August 1937 – When All Hell Broke Loose

80 years ago this August the Battle of Shanghai began.

It wasn’t the first time war had come to Shanghai. It wasn’t even the first time that China and Japan exchanged blows in Shanghai. But it was the most devastating urban battle Shanghai – and the world for that matter – had ever seen. It was, as one historian remarked, as if Verdun had taken place in Paris just opposite a neutral Left Bank. It led directly into the Nanjing Massacre and kicked off a chain of events that culminated in World War II and ultimately the two nuclear bombs dropped on Japan. It was real bad news.

Why look back? Aside from the fact that the Chinese government is looking back (expect big time propaganda leading up to December 13, the 80th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre), I don’t know, knowledge I guess. Before I read Peter Harmsen’s book Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze, I had only the barest outlines of what went down. I was pretty shocked to realise that rivers of blood once flowed under our feet. It seems significant. Here’s what happened.

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Yongkang Lu Fights Back! Sort of!

Yesterday the news came – Bao Bingzhang, the mayor of Xuhui, declared that Yongkang Lu – the drinking destination favored by Shanghai’s most discerning laowai – was to be shut down. “Yongkang Lu Bars Must Be Eliminated” the headline roared across the Xinmin Wanbao. The news went around Wechat like wildfire. And then today came the follow-up: “Yongkang Lu Bars To Be Shut by the End of July”. Tears were shed. Drinks were ordered.

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The Golden Age of Kungfu Komedy … Is Coming to an End?

Some surprising news went around last week – Kungfu Komedy veteran Turner Sparks was doing his last stand-up show in Shanghai. And then a few days later came some more surprising news – Kungfu Komedy veteran Joe Schaefer was doing his last stand-up show in Shanghai. And that was followed by some more surprising news – Kungfu Komedy veteran Paul Johnson was – you guessed it – also doing his last stand-up show in Shanghai. These shows all went down a within a week of each other. So what the heck is going on with Shanghai’s best stand-up outfit? Are the comedians just tired of risking their lives in the Kartel elevator?

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Why I (Almost) Always Give Money to Beggars

It’s that season, just before Spring Festival, when beggars proliferate, hoping to make some extra money before the holiday like everyone else. Two new ones appeared in my neighborhood last weekend, pitiable things out there in the cold holding pieces of ripped cardboard scrawled with their sad stories. They stood at intersections of busy streets, shuffling from car to car, getting nothing. And then there was one new one near my office near iAPM. He sat on the ground, shirtless. His left arm was the size and shape of a cucumber. I gave them all money. Just a coin. I almost always do. Here’s why.

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The Great Chinese Health Check

A few weeks ago, before the end of the year, I found myself wandering around Lujiazui at 7:30 in the morning. It wasn’t the good part of Lujiazui you see in photos, but the part with waterstained concrete buildings dating back to the 1990s. I was looking for the Huaxia Bank Building which holds a branch of the Ruici Clinic where I would finally join one of the last great events still in existence from China’s Communist past–the health check.

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Whither Shanghai’s Great World?

It started with a conversation in someone’s living room between three foreigners during the recent Victory Day Holiday. “Shanghai’s boring. There’s nothing to do here anymore. Nothing’s new. Nothing’s interesting,” said one. “How come there aren’t any good clubs? In a city this size there should be awesome clubs playing good music every night of the week,” said another. “Yeah, there should be like 10 URVCs–each one playing a different type of music,” answered the first. “It’s a war,” added the third. “It’s a war on anything decent that is held in common.” Part of it, I concluded, is lassitude and age. Collectively, these three expats have half a century worth of years of life spent in China. But that’s not the whole story. I thought about Shanghai’s Great World.

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Guide to Cycling in Pudong

This summer marks four years living in Pudong, split between Century Park and Jinqiao. I used to think it was a curse, but over time I have come to see it as a blessing, especially for someone like me who loves cycling. Over the last four years I’ve cycled all around Pudong. Nature here is much more accessible than in Puxi. It’s a great way to spend a sunny Saturday. So I’ve put together this guide to my favorite Pudong cycling routes.

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