Foreword. For China, Shanghai only gained importance during the Opium War. Getting the Chinese hooked on opium was the main objective of the British in the Opium War. Eventually, because of their military inexperience, the Chinese were quickly defeated and had to give up their land, pay large contributions, and open their ports for drug imports in to China. The Qing Empire was weakened, which led to the enslavement of the country by European powers and the gigantic spread of drug addiction and the degradation and mass extinction of the population. China allowed Chinese people to be used as slaves in the colonies of Britain and France. Later, Britain was joined by France, America and some others.

“Shanghai is heaven for the rich, hell for the poor.”


Part 2 — Hell.

China has almost everything you need: its own version of Facebook and Google, skyscrapers, wealth, infrastructure, the latest technology, a rich history and fashion. What China does not have is Communism, it is particularly visible in Shanghai Old City. It can only be called Communism, perhaps, because here is a kind of equality – everyone is equally poor.

Because of its history of concessions the architecture in the old city has become sort of a mix between East and West, where the people live a poor lifestyle but are surrounded by the brand new high rise buildings.

Passing old town by train.

There are many interesting things about the Shanghai old town. First is the hanging clothes which often make you think of the person that wears them.

Grannie’s underpants or baby bibs, whatever it is, it is hanging right over your head.
Facade is covered up with drying clothes.

The other thing that is seen in Shanghai street culture is the shop business. Essentially a shop will be rented out on the ground floor of the residential block where people sell everything from cars to garbage.

Wooden, glass and plastic panel shop.

People who work here live off selling stuff on the street; they recycle things found in the street and sell them, they also deliver goods.

Second-hand clothes shop.

As it was in the USSR no one who lives in the old town owns their place. Accommodation has been given to people and they pay very little rent, around $5–$10 per month. Because of that there are no homeless people, but there are beggars.

Trader of nothing and a resident in pyjamas.
Trader of nothing and a resident in pyjamas.

If you don’t own a shop, you sell stuff in the middle of the pavement.

Pedestrians walking around man sitting and taking the whole width of the pavement.

Some people in Shanghai manage to survive on just $20 per month, but as the French government did before, today the Chinese government is trying to hide all that by demolishing old houses and replacing them with new ones.

Old buildings being demolished.
Not far from the pier of the French concession new houses are being built.
Colonial architecture.

In the local food places hot water is given to the customers, they say that it is good for you. The truth is that the water in these areas is dirty, so it needs to be boiled to remove bacteria.

People eating outside.
Antique seller and customer trying to bargain.
Antique seller and customer trying to bargain.

From all over the city motorcyclists buy cardboard from people then sell it to truck drivers, who take it to the dump where it’s sold. It’s a job to many people that makes money and keeps the city clean.

Small card box collector.
Big card box collector.
Entrance to the market.
Train depot.

In China, I realised, how surprised Chinese people are to see a white man.

Life in the markets.
Life in the market.
Vegetable lady.
Century black eggs.
Century black eggs.

Turtles getting ready to be boiled in a soup.

Live turtles.

Mass lunch starts at 12 o’clock, everyone stops working suddenly and goes to lunch. Selling at the market begins at 12pm and at 5pm, at other times all sellers are busy with their routine.

Yellow fruit lady.
Man and seaweed.

The Chinese have a habit of sleeping anywhere.

Meet the card box collector man.
Kitten plays on the dusty floor.

Also having a habit spitting everywhere.

Woman spits on the floor.
Alleyway at night.

At night Hell is full of dim lights.

Entrance to the neighborhood.
Noodle lady and customers.
Streets of Shanghai old town.