Honoring the "Red" Workers and Martyrs
Renmin Guǎngchǎng, People's Square
Another attraction was the ready availability of foreign products. For those who had developed a taste for Russian borscht, French bread, Austrian pastries, or Japanese sashimi, Shanghai was a very good place to live. Similarly, for those who liked to read Dickens or Zola, Molière or Marx, and to keep up with new work that was being written in Japan or translated into Japanese, Shanghai was the best Chinese city in which to reside. In addition to this, if one wanted an opportunity to listen to speeches by or perhaps even get a chance to meet major foreign intellectual figures, it was advantageous to be located either in Beijing or in Shanghai. Dewey was not the only famous foreign philosopher to pass through Shanghai between the end of World War II and the start of the May 30th Movement, for example. Bertrand Russell came through town soon after Dewey, and one of the most exciting Shanghai events of 1924 (for local intellectuals at least) was the arrival of another Nobel Prize winner, the great Indian philosopher and poet Rabindranath Tagore. His stay in Shanghai began with a reception sponsored by local publishing houses and other groups that was attended by more than 1,200 people. Despite the allure that Shanghai held for them as a place to live, many cosmopolitan nationalists fixed on it as a symbol of national humiliation in their writings. Consider a piece that Cai Hesen wrote in the November 16, 1923, edition of Xiangdao Zhoubao. Foreigners were preparing to celebrate the eightieth anniversary of the implementation of the Treaty of Nanjing that paved the way for the Treaty Ports and the first of the city’s foreign-run districts, Cai wrote, but this was not a joyous occasion for Shanghai’s Chinese residents. Prior to 1843,“every stone and every blade of grass” in Shanghai had belonged to them, but now there were parks they couldn’t even enter. Nor could Chinese vote or stand for office in the enclaves. In the “red” version of local history, the general strikes of 1925, which swelled the ranks of the Communist Party thanks partly to the power of propaganda written by Cai and Qiu and their colleagues, sealed the fate of imperialist control of Shanghai. You would not have known it at the time, though. For late 1925 was when work began on the Custom House atop which Big Ching—one of the most important and recognizable symbols of the foreign presence in the city—would be placed two years later, when the building was completed.