A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
When I introduce myself to other people that I come from China, they always ask me, “Which city are you from then? Beijing? Shanghai?” That sounds very interesting as if Beijing and Shanghai are the only metropolitans in China. Lol just kidding! Beijing and Shanghai are, however, my two favorite Chinese metropolitans that I got to visit recently. They are obviously very different from Dutch cities in many aspects. In this blog post you’ll see a bit of what kind of impressions Beijing and Shanghai gave me, and what are the differences I observed during my little trips.
1.Beijing being non-political
Hang on. Are you too tired from all the traveling and transportation that messed up the thoughts in your brain?” Haha, thanks for your concern my readers, I am pretty okay and I do feel that Beijing is a very traditional and artistic city. The Tiananmen Square might be too frequently referred to as a political symbol of Beijing, but I don’t think it is necessarily what I’ll agree on. If you take a look further beyond Tiananmen, the Forbidden City is right behind it, and there is a whole Chinese palace to amaze you. Let’s put aside political struggles and alternations of dynasties, and look into the beauty of Chinese traditional architecture.
Amazing, isn’t it? Well, there is also modern art in Beijing. 798 Art Zone has been increasingly popular among Chinese young hipsters. Postmodernism is spread in this former Soviet Communist-style industrial factory that was constructed in the middle of the twentieth century. Modern designs make strong contradictions with the old, gray, and torn-out industrial area. I sense no politics in these places, but a rather artistic atmosphere.
2.Shanghai being political
You must see the prosperity of Shanghai in these pictures. But wait, I feel as if Shanghai is more political than Beijing. I live near the Bund (外滩), a.k.a the most famous sight of Shanghai for more than a century (How near? I only need to walk for 15 minutes to get there and enjoy the evening view of the romantic Shanghai). Every hour I hear a ‘red song’ (Communist-themed music), which is used on a clock tower; I see Communist mottos very frequently on the streets; there are many Communist sights in Shanghai, including the memorial site of the First Conference of the Chinese Communist Party. I felt that the political atmosphere in Shanghai is stronger.
3.Beijing and Shanghai are too huge compared to Dutch cities
You only need 50 minutes by train from The Hague to Amsterdam, even faster if you start from Leiden. Do you know how long it takes to go from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport to Pudong International Airport by underground? 90 minutes! 90 minutes past and you are still in the same city. These metropolitans are indeed too huge.
And, look at the crowd…
One good thing in China is that you can generally get back to where you were if you turn right, turn right, and turn right again. In Dutch cities, oh my friend, please don’t. In a nutshell, I love cities in both countries. Chinese cities are large and modern; Dutch cities are delicate and adorable. There are certainly a lot more cities for me to visit, and I’ll keep you updated.
– by Xueyan Xing (coming all the way from China; studying at Leiden University College The Hague)