Friday, July 11

Peace in Shanghai

Shanghai is a city with a long history.  It is believed to have been inhabited for over 5000 years, and in 2014 is a modern European looking city with the major brands now ensconced in the city which as well as having a population greater than the whole population of Australia, is a place where tourists come from all over the world.

Just walking through Nanjing Road you can see people who are clearly not Chinese, and hear a variety of languages spoken!  It is a great mecca for tourists as there is so much to see in and around the city and it is a great starting off point for many of the other cities of China.

There has been much violence and fighting in Shanghai.  For example (from Wikipedia).

"The Japanese Navy bombed Shanghai on January 28, 1932, nominally to crush Chinese student protests agains Japanese occupation of Manchuria.  The Chinese fought back in what was known as the January 28 Incident.  The two sides fought to a standstill and a ceasefire was brokered in May. 

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, the city fell after the 1937 Battle of Shanghai (known in China as the Battle of Songhu) and remained occupied until surrender of Japan in 1945.  Under Japanese rule, the foreign concesions remained intact until December 1941.  Tensions within the city led to a wave of assassinations against Chinese officials who worked with Japanese authorities: during January and February 1939, 16 pro-Japanese officials and businessmen were assassinated by Chinese resistance organizations.

During World War II, its extraterritoriality made Shanghai a haven for visa-less European refugees.  It was, along with Franco's Spain, the only location in the world unconditionally open to Jews at the time.  However, under pressure from their ally Germany, the Japanese removed the Jews in late 1941 to what became known as the Shanghai ghetto, where hunger and infectious diseases such as dysentery became rife.  The foreign population rose from 35,000 in 1936 to 150,000 in 1942, mainly due to the Jews.  The Japanese were still harsher on belligerent nationals: the British, Americans and Dutch.  These slowly lost their privileges and had to wear letters - B, A or N - when walking in public places.  Their villas were turned into brothels and gambling houses.  They were finally force-marched into concentration camps in 1943."

Of course the history of Shanghai is far more complex than can be written in an article for Wikipedia, but you can get some idea of the trauma that the people of the city endured.

In 1949 Shanghai came under communist rule and many of the international businesses that had been there, moved to Hong Kong.

I have not attempted to write the history of Shanghai here, but give some inkling into the trauma that has faced the city and people.

It is not surprising that they want PEACE!

In the Peoples" Square - at the top of the famous mall, Nanjing Road, that there is a place with great reminders of the fight for peace.  It is in the form of the white doves that inhabit the park.  They are well fed and much enjoyed by visitors to the park.

But it is not the doves nor the history of Shanghai that I wanted to write about. It is about the Peace Hotels.  Yes, there are two of them. They are on the corner of Nanjing Road and the Bund, overlooking the Huangpu River.  They have an amazing history in their own right - especially their involvement in the Opium Wars. 


When I was in Shanghai in 2008, both hotels were boarded up, waiting for renovations.  I am sure there was a security guard or two around, but it looked deserted, derelict and abandoned, but from the outside the building looked most interesting.

I did hear at the time that it was to be renovated in time for the 2010 Expo. As I understand it, not all of the hotel/s were ready in time for Expo, though one part of it was used for accommodation for artists in what was then called the Swatch Peace Hotel.  (Guess who the sponsor was?)






When I visited Shanghai in June 2014, I went into the newly renovated hotel and took some photos.  How I would love to stay there - even for one day.  It is such a historic hotel and the interior has been restored and well worth seeing!


The flowers in one of the foyers

In the foyer





Looking skywards



Photos of famous guests - yes, Steven Spielberg
Next time, I will try and spend more time there - perhaps even one night, if the budget can cope.

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