I have always loved travelling, and as the end of my time at university drew to a close I knew that settling straight into a job, sat behind a desk, wasn’t for me. Fast forward a few months and here I am, just a few weeks away from moving to Beijing to spend a year teaching English, whilst experiencing and exploring the fascinating culture and history that China has to offer.
If you visit the Xintiandi district in Shanghai, which is now a leisure and entertainment complex, you will be completely absorbed by its modernity. It may then surprise you to learn that Xintiandi is one of many districts in Shanghai that is significant in terms of explaining the concept of community and neighbourhood within China.
Evidence of this community is the fact that Xintiandi comprises of many Shikumen houses. The locals in Shanghai translate Shikumen to mean ‘Stone Warehouse Gate’ in English. Judging from the framing that surrounds the doorways, the name is apt. After all, the doors were made from a thick black wood that was commonly framed with pieces of red stone. You will be surprised to hear me refer to them as houses, because they have long since been renovated. Their modernisation means they are now restaurants, clothes shops, bookstores — to name but a few. All traces of domesticity have been dissolved – or have they? Continue reading