| Resulting from Western
influences and unparalleled economic growth, pre-war Shanghai was
the nursery of several modern developments in Chinese culture. Lu
Xun led the growth of modern Chinese literature
while he was here and literature by Shanghainese writers followed
his example. The graphic arts and prints of the period are rightly
revered as significant cultural manifestos for modern artistic styles
and fashions. Shanghai cinema likewise was a powerful
catalyst for China’s cultural evolution.
All of this came to an end with the war and the Communist
government has since kept tight reins on cultural and other activities.
Cultural exploration that has occurred since has been more or less
Well backed ensembles, such as the Shanghai Broadcasting
Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Ballet Company,
the Shanghai Municipal Performance Company, the
Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and the Shanghai
Philharmonic Orchestra, keep Shanghai at the centre of
official culture. Common prejudice has it that Beijing is home to
the intellectuals and artists, and Shanghai has the wealth creators
– but such easy categories fly in the face of Shanghai’s
contemporary cultural importance. Shanghai is also
smart and sophisticated and that
implicates a cultural gloss.
There is no central ticketing agency located in Shanghai, however,
because there are so many events at the Shanghai Grand Theatre
(see below), this venue serves, in some respects, as a de facto
agency for important cultural events. Information on cultural and
artistic events can be found in That’s
Shanghai and City
Walker listings magazines.
The Shanghai Concert Hall, 523 Yan’an Dong
Lu (tel: (21) 6386 9153), is the main vehicle for classical concerts.
The Shanghai Municipal Performance Company is associated
with both it and the Majestic Theatre, 1700 Beijing Xi Lu (tel:
(21) 6217 4409). The Shanghai Grand Theatre, 1376
Nanjing Xi Lu (tel: (21) 6372 8701), is a popular venue for music
concerts, and theatrical performances. The Shanghai
Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra performs here. The Jing
An Hotel, 370 Huashan Lu (tel: (21) 6437 1888), has a fine
series of chamber music concerts performed by various local and
Opera is naturally
a Shanghainese favourite, especially the Chinese
variety. The Shanghai Grand Theatre and the Majestic
Theatre hosts frequent traditional and modern Chinese
operas but the purist’s venue is Yifu Theatre, 701
Fuzhou Lu (tel: (21) 6351 4668).
Despite official censorship and propaganda productions, theatre
aficionados are splendidly served in Shanghai, with many high-class
venues. Shanghai Grand Theatre (see above) stages
official prestige productions by visiting ensembles, including Chinese
opera. The Dramatic Arts Centre Theatre, 201 Anfu
Lu (tel: (21) 6473 4567), is more purely dramatic, eschewing operatic
and musical productions. The Experimental Theatre of the
Shanghai Theatre Academy, 670 Huashan Lu (tel: (21) 6248
2920 ext. 3040), offers more experimental student productions.
The Shanghai Grand Theatre (see above) hosts both
the National Ballet of China and the Shanghai
Ballet Company, as well as visiting ensembles. To see traditional
acrobatic dance, the Shanghai
Acrobatics Troupe offers regular performances at the Shanghai
Centre Theatre, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu (tel: (21) 6279 8663;
fax: (21) 6279 8610).
Raise the Red Lantern (1991) and its like may have
proved to the outside world that China has a dynamic film culture
but the government enforces a maximum of ten foreign films per year
– soon to rise to 20, following China’s acceptance to
the WTO in 2001. For locals, the staggering number of pirated VCDs
and DVDs in circulation make a mockery of the film limits, however
cinema-going in China is inevitably poorer for them.
Classic Hollywood films like Josef von Sternberg’s The
Shanghai Gesture (1941) or Orson Welles’ The
Lady From Shanghai (1948) may have played extensively to
the Western notion of Shanghai as the ultimate Oriental flesh pot
of vice. Nevertheless native film culture of the time was much more
sophisticated and diverse, with the current global hits debuting
almost the same time they hit American screens. Post-war, Shanghainese
film has been as dull and sparse as general cultural events in the
PRC. Shanghai Triad (1995) by Zhang Yimou, the
wunderkind of modern Chinese cinema, only slightly touches on the
glamour of 1930s Shanghai at its infancy, despite its title.
Movie houses are the Studio City at the Westgate
Mall, 1038 Nanjing Xi Lu (tel: (21) 6218 2173) and Golden
Cinema Haixing, in the Haixing Plaza in Ruijin Nan Lu (tel:
(21) 6418 7034). The Shanghai Film Art Centre,
106 Xin Hua Lu (tel: (21) 6280 4088), is Sanghai's closest approximation
to an arts cinema. The Shanghai
International Film Festival is the city’s prestige film
The Chinese New Year, which occurs either in late
January or early February, is the most important
annual festival. The preperation anticipation is
as frantic as Christmas is in the West, with parties,
gift exchanging, and houses and streets decorated with lights. Most
Chinese celebrate the beginning of the New Year
with their families. The Mid-Autumn Festival, in
September or early October, is celebrated by displaying lanterns
of different shapes, such as animals, and by eating traditional
moon cakes made of ground lotus, sesame and egg.
creator of modern Chinese literature, Lu
Xun (1881-1936), is omnipresent in Shanghai. The house
at Shangying Lu, where he spent the last 4 years of his life, is
a museum to the writer, while Hongkou Park contains his tomb. However,
his writings offer little in the way of a key to the city itself.
a fictional story of Shanghai in its worst crisis, there is Shanghai
’37 (1939) by Vicky Baum, which
covers the run-up to the horrific bombing of the city by the Chinese
Nationalist air force in 1937.
G Ballard provided a surrealist sensibility to the depiction
of wartime Shanghai, which had been shaped by his own childhood
there. His Empire of the Sun (1987) is one of only
a few works to do it justice.
Fate (1933), by André Malraux,
is the French novelist and politician’s story of Communist
revolutionaries in Shanghai during the 1920s, based on his own experiences.
Baby (2001) by Wei Hui is a much more
current guide to modern Shanghainese mores and sensibilities.