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◊ Living in Shanghai


• Shanghai

Shanghai, situated at 31'14" north latitude and 121'29" east longitude, is the largest city of China, on the middle of China's east coastline and a gate to Yangtze River valley, with a very favorable geographical location.

Total area is 6,341 sq. km, consisting of 18 districts and 1 counties, the city area is 2,642 sq. km. Permanent resident population over 17.8 million.

Shanghai is the main city in the watery regions in the south of Yangtze River, is fertile in soil, crisscrossed by rivers and canals. It's the hub of waters, lands and air transportation. Shanghai Port is one of the leading ports in the world. 

It's also an important hub for correcting and distributing goods in Yangtse River Delta. Shanghai's financial business has a history of more 200 years. In the 1930s and 1940s, Shanghai was already China's largest financial center and an international financial center in the Far-East.  

Shanghai is the largest industrial base, largest commercial and financial centers, one of the centers of science, technology and culture in this country.

Shanghai, is the center.

For more information, please visit the official site of Shanghai Municipality www.shanghai.gov.cn

◦ Shanghai history

5,000 years ago during the period of Songze Culture, Shanghai took the shape of a plain in Yangtse River Delta, ancestors had left their footprints here. 

During the Spring-Autumn Period (770 BC), Shanghai belonged to Wu State. While Warring States (475 BC), Shanghai first belonged to Yue State, then to the Chu State. King Lie of Chu State appointed Huang Xie as his prime minister and bestowed him the title of Lord Chunshen. Shanghai was part of his feoff. The old name of Shanghai "Shen" was derived from this. 

Shanghai has another name "Hu", which came from "Hu Du". Ancient fishermen in Shanghai invented a bamboo fishing device called "Hu". ("Du" in Chinese means "creek"). This area was called "Hu Du" before it became know as Shanghai. 

The name "Shanghai" actually came during Song Dynasty (960-1276), when Shanghai was then becoming a new rising trade port. The mother river Huangpu River (across Shanghai into Yangtse River) has 18 creeks, one was called "Shanghai Creek" - near the Bund, thus the town nearby was Shanghai Town. Later this whole area is named "Shanghai".

During the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), Shanghai Town had greatly developed and set up a shipping administration. Later on, the town was promoted to a county, which consisted of today's urban areas, and other 4 counties of Shanghai, Qingpi, Nanhui, and Chuansha. 

By the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Shanghai became to be China's largest textile center and business was developing fast. Then the 24th year of Qing Emperor Kangxi's reign (1685), the Qing Government set up customs  in Shanghai. During the reigns of Qing Emperor Qianlong and Jiaqing, Shanghai gradually became China's major trading port and water transportation center for gains. It was known as " A place accessible by sea and river, a capital in the southeast".

In 1843, after the Opium War, Shanghai was forced to become an open port by the colonialists. In 1845, Britain first set up its concession in Shanghai. In 1848, the United State set up its concession, then followed by France in 1849. In 1863, the British and American concessions amalgamated into the International Settlement. Shanghai was actually partitioned into Chinese Section, the International Settlement and the French Concession. In the 100 years since 1843, Shanghai had become an important port for the foreign colonialists to dump their goods, raw materials and money. Shanghai was thus known as "A paradise of the Adventurers".

On July 7, 1927, Shanghai was proclaimed as a special municipality. In 1945, after the victory of the Anti-Japanese War, the concessions were reclaimed. On May 27, 1949, Shanghai was really liberated.

Through the continual and long-term reform and construction by the successive municipal governments and the people, Shanghai has become an important industrial and commercial base in new China. Today, Shanghai has been developing to be the center of economy, finance, science and technology, information and culture, an international modernized metropolis in China, even in Asia next.

Today, Shanghai's developing step is getting faster, it changes everyday.

◦ Chinese Customs

Chinese customs change a lot, like other places in the world. But to know some brief customs exampled as below, may be interesting,  may be helpful somehow especially when you meet new friends at first time.

- Chinese Etiquette

The rules of conduct within the Chinese culture remain an important aspect of daily life. The set rules and formalities for every occasion are probably the most confusing to Westerners. By ensuring that no one "lose face" in any given situation, the methods of interaction at meals, meetings and during business discussions, are preset, allowing for few surprises. Similarly when receiving guests they should be accorded deferential preference according to their status in the hierarchy. Departing guests should be accompanied to the door of the office.

- Dinning Out Chinese Style

When invited to a Chinese dinner it is not necessary to take a gift unless the dinner is for a special reason, for example a birthday, in which a gift would be taken. It is polite for the host to order the food. Guests generally make few requests. Meat, fish and vegetable courses are usually served. Soup and rice will be in the end of the meal.

Guests wait for the host to begin and if signaled to do so will help themselves. The piece of food closest is chosen. It is not polite to reach across the table or stand up to reach other dishes even if the table is very large. When your chopsticks touch a piece of food that piece should be taken.

A serving spoon may be provided, if not chopsticks are used to place food into the bowl before eating. Often a sauce will accompany a dish. Use chopsticks to dip the food into the sauce. If food has been sampled do not dip again. Take one piece of food at a time and allow guests an equal share. It takes time to be skilled with chopsticks to eat meat on bones. Bones may be removed from the mouth with the help of chopsticks and placed on the plate or nearly on the table.

Do not take the last piece of food from the serving dish. It is a signal to the host that not enough food has been ordered and the guests are still hungry. Even when the host insists, it may not be taken.

It is considered bad luck to turn whole fish (head and tail in tact) over, when serving.

Sometimes a chicken dish or fish dish will arrive with the head on the serving plate. The head may point to the guest of honor.

Chinese people do not usually use their hands for eating. There are a few exceptions to this rule including shrimps that need peeling. Shrimp skin are placed on the plate. Waiters will change the shrimp course plates often and a communal finger bowl will be placed on the table. Sometimes wet napkins will be passed around for cleaning hands.

Chinese guests may leave the table promptly after eating a meal, usually at 8:30. Follow the host lead. A dish of fruit may be served for dessert, as this is a sign that the meal is over.

Allow the person who invited you to dinner to pay for the meal.

- Name Cards

Name cards are essential to establish individual identities and credential. They should include the company name and position or title.

Both hands are used to present and accept cards, these should be printed in English and Chinese. The cards should be placed on the meeting table in front of you. When a name card is presented to you in a social setting, you should take a few moments to study the card as a sign of respect.

- Other Tips

Punctuality is expected and important. Tea or coffee is offered to visitors and it is polite to accept even if unwanted. Visitors are escorted to reception areas or elevators by their host.

Business entertaining is almost always in restaurants and hospitality should be returned.

◦ Traditional Festivals

Chinese has many traditional festivals, and all listed by Lunar Calendar, below are some important ones.

- Spring Festival

Chinese Lunar Calendar New Year, or Spring Festival has the longest chronological record in history. Like the Western calendar, The Chinese Lunar Calendar is a yearly one, with the start of the lunar year being based on the cycles of the moon. Because of this cyclical dating, the beginning of the year can fall anywhere between late January and the middle of February. A complete cycle takes 60 years and is made up of five cycles of 12 years each.

The Chinese Lunar Calendar names each of the twelve years after an animal. Legend has it that the Lord Buddha summoned all the animals to come to him before he departed from earth. Only twelve came to bid him farewell and as a reward he named a year after each one in the order they arrived. The Chinese believe the animal ruling the year in which a person is born has a profound influence on personality.

Like Christmas to Westerns, Spring Festival is the most important festival to Chinese. The festival activities may last out for a month. After Yuanxiao Festival, the Spring Festival is ended really. Red color is the color of the Festival, everywhere.

EVE Dinner

On Chinese New Year, Eve Dinner is specially sumptuous. It's the time to see off the old year and wish for a prosperous new year. At such dinner people give good omens to some of the dishes, such as "facai" is homophonic with "getting rich". After dinner, people will stay up for the night, waiting for the coming of the new year. This is called "Shou Sui", but young people mghit not know it now. 

- Yuanxiao Festival

On the 15th of the first lunar month, people hang up colorful lanterns, lanterns can be like ingot, bat, lotus blossom, jade toad, a basin for collecting treasure and a boat of plain sailing. In this city, the Yuyuan garden will be a very crowded place this night. 

- Duanwu Festival

Duanwu Festival or the Dragon Boat Festival is a long history folk festival. It falls on the 5th of the 5th lunar month. People eat "zongzi", glutinous dumplings wrapped in reed or bamboo leaves, drink realgar wine, wear little bags with sweet-grass, and smoke the rooms with moxa leaves. Dragon boat race is held to commemorate the patriotic poet Qu Yuan, of the Chu State while the Warring State Period.

- Moon Festival

Moon festival falls on the 15th of the 8th lunar month, so it's called Mid-Autumn festival. It's also called the Reunion Festival, people eat moon cakes and drink sweet Osmanthus wine. When the moon rises, people set up altars in open air and place moon cakes, fruit, soya beans, taros and lotus roots to offer to the moon, whole family together. 

◦ Surrounding Landscape

Shanghai is surrounded by two provinces, Zhejiang and Jiangsu - the total area is called "Jiang Nan", means south of Yangtze River, it's the most peaceful, beautiful, and rich area in long history of China. Water region is the main character of this area, you will find many beautiful cities or small towns around Shanghai. "There is paradise above, here is Su Hang on the earth" (refer to Suzhou and Hangzhou), ever heard of that?

  • Suzhou

Suzhou is in Jiangsu province by Yangtze River and Taihu Lake, about 100km west from Shanghai. It's a beautiful small city with a history about 3,000 years.

Suzhou is a a famous historical and cultural city in south China. Suzhou gardens are well known for their elegance and simplicity, delicacy and exquisiteness.  "Gardens in Jiang Nan are the tops in the world, but Suzhou gardens are the tops of Jiang Nan". During the Ming and Qing Dynasty there were 200 private gardens in Suzhou. 

A typical waterside city, "little bridge, flowing steams and families".

  • Hangzhou

Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang Province. I t has a total area of 6,596 sq.km. (683 sq.km in the urban area) and a population of 6 million (1.64 m in the city). Hangzhou is one of Chian's ancient capitals. It was capital of Wu Yue State, late Song Dynasty moved here and made it as capital, while its one of the leading commercial ports in the country. Historical great litterateurs, Baijuyi of the Tang Dynasty and Sudongbo of Song Dynasty, had been senior officials in Hangzhou and contributed much effort in dredging the West Lake. 13th century, famous Italian tourist Marco Polo visited Hangzhou several times and praised it as "a heaven city".

The West Lake is the pearl of this city, and famous over the world. The Grand Canal ends its south in this city.

- Small ancient towns

There are some nice ancient towns around Shanghai, they are all called towns in waters, peaceful and charming. 

Zhujiajiao is the nearest one, actually it's in the suburb area of Shanghai, with a history of more than 1700 years. It has another elegant name - "Pearl Stream".

Zhouzhuang is in Jiangsu Province about 70 km from Shanghai, older than 900 years. It was the fief of King Wu's younger son Yao and also named Yao City. When Song Dynasty (1086), the residence of Zhou Digong was made a temple, this place was then named Zhouzhuang (means Zhou's village). Zhouzhuang was an important town for collecting and distributing grain, silk, porcelain and handicraft in south of Yangtze River in the history - It's called "No1 Water Region in China". 

This thousand-year-old town, Tongli sits by the grand Canal, also about 70 km from Shanghai. It's has 49 stone bridges, 29 of them are built from Song Dynasty to Qing Dynasty. Tongli abounds with cultural atmosphere and gathering of literary men. Thus many mansions and private gardens mainly built during the Ming and Qing Dynasty. Tongli Town is also known as "a gallery of ancient architecture". 

Xitang probably is the best one of these ancient towns, it's in Zhejiang province about 100 km to Shanghai - yes this is the most original one, local residents are still living in a peaceful life, it's a town with a real deep culture inside - of course always beautiful bridges and water.



Shanghai life

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Human being, inhabiting on the earth ... poetically ...

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