I landed in Shanghai after two weeks of soaking in Malaysia moist warmth , hopping from large leafy jungle rivers to quaint chinese houses as tender and as crackled as the smile of old peoples.
In turn Shanghai was cold and brisk, loaded with an imperceptible dust filling the thinner air. It took just few n few hours to my skin feeling as made of thick paper peeling off at the angles and my senses became buried inside of me as if to protect themselves from the sheerness in the air .
On the outside, Shanghai is very pretty: one feels that the architect must have drawn the city from a pastel aquarelle. This area was assigned to the French consuland business men in the 1849, so that the French business men did not have to share the same concession as their British and American colleagues (no wonder). The French shaped the area in villas, schools and lilongs in a way that would remind of French provence: stone tamed to build houses and boulevards along lilac lavender and silvers olives trees form this irresistible live painted cloth, that so many artist tried to cull out them from the pretty Normandy or Provence countryside. In Shangai the lilac is replaced by the bright yellow of the gingko trees, and brick and concrete is used to raise houses and stone villas sketching out the roofs zigzag from a Provence or Normandy postcard. I have been jumping a lot in the past 8 months across time zones, cultures and also the ways i want to build my life with, so I am not totally sure that my feelings are correct when I say that the French Concession results somehow innatural and its beauty is very mechanic and without grace.
The way I had pictured Shanghai in my mind was based on Ang Lee’s passionate and moving “Lust and Caution” : steamy places, cold hotel rooms, high black heels on wet pavement under a shared umbrella.
Whether this was true or not , today the Shanghai i see is mainly a business place where everything is regulated by a stubborn will to make money and where there is a certain pride in being a place that at some point seduced the west, that despised her and yet wanting to resemble her somehow. And maybe this is the great quality of Shanghai , this metamorphic capacity of absorbing the world in a nonchalante way and yet makng it look deeply shanghainese.
I was wondering how the shanghainese could retrieve their clothes hanging in the blue sky upt to the middle of the road, until I saw the mystery revealed in direct: the little plastic hand on a perch ! Funny and effective.
The pleasant tinkling of the …. i was about to say the “arrotino”, the man that goes from house to house to sharpen the knives. Actually this one was doing something similar, ringing his bell around to call aunties and mums our from their apartment, but I could not figure out what.
The dumplings: as modern as Shanghai may be and as fashionable and sleek as it may want to seems, dumplings are easily found at every corner of the street.
More hanging clothes….
This group of confabulating people in the morning was adorable and led me into what is a very typical Shanghai structure : the lilong.
Morning breakfast : the dumplings are luckily available even in this fast paced town, yet most of the dumpling corners are not for sitting but only for take away.