Snapshots from Confucius Temple, Shanghai

August 19, 2010 § 2 Comments

Wen Miao, the Confucian temple in Shanghai, is a quiet get away within a city that never stops. When my dad came to visit me, I made a point to take him here because crowds make him nervous, and Wen Miao is one of the few destinations in Shanghai where it is possible to find yourself alone. Also, a secular temple, I thought it appropriate for my dad who calls religious worship plain superstition. Here are a few photos I want to share with you.

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What the Stark Expo and China’s World Expo Have in Common

May 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

Stark Expo

China's World Expo, opening ceremony

There is a scene in Iron Man 2 that only my friend (and fellow American) Leila and I seemed to chuckle at. “Pepper” Potts was scolding Tony Stark for wasting time and money on the Starks Expo, a year-long event showcasing Stark’s technological innovations—or as Pepper calls it, an extension of Iron Man’s ego. Watching the movie from here in Shanghai, the domain of the World Expo, the irony is hard to miss.

Here are some news and perspectives on the World Expo selected by yours truly:

  • Adam Minter, author of the blog Shanghai Scrap, describes the Expo as, “a sprawling 5 square kilometer metaphor for China’s soft power initiative and ambitions.” [Sinica]
  • For people unfamiliar with the Expo, a short Q+A about what it is, and why it’s taking place in Shanghai [Reuters]
  • The Expo in photos [The Big Picture]
  • NPR reporter accuses Shanghai World Expo mascot of being a plagiarized version of Gumby [China Hush
  • Shady financial dealings shadow the US Pavilion [Shanghai Scrap]

World Expo Threatens Shanghai Pajama Culture

March 8, 2010 § 3 Comments

Wouldn't want to be the cop that has to take this lady in. (Image from Steven Chow's Kung Fu Hustle)

Apparently wearing PJs out on the streets at any hour of the day has long been a part of Shanghai culture. That I haven’t at all noticed this trend during the two weeks that I have been here is probably a sign that the government’s anti-pajama campaign is working. In preparation for the World Expo, starting here in May, the government launched an anti-pajama campaign that parades the slogan “No pajamas in public–Be civilized for the Expo”.

According to
The South China Morning Post reports that the city’s Qiba neighborhood “has mobilized neighborhood committee officials and volunteers since July to talk people out of the habit of wearing pajamas in public.”
The government is concerned that the sight of Shanghai residents–particularly the grown-ups and elderly-dressed in colorful, patterned PJs in broad daylight jeopardizes the desired image China wants to present during the Expo. As host nation, China understandably and predictably wants to come off to its visitors from across the globe as sophisticated, modern, powerful. But they’re approaching this matter in the wrong way. Don’t fault the pajama people. Here’s where it would have been politically beneficial to exercise some national hubris: Hell yeah, we wear pajamas here without giving jack about what time of the day it is. We do things differently here. And if you got a problem with it, you better learn to deal because we aren’t changing.

If China took that attitude toward Shanghai’s pajama culture, people would return to their home countries with stories about how unique, practical and smart Shanghai and Chinese culture is: It’s okay to wear your pajamas out in public there! They look so comfortable, and free. Not to mention, their pajamas are so cute. How come we don’t do stuff like that here? Shanghai’s pajama culture would be the envy of the people of the world. But by policing what people wear in public, China missed an opportunity to be a trendsetter.

Justin Guariglia, author of the photography book Planet Shanghai, laments the death of Shanghai’s pajama culture:
“…Shanghai has moved one step closer to looking like every other major city in the world. In the process, it has lost a really unique and fun slice of culture which put a badly needed face on China, which the West primarily knows only for cheap labor, cheap manufacturing, pollution, and, recently, being their creditor.”
Shanghai pajama culture is dead, but not lost. It has been documented by photographers both professional and amateur. See Flickr, National Geographic, and Guariglia’s photos from Planet Shanghai.

Gamers Strike Back

March 6, 2010 § 1 Comment

Screenshot from The War of Internet Addiction

Fed up with Internet censorship in China, World of Warcraft players are fighting back online.

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