“I first moved to Shanghai in 2002 at a time when the city was really beginning to get cooking from a development point of view."
“I first moved to Shanghai in 2002 at a time when the city was really beginning to get cooking from a development point of view. The iconic Pearl Tower and Jin Mao buildings had already redefined the city’s skyline, but the Pudong cityscape had not yet thickened into the forest of towers that now crowd each other out. And from here on out it will only get more crowded—the Shanghai Center is slated to top the current tallest building, the Shanghai World Financial Center (a mere 101 stories), at 114 stories and be completed in 2014. But Shanghai is not all new and gleaming. There is an old Shanghai to be discovered as well. Surrounding Yu Gardens is Shanghai’s “old city”—a warren of streets that twist and turn filled with street food and laundry. At the turn of the 20th century when the city was parsed out amongst foreign concessions, it was this formerly walled enclave of the city that was for all intents and purposes the Chinese Concession.
Today a ring road encircles what was once the Chinese city within Shanghai, and Yu Gardens with its Huxingting Tea House, pictured here in the foreground, sits within that circle. This vantage point neatly brings together the old of Shanghai (though it should be noted that Yu Gardens has been completely refurbished and may as well be new) and the new—skyscrapers stabbing upwards. This photo also has another very rare quality—a blue, or bluish, sky. With the pollution that so often plagues the major cities in China having a rare day where the sky actually deigns to show its true, if muted, colors is a special event. It should also be noted that this zig-zagging bridge is meant to confound ghosts as they cannot negotiate 90 degree turns.”
Photographer Andrew Rowat • Interviewed by Christopher Kucway