your email address and get our free newsletter.
It is packed with special savings, unique gift ideas and
the latest news.
Subscribe to the monthly newsletter !
of a city, like the memories of an individual,are only
good for a generation or two. So people keep scrapbooks
for guture generations, and cities keep archives. As
a television series based on stories from the Shanghai
Archives airs this month, Michelle Qiao talks to the
producers and discovers the treasures in Shanghai's
Treasures in the attic
Old Shanghai is a treasure trove.
Everything -- from the fascinating qipao
to the sleek bicycles,
glamorous nightlife scene
and ancient townships
-- has a story of its own.
-- Photos by courtesy of STV
Illustration by Wu Jingling
Ballroom dancing in old Shanghai.
The city's first MSG(monosodium glutamate) factory.
The origins of the shanghai qipao; the city's old trams.
... They live on in the memory of older Shanghainese,
and in the city's collective memory: the Shanghai Archives.
this month, like a grandmother telling her tales by
the fireplace, the memories are shared in "Memory
-- Stories from the Archives," a 100-part historical
Tv documemtary series.
Ironically, the program was put
together by a young team fro whom "that era is
vague and remote," in the words of 28-year-old
Zhang Feng, the program's leading editor.
"but after digging into
the archives, the vague, remote feeling was gradually
replaced with practical, lively details that showed
me a golden era of prosperity, culture and art that
I hadn't imagined," says Zhang.
Putting together the program
put some of Shanghai's quirks -- like ballroom dancing
in the parks -- into perspective for Jiang Yun, an other
editor. "What is today a way of passing time fro
the elderly befan when foreign officials and businessmen
in old Shanghai sought entertainment beyond traditional
Chinese opera," explains Jiang. "They started
holding private salons, which later became popular throughout
the city. People wore special leather dancing shoes
and trendy qipao to dance at that time."
Sadly, the program does not include
a pair of scarlet leather dancing shoes, which were
lost when its owner -- who inherited them from her grandmother
-- moved house. "the archive photograph shows shoes
that are still trendy and bright today," reports
The first 30 10-minute segments,
which were broadcast on Shanghai TV's Documentary Channel
last March, came in high in the ratings. The next 30
segments are being aired between January 1 and 24, and
the final 40 segments are scheduled for 2005. Each segment
takes between three and four weeks to complete, says
"Several years ago, the
government began to open more archives to the public,"
says Feng Shaoting, vice director of the Shanghai Archives.
"Since then, we have held regular exhibitions to
share the stories behind our 2.2 to 2.3 million volumes
of archives that we have. But television is a more effective,
more vivid media."
The Archives has offered numerous
old pictures, written material, old maps, videos and
records for use in the TV program, but even more important
than the historical material are th places that it leads.
After completing the segment
on Shanghai-style dress, and archive official reminded
Zhang that there is a museum for Shanghai's famous hongbang
tailors in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province.
Hongbang tailors were renowned
in Shanghai during the early part of the last century
for their skills at sewing Chinese tunic dresses, Shanghai-style
suits and qipao.
"I tracked down the museum,
the village where the tailors were from and even interviewed
and old hongbang tailor," says Zhang, who later
reshot this segment to include the new information.
programs are now popular," notes Feng. "But
this series tells a true story, the history of the 19th
and early 20th centuries. It allows us to relive the
Shanghai of that time."
Feng's favorite segment, he reveals,
is one to which he feels a peronsal connection: the
program on Jinze county, near today's Kunshan, Jiangsu
province. This quiet suburban watertown -- a far cry
from Zhouzhuang in Jiangsu Province, or Zhujiajiao,
in Shanghai's Qingpu District -- was a childhood haunt,
as his grandmother lived nearby.
"the editor found many detailed
traces of the past in his faded, once-prosperous town,"
he comments. "It brought me right back to my childhood."
From behind the scenes, Zhang
says that the interview that made the greatest impression
was with a former PLA soldier who took par tin the battle
to liberate Shanghai.
"All he knew was blinding
gunfire and deafening bombs," sas Zhang. "He
couldn't tell comrade from enemy. He just know that
he had to keep moving forward. He even witnessed a soldier
lighting a bomb, and blowing himself up to explode and
enemy tank. It was simply unbelievable, listening to
The old soldier also showed Zhang
a picture of an old house in Pudong, riddled with holes.
Soldiers hid inside this house, a tactic from northern
China. But the walls in southern China were thinner,
so soldiers fought outside dring Shanghai's battle for
liveration. They suffered more casualties -- but saved
"The series ends with the
victorious battle for liberation," says Zhang.
"After 1949, I think thins were pretty well documented.
I don't want to show familiar history. This program
exists to show Shanghai's hidden history."