You know you need a vacation when …

You don’t think twice about sliding past the so-called “protective” fencing:


Only to find yourself on the other side with a pair of these: Continue reading

Shanghai Snow

Truly, I never imagined that I’d have the chance to see it snow in Shanghai again. In five years here, this is the third time (that I’ve seen), and the first in more than three years. Alas, my photos didn’t do justice to the big clumps that fell during the mid-afternoon. But take my word for it: this was a beauty. Below, a photo of the flyover walkway in Xujiahui Park – one of the few places where I saw actual accumulation.


In Memoriam: The Shanghai Astronomical Observatory

Via Shanghaiist we learn that the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory is relocating to Anji, in Zhejiang Province due to light pollution. The only surprise in this news is that it didn’t happen sooner: even on clear nights, a person can count on two hands the number of stars bright enough to shine in Shanghai’s heavily illuminated skies.

But if it’s not worth mourning on a scientific basis, it is worth mourning on a historical basis: That telescope and observatory is one of Shanghai’s last links to the great Jesuit scientists responsible for many of the city’s most important institutions, including many of its universities (including, indirectly, Fudan), hospitals, museums (including the much-maligned Natural History Museum), and public laboratories. In contemporary Shanghai, these origins are mostly unknown and increasingly irrelevant; but sixty years ago they were not only relevant, but pertinent: the Jesuits were the key piece in the city’s scientific establishment.

Famously, Jesuit priests had served as astronomers and meteorologists at the Ming and Qing courts, and – at the end of the Ming – they even built an observatory in Nanjing. In 1841, soon after missionaries were allowed to return to China, a Jesuit Father named Gotteland was directed to build an observatory south of the Yangtze. For reasons that I can’t dig up, the building was not completed until 1873. In either case, that building stood on the banks of Zhaojiabang Creek (yes, the filled-in site of today’s Zhaojiabang Road) in Xujiahui, and was replaced with a better, bigger building in 1901. From the beginning, the Observatory had four departments: astronomy, meteorology, seismology, and magnetic science. The Astronomy department moved out to Sheshan (21 miles from Xujiahui) in 1890, and occupied the (now closed) Observatory on Sheshan Hill. Below, a photo of the first scientific telescope in China, commissioned, installed, and used at the Shanghai Observatory (I’m afraid that I don’t have precise dates for it, though).


Those Jesuits were serious, publishing internationally regarded journals (The Sheshan Astronomical Journal, most notably), making key longitudinal observations (Shanghai was one of the world’s three original “longitudinal bases”), and serving as a key station in what was then the world’s largest private meteorological network (there were some seventy Jesuit weather stations in Asia – with Shanghai being the hub). Continue reading

In Honor of Oscar Season … The Dumbest Use of Nationalism by a State-Owned Newspaper

[Title updated at the request of two messages in my inbox.]

Say you’re a new Chinese stock market investor. You’ve done well with your job over the last couple of years. You’ve scrimped and saved. With the help of your parents, you made the down payment on that new condo in Minhang District, and – with some careful planning – you’ve actually managed to accrue a small nest egg worthy of investing in the Shanghai stock markets. It’s been mostly good. Until this week, at least, it’s been the best financial decision of your life. Sure, those occasional breath-taking drops in the Shanghai composite index give you indigestion, but – let’s face it – who can argue with the otherwise steady march of progress and ever-increasing stock prices?

But then, much to your horror (not to mention, that of your parents) the Shanghai composite drops 5% on Monday, and another 7% on Tuesday. On Wednesday you go to work, sinking feeling in your stomach (“now how am I going to cover the interest indexed payments on my mortgage???”) in search of solace. Any solace. And so, while waiting among the crowds at the increasingly crowded Xinzhuang station (each feeling the same indexed mortgage indigestion), you happen to glance at the morning edition of Shanghai Daily. Sure, it’s been awhile since you’ve exercised your high school English, but you’re desperate enough for financial solace that you actually bother to try and decipher the pull quote below the headline, this year’s nominee for “Dumbest Use of Nationalism by a State-Owned Newspaper”:


In case that’s not clear, the quote from Peng Yunliang, an “analyst at Shanghai Securities,” is enlarged here:


Feel better?

The ‘Hat’ of Neo-Colonialism!

I’ve been tied up with overlapping deadlines for the last several days, and so I’ve only just gotten around to reading Caitlin Fitzsimmons’ widely touted South China Morning Post feature on Chinese emigrants to Senegal, published Thursday [subscriber only]. It’s a great piece, in that it not only covers the tensions between the Senegalese locals and the roughly 1000 Chinese in Dakar, but also the considerable and occasionally violent tensions that flare between the Chinese themselves. Still, to my eye, the most interesting news in the Fitzsimmons article comes down to a single sentence:

Many shopkeepers in Centenaire came from Hunan province and say they received funding from the Chinese authorities to move to Senegal.


In September I blogged about a speech given by Li Ruogu, head of China’s Import-Export Bank, in which he suggested that China’s landless farmers should relocate to Africa and become landlords (with a special emphasis on the “12 million” who will need to be relocated in the next decade). No details were offered on how this mass relocation is going to proceed, nor the incentives that are being offered to achieve it. In fact, Li’s speech was so overarching in its ambitions that I hesitated to blog about it (though I did). Thus, I was both grateful and floored by the Fitzsimmons article and its single spectacular sentence on paid Hunanese emigrants – grateful that someone had broken this nut, and floored that the person who broke it wrote only a single sentence on the subject. That’s right: Fitzsimmons had nothing more – not a single sentence or even a trifling clause – to say about this. Continue reading

Barn, Near Changzhou

[Bicentennial-themed update, after the jump.]

A couple of weeks ago I was riding shotgun in a delivery truck driving from Wuxi to Changzhou when I saw this “barn” at the edge of a field.


My camera wasn’t ready then, but later – heading back to Wuxi – I had it in my lap. Problem was, I couldn’t remember exactly where I saw the flag-draped structure, and the driver who was kind enough to let me ride with him was neither keen to help or – once I finally saw it again – stop to allow for a proper photo. So, alas, this image was taken at a relatively high (truck) speed. The road between Changzhou and Wuxi is highly traveled and, for now at least (Wuxi is sprawling fast), there are many small plastic-covered farm structures along the way. So far as I could tell, this was the only one with Old Glory displayed on its side.

I’d completely forgotten about this image until this morning, while reviewing the photos from that work-related trip. Continue reading

Yes, we have no scrap.

The name of this blog is Shanghai Scrap, and if you didn’t bother to read or visit Shanghai Scrap you might be excused for thinking that – instead of hosting a blog – actually hosts a Shanghai-based scrap trading company. Of course, you’d only make that error if you didn’t bother to look at the actual content available here.

So it was a bit of a surprise when – quite suddenly, over the last month – scrap traders from around the world began bombarding Shanghai Scrap (via the handy contact form) with offers to buy and sell scrap. For example, this afternoon I received:

Dear Sir: Our Company wants to import T-shirt Scrap from China to india. Please let us know the Email and contact nos of the company. Manoj ****

Just to be clear: yesterday, at the very time that Manoj sent his T-shirt inquiry, the most current post on Shanghai Scrap was concerned with the rising cost of potato chips. Could Manoj have failed to notice the photo of the bag of Lay’s? Did it suggest “Dirty T-shirts for sale?” in a way that I did not intend?

Or take this Pakistani example, also from today: Continue reading