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Shanghai History and Culture


Plenty of years ago, a famous and professional cultural scholar full of diverse imaginations went to Shanghai from New York to search for the Oriental New York; however, he eventually departed disappointedly. The confusion of his is why China just has a Paris rather than New York, and the further explanation of his words is that China has Beijing, a combination of political center and cultural center, while Shanghai in China is just an economic center except a cultural metropolis.

Shanghai culture used to get glorified. In the early period of the 20th century, Shanghai was the most famous international cultural metropolis on the east side of Suez Canal. Tokyo and Hong Kong were both inferior to it. In the Republic of China, Beijing was just an academic center of China, the newspapering center, publishing center, filmmaking center, performance center and entertainment center of China were rooted in Shanghai. The culture and money shaped a half-century glory of Shanghai.

After new China founded, the cultural center of China was ordered instantly to move to Beijing from Shanghai, the famous presses like the Commercial Press, Zhonghua Shuju, Sanlian Shudian and Magazine of Observation were all moved to Beijing as well. In the meantime, a large group of cultural elites also moved to Beijing. Today, many famous cultural people of Beijing are all from Shanghai. Nevertheless, up to 1980s, the movie literature and news publishing in Shanghai still kept a status as high as that of Beijing. Many Chinese cultural experts prefer to depict the geographic distribution of Chinese cultural elites – a half gathers in Beijing, the half of the rest half in Shanghai, and the others, roughly 25%, respectively distribute in Guangzhou, Chengdu, Xian, Wuhan, Nanjing and Hangzhou, which are traditionally considered as the second-level cities in mainland China. However, over the past 20 years, as the booming development of economy, the culture of Shanghai was not further developed, on the contrary, in some way, it has a decline. Shanghai still is an international economic metropolis.

For culture, there is no improvement but flourish, because culture cannot be considered in the way of superiority and inferiority. Culture compared horizontally and vertically only has a change and update. The improvement or development of culture is only the stereotype of socialistic China. So the viewpoints of Chinese scholars to develop culture are absolutely ridiculous. The declined culture of Shanghai just shows the weakening of traditional culture, except the exotic culture represented by Western Culture. So today, Shanghai is also an international cultural metropolis, especially the display window of western culture in China. The globally famous superstars’ vocal concerts, the Broadway Opera, Ballet performance on the ice, F1 International Racing Game, Tennis Masters Cup and the classic painting exhibition of Palais de Versailles are all the calling card of Shanghai culture, and the traditional culture gets declined rapidly. The World Expo Shanghai thoroughly shows the multicultural port city of the world.

Shanghai since its foundation as a city is an internationalization city. Everything good, especially the western world’s fashion and modern culture, are all borrowed to enrich the culture of Shanghai. Living in Shanghai is equal to live in the world. The flourishing culture of Shanghai in some way can be interpreted as the culture flourishing in Shanghai. (More Details on Shanghai City Guide)

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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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