Cocktail of past and present

Updated: 2015-06-06 08:06

By Satarupa Bhattacharjya In Shanghai(China Daily)

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Cocktail of past and present

An old area before it is torn down. [Photo by Jing Wei / For China Daily]

Politics and architecture

Earlier that day, I toured the Xintiandi area, which many consider a top tourist attraction. The leafy boulevards there are now interspersed with high-end foreign and Chinese luxury brand stores in a neighborhood that once sowed the seeds of the country's Communist revolution.

But for Shanghai residents such apparent contradictions are nothing because their city's modernization was shaped by Western culture, according to Yu Hai, a professor of sociology at Fudan University. "Shanghai was forced to open its doors by Western countries," he says of the establishment of a treaty port more than 150 years ago.

Other scholars too have previously commented on the city's "stunning contrasts".

It is where the best and the worst of the East and the West converge, Liu Heung Shing and Karen Smith wrote in their book, Shanghai - Images of a Great City (1842 - 2010).

In 1921, the Communist Party of China was effectively born out of a meeting held at a shikumen-style house in Xintiandi that belonged to Li Hanjun, one of the attendees.

The site subsequently became a museum looked after by the State Council - China's cabinet.

New China's founding father Mao Zedong, Li and 11 other Chinese and two foreign Communists clandestinely congregated at the house that summer, but their meeting was broken up by police from the former French concession, and had to be concluded later in eastern China's Zhejiang province.

Xintiandi shows Shanghai's political past even if the city is largely known to the world as China's economic powerhouse.

A block from the CPC museum is Shikumen House: a sample of the olden-day Shanghai architecture that mixed Chinese and European designs.