Shanghai’s Pudong And Philadelphia

shanghaiThis view of the Pudong business district in Shanghai often illustrates advertisements and articles about international corporations expanding into China. It all looks new, modern, and spiffy.  The TV tower with the ball on the left is distinctive, and is huge when seen from its base.

The body of water in the foreground is the Huangpu River that snakes it’s way through the center of the city, much like the Schuylkill does in Philadelphia. The photo was taken with a wide-angle lens to take in all of the buildings, so the Huangpu is not as wide as it looks here.

Shanghai’s traditional center is west of the Huangpu, behind us in the photo.  In the 19th century, this traditional center gradually expanded east, toward the Huangpu, eventually ending at its banks, and, on this shore, 20th century Europeans, mostly British, built their financial buildings. That district is called the Bund. As the British left, the business district continued to expand further eastward, spilling onto the far side of the Huangpu, and this district, called the Pudong, has boomed in modern times with many international headquarters doing business with China. This  view of the Pudong from the Bund is the view shown in the photo. The buildings are spectacularly lit at night—until midnight when someone throws a switch, and the whole area goes dark, except for the dimly-lit small businesses.

So, looking across the Huangpu from the Bund, you would see the view in the photo, but turn around and you would see a main street, Zhongshan Road, with the old British buildings lining the far side.  Those buildings, too, are spectacularly lit at night (at least until midnight).

(“Huangpu” was once spelled “Wang-poo,” if you are a fan of old Charlie Chan novels. They are pronounced much the same to our ears. “A” is pronounced as in father.)

The Chinese built a promenade along the historic, western side of the Huangpu that is a popular gathering place for tourists and local Chinese alike. It has spectacular views of the Pudong on one side, and the old, but well-preserved Bund on the other. The obvious contrast of the old and new is not accidental.  The Bund is also lit at night and is part of the evening light show.  The promenade is popular both day and night. It is a photo site for many local wedding parties and family groups.

Keep in mind, this is all Shanghai.  Shanghai is huge! The Pudong and the Bund are only districts within Shanghai.

My own photo of the locals on the promenade.

Philadelphia is an appropriate analogy, in reverse.  The growth here is westward rather than eastward. City Hall and the historic downtown area stops at the banks of the  Schuylkill River (not the Delaware River), but the far bank is slowly growing with the new Cira Centre and the existing 30th Street Station. The analogy will become more obvious as the University of Penn moves forward with its development plans. We already have the Schuylkill Banks park on the east bank as a viewpoint. Commercial expansion moves slower in a democracy but is more stable. The view from the Schuylkill Banks is still far inferior to that from the Bund, but that could someday change.

If you think all of this east-west stuff is confusing, it is for me, too.  I had to draw a diagram to get it correct. But take heart—the average Chinese knows even less about Philadelphia and the Schuylkill.

Delaware, Philadelphia, New York City, Washington, D.C, told them nothing about the area I was from.  Only when I said, “East coast,” did they comprehend.

“Ah, yes. East coast!” they replied.

About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
This entry was posted in China, History, Philadelphia and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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