To all my friends out there and all the readers of this website, I wish you all a healthy and prosperous new year in 2019, the Year of the Pig! May this year bring us good fortune and may we make progress on the burning issues in our world today. May we move forward smoothly with our business and our personal lives like a hog wallowing in the mud. May we all possess greater sensitivity, equanimity, and empathy with others in the face of great changes in our world!
Over the past decade, I have celebrated many a Chinese New Year in Shanghai. Usually this involves having a dinner banquet at the home of my in-laws in Zhabei (now part of Jing’an). Usually my father-in-law cooks up a big meal consisting of classic Shanghai dishes. Shanghai cuisine is usually based on a combination of soy sauce, oil, salt, vinegar, and sugar. It’s mild in comparison to the cuisines of western China. My wife says the principle is “nong you chi jiang” 浓油赤酱: thick, oily, red, saucy. Following dinner, the usual practice is to watch the CCTV New Year’s special while playing majiang 麻将(mahjong). The Shanghainese call it “cu mujiang.” Using pinyin romanization to capture the Shanghainese language is a dicey prospect, but there I go.
One big change from previous new year celebrations is that the government no longer allows people to light off fireworks in Shanghai. Not sure how long this has been the rule, since I’ve spent the past few New Year holidays abroad, but it sure does change the atmosphere of the CNY holiday, making it a lot quieter here. Because most people leave the city for their hometowns (we are now more or less a city of migrants) Shanghai is unusually quiet and empty of people this time of year, except for the tourist sites which are as jam packed as ever.
Last night we decided to head over to the Old Town, otherwise known as the Old Walled City (the walls were knocked down in 1912) for the Lantern Festival. However, we found it incredibly crowded and cordons of police were handling the human traffic flow into the section of the city that contains the City God Temple (chenghuang miao). So we decided to head over to Lost Heaven, a Yunnan-themed restaurant near the Bund, for dinner.
Following that, we took a stroll along the Bund, stopping in briefly to the Waldorf Astoria (formerly the Shanghai Club) and then walking to the Peace Hotel, where he had some dessert. After that we ambled westward along Nanjing East Road along with a crowd of thousands of tourists from all over China. Nothing screams Shanghai more than the lit-up old buildings of the Bund, the riverscape of Pudong all tarted up for the holiday, and the neon signs of Nanjing East Road!