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Shanghai then and now: Changes through the lens

By Bruce Connolly | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-02-17 07:51

Nowadays cruise boats, ocean liners and many freighters pass in front of the skyline that symbolizes the ‘Manhattan of the East’. Buildings under construction in 1996 such as Jin Mao mansion are now almost dwarfed by some of the world’s tallest and most futuristic architecture.

I retraced my steps from the cross-river ferry dock at Dongcheng Ludukou north to the heart of Lujiazui. No trace of what I walked through in 1996 remains except my notes ( All in 'italics' below were written in 1996) and images.

‘This was a maze of narrow lanes and two-floor buildings - the lower being whitewashed brick, open-fronted shops and restaurants - upper floor red painted wood enclosed living accommodation. People sat outdoors, sometimes washing clothes or preparing food. Walking along these older alleys there was very little motorised transport but it was obvious that the modern world of Pudong was steadily encroaching on the doorstep. Increasingly business towers dominated the skyline beyond this seemingly timeless scene.’

Until recent years, when the urban sprawl and cars changed people’s shopping habits more towards suburban malls, Chinese cities had a main street lined with large department stores and restaurants. For Shanghai that focal point was Nanjing Road - today a pedestrian street and destination more for tourists.

‘Nanjing Dong Lu, ‘China’s Golden Mile’ - the city’s main shopping street proudly illustrates the wealth of Shanghai today with modern shops offering cameras, computers and international fashion.

Walking was slow because of the sheer number of people. Being Saturday the road was closed to vehicle traffic and given over to the shear mass of humanity - a characteristic of this amazing city. Mobile phones and pagers were conspicuous. Youngsters linking arms roller-skated amongst the crowds. Stalls provided snacks, ice-cream and drinks to the shoppers on this extremely hot afternoon.’

Shanghai then and now: Changes through the lens

Prosperous Nanjing Road in 1996 - the oldest commercial street in Shanghai. [Photo taken by Bruce Connolly]

Shanghai then and now: Changes through the lens

The modern Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street. [Photo taken by Bruce Connolly]

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