Arts & Sciences faculty, students, and alumni may be found just about anywhere in the world, and Shanghai, China, is no exception. Though more than 7,000 miles lay between Shanghai and St. Louis, innovative courses, study-abroad opportunities like the WU in Shanghai summer language institute, international research efforts, and literary accomplishments all provide intellectual and physical connections between land-locked St. Louis and this historic city on the East China Sea.
Rui Pan, from Fudan University in Shanghai, traveled to Washington University this spring to coteach “Topics in East Asian Studies: Sino-American Relations since 1949” with Zhao Ma (see below). The course is supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation that aims to expand student interest in the areas of contemporary China, US foreign policy, international politics, and global conflict and cooperation.
In spring 2013, the WU in Shanghai Center spearheaded a semester-long program geared toward students with an interest in public health, medical anthropology, and other health-related fields. The program includes field experiences in hospitals, clinics, and research centers.
Poet, novelist, and Shanghai native Qiu Xiaolong (PhD’95) is likely best known for penning the popular “Inspector Chen” crime novels, set in 1990s Shanghai. Now a St. Louis resident, he is an advisory member of the Center for the Humanities and has taught classes in Chinese and comparative literature. He was profiled in the February 2013 issue of Washington Magazine.
Lingchei Letty Chen, associate professor of East Asian languages and cultures, heads the Chinese section of the department. Her courses include “Topics in Chinese Literature and Culture: The Chinese City in the Global Context.”
My most vivid memory of Shanghai came from my first visit to the Bund. I was instantly mesmerized by the spectacular architectural grandeur on both sides of the Huangpu River. The extraordinary contrast between the long row of large 19th-century, European-style buildings on the west bank and the futuristic styles of 21st-century skyscrapers of the Pudong financial district on the east bank reminds me of China’s tumultuous historical path of the last two centuries. The material and spiritual devastations resulting from imperialism, wars, and societal reforms, as well as the accomplishments of the Chinese people in their struggle to renew and rebuild – all have manifested in this incredible visual contrast of the country’s painful past and its promising future.
Rye Jones (LA’14, Chinese) studied in Shanghai for the 2012–13 academic year as part of the WU in Shanghai Overseas Program.
Located just a couple of blocks away from Shanghai's Fudan University, University Road offers a glimpse of what fairly upscale real-estate developments look like in Shanghai. Many good restaurants and other stores litter the area. Among these, Togo Taco – owned and operated by a man who absorbed Cali-Mex style cuisine culture quite well while living in California – stands out for offering the best burritos I found in the city. The street's proximity to the international dorms where study abroad students from Washington University live made it a frequent destination for me and other students, and the comforts of familiar Mexican food proved to be a great way to recall home while abroad.
Zhao Ma, assistant professor of East Asian languages and cultures and director of undergraduate studies, teaches “China’s Urban Experience: Shanghai and Beyond.” He also designed and led a study-abroad experience as part of the freshman program “China in the Global Context.”
Standing on the zigzag bridge at the heart of Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai, one is easily overwhelmed by the passing crowd speaking different languages and dialects, the labyrinth of alleyways winding in every direction, the sound of street hawkers and singing birds, and the smells coming from Starbucks coffee, burning incense, and fried, stinky tofu. But beneath the contemporary surface of chaos, there is the history of Yuyuan as the anchor of civic order in Shanghai for centuries before foreign colonial powers redrew the city’s political and social landscape. As home to dozens of the city’s powerful guilds in the 18th and 19th centuries, Yuyuan functioned as the administrative nerve center where social and commercial leaders worked together to provide a range of services, including firefighting, street cleaning, crime control, and poverty relief. Today’s Yuyuan embodies pervasive tourism and commercialism, but it also reminds us of a remarkable history of social activism, the spirit of public service, and community self-governance in early modern China.