Shanghai, March 2002

Nanjing Road

If anyone wants to make a case study on the compatibility between capitalism and communism, go to Nanjing Road. And how would I describe Nanjing Road that measured more than 2 km long?

Picture yourself the 42nd Street of New York, or Oxford Street of London, or the busiest street in the city in which you live. (not Petaling Street of KL lah! For goodness sake. Much, much too tiny for comparison; Orchard Road in Singapore? Well, may be, but a bit too short) Block both ends of 42nd Street or Oxford Street and turn it into a pedestrian walk. Put rows and rows of well polished stone benches in the middle of the road for the tiring legs, plant some trees for green, exotic effect, place some ash trays, dustbins in between, run a free, silent electric train along the mall, pour half a million dressy people, three quarters of them smoking, in high heels, tailored suits, trendy outfits, (no more Mao tunics) put them into the shops and streets, and you have Nanjing Road.

If I were to say there were a thousand shops, from single storey to 10 or more storeys, I could be exaggerating, but not much. (I lost my place after counting to 400) All the shops were selling something. Sell, sell, and sell! The people were just buying. Buy, buy, and buy! Nobody waited for visitors to buy, or prosper, the Chinese themselves were indulging in the "sheer promise of pleasure" and were buying in vengeance. "Where got poor people in Shanghai lah!", as we Malaysians would say. At some extreme instances, customers stood 2 (persons) deep in front of a counter to choose or bargain for whatever they were buying, and it was not even an "on sale" occasion. And I am talking about one road only.

Bund and Canal

Finally, the place that impressed me most was not the tallest building (Chin Mao tower, overtaken in height by the Twin Towers of KL) or the largest theatre (in Asia) where a stunning acrobatic show was performed, not the supposedly fabulous cuisine (some superb, others lousy, or 'ginger blerrr', a term invented by Becky, my granddaughter, when she first tasted ginger), not even the Bund that was made famous by the song "Shanghai Tarn" (which means the shore or beach of shanghai, but it is neither a shore nor a beach); not the cruise up and down the Huangpu River to admire the colourful Bund lighted up at night, not the city that never slept ... but an area known as Ch'ng Wang Miou, where the Yu Garden was situated.

Revised 20 February 2005