lundi, février 06, 2012

Walking Around Shanghai (Fuxing Park, People's Square...)

Dance demo at Fuxing Park...with Marx looking on

Shanghai is much more a city for business (and eventually international cuisines) than culture or tourism. Almost everybody who came to visit would leave impressed but unconvinced. After you've gone round the parks, gardens, temples, old houses, small shops, skyscrapers and few lousy museums, there isn't usually much else to do except the usual eating or shopping (and even then).

But better be in Shanghai then anywhere else in China or life would not be as convenient, clean or comfortable.

When JW was here I tried to bring her round to see the usual tourist spots, as well as catch the locals in their habitat. One such place was People's Square - on a Sunday.

We know that for a few decades now China has enforced a one-child policy across the country. Shanghai as an important city therefore has many families with only one child. This usually translates to parents (and grandparents) doting on their precious one progeny, wanting the best for him/her.

I was told by many people here that boys generally have a tough time in Shanghai. Most are expected to own a flat/house before they could find a wife, and when they do, many of the girls would expect to have their names on the deed. Then the guy is also expected to turn over his salary to his wife and do at least his share of the housework. I just found out that girls who marry not expecting the above of their spouses are considered to have contracted a 半裸婚 (half-naked marriage)! What does that tell you about general expectations here?

To cut a long story short, a number of the city's marriageable population finds itself still single. So their parents may take things into their hands and gather at People's Square on Sundays to help look for a spouse for their children.

I need a DIL to cook for me...

We were swamped when we arrived at the marriage mart. Since JW was obviously white, they wondered if she was offering a white boy or girl to their marriage mart (think foreign passport); I was asked if I was married (they must have thought I was an old spinster) and if I had a flat (some old guy's son had no flat so it would be difficult to find a local girl)!

Selling daughter selling son!

Everyone was holding a piece of paper with their progeny's CV on it : age, sex, height, weight, monthly income, property ownership (including description of the place), expectations of the opposite sex (whose, I wonder?)...Some even had photographs and usually the person in it would be quite good looking.

Found anyone you like here?

There was a corner where an entrepreneur offered matchmaking services and another corner where from the look of things the offerings were a little more um...mature. My driver's guess was that some of those ladies earned well and were good looking and therefore had high expectations, but they waited too long and were getting past their teeth...

Matchmaking corner

The square near the modern art museum used to be a race course but now it's all proper and legal. There are cafés and restaurants and of course lots of shopping malls all around. On a good day, this is the place to go to for a breather in between shopping sprees.

The lake at Fuxing park

We also visited Fuxing Park. It sounds very Chinese but used to be a French park open only to the French. Located in the former French Concession, Fuxing park is styled after your typical Parisian city park with tree-lined walks, flower beds and a lake in the middle.

Chess at Fuxing park

We were greeted by couples dancing everywhere when we arrived. It was like an open ballroom. There were also families flying kites in the field, a few kids kicking a soccer ball, people playing chess, a few others practising Tai Chi near the water...

I got him to carve stamps for my kids (so-so)

Airing your wet linen in Tianzifang

With JW we also walked around Yu Yuan Gardens, Tianzifang, Xintiandi, Dongtai Antiques Market, the Bund, a few temples...I must admit that if she had stayed another week I would have run out of ideas as to where else to bring her. This year I will make it a point to discover more of Shanghai so that I wouldn't bore myself visiting the same places again and again.

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