Leaving the quaint town of Zhouzhuang, I realized how much of China is still inherently tied to the past in culture and tradition. While some aspects of daily life are inevitably modernized as time goes on, it is incredibly humbling to visit places that have existed for so long under the same characteristics as they did centuries ago.
As drawn to the past as I often tend to be, it’s now time to move on to a more modern city that encompasses China’s thriving economic boom. Shanghai: the New York City of the East.
Adventures in Asia
Part III: The Race to the Top
Whenever I visit a place that I haven’t been to before, one of my favourite things to do is to walk around and take photos of everything I see—particularly in large, constantly adapting cities. Of all the people and things that I come across, I always find myself stopping and staring in wonder at the skyscrapers and urban architecture for some reason. I don’t have much knowledge about the form or technicalities of these sorts of striking structures, but something about the overwhelming size and unique construction always catches my attention more than anything else.
I learned today that Shanghai’s array of enormous skyscrapers is very new to the city, the oldest ones dating back no more than 25 years. The boom in Shanghai’s high rise construction that began in the 1990s has been growing at a staggering rate over the last two and a half decades; every year brings a plethora of new buildings into the city’s skyline, some of which are among the tallest in the world. In China, these massive structures are a symbol of a company’s success, and with Shanghai’s aim to be a leader in global business and finance it will be interesting to see how the architectural skyline continues to reflect its advancement into an even more prosperous future.
Shanghai is a literal dreamland for me. Its commercial and financial districts have all the feeling of a North American metropolis like New York City, but its surrounding markets and streets provide the roughened edge of Eastern culture that makes the city so interesting. One of the first impressions that I had of the Shanghai skyline was from the Bund area last night. The waterfront lookout over the financial district was nothing short of breathtaking—so much so that I had to see it again this morning as the sun rose.
I noticed that much of China’s commercial advertising employs western brand names and aesthetics, essentially selling the figurative American Dream. With a nation that is poised to overtake the rest of the world in economic growth and restore its position as the leader in many different industries, it probes me to wonder if these companies will continue to use the western lifestyle as a selling point to consumers, or if China will develop its own aesthetic that is uniquely its own and free of western influence. Would this style then grow to dominate the world as Europe and North America’s has in the past?
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