Just a few weeks ago, I was in another world different from gentle, little Taiwan. I was in east China visiting relatives. Of course I was enjoying myself but it was also good to experience and observe regular life in this fascinating, misunderstood and sometimes messy place that is just a couple of hours away from Taipei by plane. After coming back, it’s been a little disappointing settling back into my normal routine. Coincidentally, work has been a little rough as I’ve felt some particularly bad vibes lately. One thing that hasn’t surprised me is how surprised some acquaintances were on hearing that my trip was good. This being the center of anti-China feelings, so much that it’s almost like a religion, there’s a lot of bad thoughts about the mainland. China is bad, China is crude, China’s people are evil, rude, and devious. So narrowminded it’s almost disturbing. People need to expand their minds more, not just think about food, fun, and cute things. Of course it wasn’t all fun and games in China, especially if one really lives there, but it’s not a jungle. These negative thoughts cloud the minds of many here, making them unable to be truly informed and engaged in reality.
China is a massive country with a massive population and sometimes, this isn’t really conveyed except through numbers and statistics. Partially the fault of the government whose authoritarian rule hinders truly expressive art and literature and pop culture, making the country seem like a drab monolithic entity, the diversity of China and the resilience of its people are what will propel it forward. The two major cities I went to, Shanghai and Nanjing, are just 2 hours apart by high-speed train, yet each possess their own characteristics, strengths, and charms. Ultra modern, massive, sprawling and cool Shanghai is world famous while historic, pleasant Nanjing, the old capital, remains dignified while itself becoming more prosperous and modern.
This isn’t Suzhou nor one of the smaller water towns outside of Shanghai. This is Shanghai. Qibao is one of the oldest parts of Shanghai, dating back over 1000 years to the Northern Song Dynasty. Shanghai may not have as much history as many other Chinese cities (nor does it care too much), but places like this show it does have some.