National Geographic : 1937 Oct
CHANGING SHANGHAI BY AMANDA BOYDEN E XCEPTING occasional stately junks with eyes painted on either side of the high bow to enable them to "see their way," there is little to suggest the Orient on the way up the Whangpoo River to Shanghai. Before the dock is reached, however, China obtrudes itself upon the sight and its odors penetrate the nostrils. Scarcely had the small Danish freighter on which I crossed the Pacific come to rest when four or five scavenger sampans sta tioned themselves beneath our after port holes. Unerringly the occupants of these greasy craft smell out the location of a ship's galley. Hoisting their long-handled nets and uttering raucous cries, they await con tributions. When a load of garbage is caught the net is lowered and overturned on deck, where all hands hasten to sort the contents. Little is discarded, for these poor wretches rely on the refuse from ships to supplement an all too meager daily ration. LINERS, SAMPANS, AND MEN-OF-WAR From our berth at a downstream wharf it was a half hour's ride in a tender to the customs jetty in the city. Shrilly tooting, we moved out to midstream. We passed close to foreign men-of-war, dignified liners, freighters from far-distant ports. Wharves, factories, and warehouses lined the shores. Sampans filled with blue-clad workmen bound for Pootung, across the river, sculled past our bows (map, page 491). Motor boats from men-of-war, their flags trailing, sped by with liberty parties of bluejackets. We passed slow-moving barges loaded with cargo from ships but recently arrived. There was little color; movement and sound dominated the scene (486, 494). To our right, immediately beyond the Japanese docks in Hongkew, appeared the curve of water front upon which three con sulates now stand. On this site, that of the original American Settlement, the new United States Consulate will rise, flanked by those of Germany and Japan. Just across the street a lofty new apartment hotel towers above Garden Bridge, at the northern end of the Bund (501, 502). At its feet lies the mouth of Soochow Creek, the crowded stream which meanders tortuously through the city. It bristles with the floating homes of innumerable Chinese -Chinese who are born, live their entire lives, and die on the sampans which huddle together in its murky water. Babies, toddling too near the gunwales, sometimes topple in, and, having been fished out, are set casually to dry. Water dipped up over the side is used by the women for cooking rice and vegetables; clothes are washed in it; and it imparts that certain flavor to their tea. A sampan gaily pavilioned and festooned in red indicates that a wedding will soon take place. For funerals the drapery is white, the Chinese color of mourning. More than once since the Sino-Japanese hostilities of 1932 Shanghai has experienced a war scare. For a few days streams of terror-stricken Chinese, burdened with household goods, pour into the foreign set tlements. Before long, the tension eases and confidence is restored; hundreds re turn to their homes in Hongkew or the Na tive City; shops reopen; and business as usual resumes. In accordance with arrangements con cluded between the Chinese and foreign governments, the latter maintain units of their troops at several points in China, one of the most important of these being the International Settlement in Shanghai. EVER READY FOR EMERGENCY In addition to the British, American, French, and Japanese troops, there exists the Shanghai Volunteer Corps, numbering about 2,000, international in composition. This body is under the control of the Munic ipal Council, which governs the affairs of the International Settlement. The city is ever ready for emergencies. Great Britain was the first of all the nations which now have such valuable com mercial interests in the city "above the sea" to recognize the vast potentialities of the little fishing hamlet on the muddy shores of the Whangpoo. In 1842, emerging victorious from the so-called "Opium War," she concluded with China the Treaty of Nanking by which Shanghai and four other coastal cities were established as treaty ports.* Within two years the United States and * See "Cosmopolitan Shanghai," by W. Robert Moore, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, Septem ber, 1932.