwan, in the former French Concession region from the old days when Shanghai was divided up into zones that were completely free from Chinese rule and belonged to their respective Empires. The neighborhood may have a dubious history, but it is still the loveliest I’ve yet seen here. The tree-lined streets must be just luscious in the spring, summer, and fall. Even in winter they have a nice minimalist look. Many of the old buildings have remained, though now instead of being inhabited by one rich family they are split up into tenements housing several (likely poor) ones. The streets have tons of shops, restaurants, cafes, even a French bakery or two. I loved wandering around this neighborhood, occasionally happening upon an art gallery here, a park there, and magnificent old villas on every block. One of them is now the Shanghai Hall of Science, and it’s open to random wanderers (though I suspect they don’t get too many of those; when one of the workers saw me in the garden with my camera, he laughed and pointed at it and seemed pretty happy I was there). I later found this building in a book on the Quarter that says it used to be a French college. There’s even a Russian Orthodox church that became a restaurant, though now is closed altogether.

This is also the neighborhood where my family lived. It’s hard to say exactly where—all the street names have been changed (they used to be called things like Avenue Joffre and Rue Lafayette but are now names like Huahai Lu and Xinle Lu). Plus, without my aunts and uncle, there’d be no way for me or my cousin (who was showing me around) to definitively locate the old places. But at least I got a sense of the neighborhood relative to the rest of the city. I even saw the building my uncle used to own. My cousin said if he could get it back today, he’d be a very rich man. Luckily, that uncle is very happy with what he’s got. Though having recently bought a house myself, I can’t imagine how I would feel if some government took it away and never gave me anything back.

On that note, however, I must sleep. On the 75th floor of the Grand Hyatt in Shanghai’s tallest tower, and the fourth or fifth tallest building in the world. Luckily, I do not suffer from la vertige.

4 comments:

Mary Tsao said...

Sounds like you're having a good time and a relaxing one, too. I used to work on the 33rd floor of the B of A building and I can't imagine being on the 75th. Now that's tall!

There must be an overwhelming number of people there although your post doesn't mention being crushed by teeming masses or anything.

jfh said...

yes, to follow up with mary's comment, where are the teeming masses? did you run into whole herds of bicycles? did you go into uncle s's building? he would probably love to hear about how it is now. and is the food absolutely glorious? i'm imagining that it would be. keep speaking your chinese. it'll be bound to get better. love, mom

Jennifer said...

the teeming masses are here! I will probably write about them later because it's a subject in itself.

NB: The Great Firewall seems to have a hole in it at the Grand Hyatt so I can see my blog and comment!

Bee Edmunds said...

I teach at a university China every summer in Anhui Province. I stay at Rui Jin Guest House for a few days, as well, and it was nice to read your comments about the district and Rui Jin, as well. I adore that place and have reservations for late June when my teaching stint is over! Cannot wait.