Cultural fusion of the Eastern and Western Worlds
The above photo – taken in the fleeting instant when the setting sun in Shanghai reflects onto a Longines advertisement – encapsulates the changing shape of Shanghai in modern years and the curious amalgamation of western commercialism and traditional Chinese culture by which it is characterised, leading us to question just how sustainable one of China’s most booming cities is given its changeable nature. From transport, business, cuisine, architecture to art, education and fashion- the ultimate conflict of western modernity and chinese traditionalism is rampant in innumerable aspects of Shanghainese daily life.
How far do you believe Chinese traditionalism will be eroded by western super-culture? Is the modernity of western commercialism evident in the streets of Shanghai simply a natural positive mark of financial progression from a low economically developed entity towards becoming a more economically developed entity?
Shanghai Baby, which is banned in China for its overt sexualism, is an engaging and award winning novel if you are intrigued by literature on the above-mentioned themes. This photo journal looks at China’s cultural development since antiquity and the following video on the tensions between Shanghai’s modern and traditional identities through art is also an interesting way to learn more. This more in-depth blog that explores the wider repercussions of the inevitable east/west conversion also offers a unique insight into the changing shape of Chinese culture.
China’s Footprint in the Sky
‘Women hold up half the sky’ Mao famously proclaimed in an attempt to promote equality of the sexes, conjuring a vivid image that simultaneously accentuates the significance of the sky in the Chairman’s mind. As women’s rights in China increase day by day; it is time now to turn towards the neglected sky itself. As the Chinese market opens up to international trade, China is set to become the biggest global superpower and it is no surprise that its skies are becoming worryingly overcrowded with passenger flights soon to overtake even the U.S. in numbers. We all share the same sky and with more than 10,000 flights a year leaving to China from airports around the U.K. and given Heathrow expansion plans to accommodate the growing demand for Chinese air traffic, the blood -or rather pollution- is on everyone’s hands.
The Great Wall
Thanks to its illustrious reputation as an impressive 2000 year old architectural structure, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World and the only man-made object visible from the moon, the Great Wall of China continues to attract wide-eyed intrigue from the modern multitude who flock there in their thousands each year with holiday money, cameras and backpacks in tow.
Despite its lack of effectiveness in preventing the Mongolian invasion, no one could deny the fact that it powerfully symbolises the mighty ambition and ruthless domination of Emperor Qin Shi Huang and that its creation was a wildly impressive feat for which many millions of workers sacrificed their lives. However, it is important to dispel certain widespread myths:
1) Although -along with several other man-made creations such as motorways and dams- visible from outer space using photographic technology, it is true that (as NASA confirms) the Great Wall of China cannot be viewed from the moon with the naked eye.
2) Several documentations of the Seven Wonders of the World exist, some dating as recently as the 19th century, where the Great Wall of China is listed as part of the Seven Wonders of the World. In truth though, it does not belong to one of the original classical Wonders of the World dating back to antiquity.
3) The Great Wall is a classical masterpiece, but it is with some dismay that many unprepared travellers discover upon purchasing their tickets to the official entrance that the remains nearby have been so heavily repaired in recent years to ensure the health and safety of the hoards of visitors burdening its rather more frail ancient skeleton, that the most frequented parts of the wall seem in fact no more ancient than the very houses in which we live.
Despite this enlightenment of many Chinese and non-Chinese tourists, the Great Wall nonetheless does not seem to greatly disappoint or deter as tourist numbers grow year upon year and the primary objective of many still remains of course, to have undergone the experience of a famed visit to one of the world’s most well-known structures; for many, Mao Zedong’s immortal words still ring true ‘不到長城非好漢’ (‘If we fail to reach the Great Wall, we are not men’). The more adventurous of explorers seal his words under their skin and determinedly undertake intrepid expeditions and sponsored marathons along the wall in the hope of unearthing more tales behind this mythical construction steeped in history and shrouded in enigma.
China has over a billion mouths to feed; given it’s geographically isolating conditions with its surrounding deserts and vast undulating mountains barring the routes, historically it has had to learn to fend for itself and not rely heavily on imports for nourishment. Today, China remains largely dependant on itself for agricultural produce, which in large part has enabled the country to economically flourish so dramatically post-1978.
Have a browse of the following blogs if you want to find out about all things oriental! Overpopulation, The cultural Frontier, China: Photography Blog, Life After China, Biddle Writes, The Great Call of China, Lost in China, China Finance and The Best Architecture Photos of the Year.
- The Love Story That Ended in the Great Wall of China. (flightinsmoke.wordpress.com)
- Communication with English! (eslnewyork.wordpress.com)
- Beijing to Great Wall (Badaling) by Train (alwaystravelicious.com)
- Inventions (ellaearlychina.wordpress.com)