Farewell Dinner and Boat Cruise

The CGS Crew at the Farewell Dinner - front row: Katie, Gaby, Tali; back row: Melody, Prof. Mackey

The first CGS Social Science Shanghai Summer Program has come to an end.  I think all of us who experienced it can say it was a great success, and we’ll all have fond memories of our experiences here.  It was a summer of discovery, learning, and excitement; at times, it was also one of confusion, challenge, and a bit of trial and error.

For my part, I couldn’t have asked for a better or more pleasant group of students with whom to work.  I was constantly impressed with Melody, Katie, Gaby, and Tali – they put in a tremendous amount of academic work under challenging conditions, all while living in an unfamiliar country and a new culture.

The entire BU Shanghai Summer Program group at the Farwell Dinner

In both their language instruction and in the CGS Chinese history course I taught them this summer, all four students excelled and showed a great deal of poise and maturity.  They were full of interesting questions and observations, and they helped create a very positive and rigorous classroom atmosphere.  And teaching this group was a lot of fun, too.  Their good humor helped make it easier to endure the string of humid, 100-degree days in this summer of record-breaking heat in Shanghai.

The Students enjoy the Huangpu River boat cruise

It’s no secret that the momentum of world events is shifting toward Asia, and China has fully emerged as a twenty-first century  global superpower.   This group of  CGS students, now armed with knowledge of Chinese language, history, and culture, will be well-equipped to meet the coming challenges of international relations or international business, should they choose to enter those careers.  And since the liberal arts curriculum at CGS aims to help create informed, critical-thinking global citizens, our program in Shanghai is an ideal addition to the college.

I am proud of the accomplishments of Melody, Katie, Gaby, and Tali this summer, and I’m honored to have been the first faculty member to teach in the CGS Shanghai program.  Thanks for reading and sharing our experiences this summer.  -John Mackey

The Amazing Growth of Pudong

The view from the 87th floor of the Jinmao tower, looking west from Pudong over the Huangpu River

The section of Shanghai known as Pudong, or the east side of the Huangpu River (“dong” means east in Mandarin), has grown spectacularly in the past 26 years.  It currently is home to the 88-story Jinmao Tower, the 101-story World Financial Center, and soon the 121-story Shanghai Tower, which will be the second-tallest building on earth when construction is complete.  I took the photo at left at sunset from the Jinmao tower, looking over the Oriental Pearl TV tower and Huangpu river to the west, toward the traditional city center of Shanghai.  But for perhaps the best perspective on how quickly and astoundingly Pudong has grown, click here for a photo comparison at the Atlantic Monthly.  Watch as a photo from 1987 is automatically overlaid by a photo from this summer.

Shanghai Art Deco

Hudec's Park Hotel, 1934 (left)

The 1920s and 30s were, in many ways, brutal years in China.  Warlordism, intermittent civil war between nationalists and communists, and eventually Japanese invasion all took a heavy toll.  Interestingly, through much of this period, Shanghai produced a flourishing culture of Jazz and decadent nightlife. The most vivid reminders of this era are  Shanghai’s Art Deco architectural achievements.  For just a very brief sample of Shanghai Art Deco, click here for an album of photos I took around the city this summer.  More than three dozen of Shanghai’s Art Deco structures were the work of Hungarian architect Lázló Hudec.

A Shanghai Breakfast

As one of the world’s largest and most cosmopolitan cities, Shanghai has a highly sophisticated and impressive restaurant scene and food culture.  But some of the real treats of Shanghai’s culinary scene are the simple, local foods that are available in hole-in-the-wall shops across the city.  Many mornings, I enjoyed two such foods – the ubiquitous baozi and tea eggs, which make for a very tasty breakfast.

One of the many tiny baozi shops filled with bamboo steamers

Baozi are steamed buns, which can be filled with meats or vegetables.  I particularly like the pork-filled baozi.  Tea eggs are hard-boiled eggs cooked in salted tea, sometimes with other spices added, which gives them a subtle but enjoyable tea flavor.  The eggs are cracked part way through the cooking process, so the tea gets inside the shell, usually giving the egg sort of tie-dyed or marbled tan color.  A couple of tea eggs and a pork baozi make a nice breakfast, and the total cost is less than a dollar.

Shikumen Architecture

The "Cité Bourgogne" shikumen in the Former French Concession

While Shanghai is home to several of the world’s tallest skyscrapers, and is well-known for its ultramodern Pudong skyline, perhaps the most distinctive architectural features of the city are its shikumen residences. Shikumen are typically two or three-story brick courtyards with stone gateways that lead to a maze of narrow lanes.  They became a significant part of the Shanghai cityscape beginning in the colonial days of the late nineteenth century, and they represent a mixture of Chinese and Western architectural elements. Many have been destroyed to make way for high-rise residences or commercial development, but some, like the charming “Cité Bourgogne,” built in 1930, remain.  It’s about a ten-minute walk from my apartment in the former French Concession neighborhood, and is an excellent example of the shikumen style and the French influence on the city.

A BU-Brooklyn-Shanghai Connection

Terrier Nation: Brooklyn Brew Master Garrett Oliver (COM '83) and me at Shanghai's Tap House

One of Shanghai’s newest craft beer bars, the Tap House on expat-friendly Yonkang Lu, held an event on Saturday night featuring Garrett Oliver, the brew master of popular Brooklyn Brewery.  As I chatted with him, I quickly discovered that Garrett is not only a highly successful brewer, but a BU alumnus, too – he’s a member of the COM class of 1983.

The business of beer is a very hot topic in China at the moment.  In addition to importing  American craft beers like Brooklyn and Rogue, as well as Belgian and German beers, China is currently building its own craft-brewing culture.  And like everything in today’s China, it is happening very rapidly.  While mass-produced lagers like the ubiquitous Tsingtao are still popular, Chinese beer tastes are clearly changing, as brew pubs and small breweries are introducing Chinese consumers to a wide range of beer styles and brewing techniques.


A visit to Suzhou

One of the twin pagodas at Shuang Ta

On Friday I made a day trip to the city of Suzhou, about a half hour from Shanghai via high-speed train.  The city has a long history as a desirable destination for both Chinese and foreign visitors alike, and is known for its silk production, temples, canals, and gardens. I visited the twin pagodas of Shuang Ta and Suzhou’s largest classical garden, known as The Humble Administrator’s Garden.   Suzhou has plenty of charm, and is a perfect destination for anyone who enjoys Chinese gardens.



A bit more interesting than “Keep off the Grass”

A lawn sign at Fudan University

Shanghai Summer

The Power Station of Art

One of the more striking new additions to the cultural landscape of Shanghai is the museum known as The Power Station of Art.  It’s the first government-funded museum of contemporary art in China, and, as the name suggests, it is housed in a renovated former electrical power plant.   It opened on National Day (October 1) of 2012, and appears that only a portion of the massive space is in use so far. 

On the day I visited, an extensive and first-rate Andy Warhol exhibit, courtesy of the Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh, was the featured show .  It included many of the artist’s greatest hits (it was easy to fill up on Campbell’s Soup), as well as some of Warhol’s fascinating 16mm films and lesser-known works.  The space itself is quite an attraction, as the building overlooks the Huangpu River and features a 540-foot reinforced concrete smokestack outside, and massive viewing spaces inside.  A power plant was first constructed on this site in 1897.