I have just completed Memories of Old Shanghai, a collection of oral histories which involved translating from Shanghainese, to Mandarin, and again into English.
Sometimes it strikes me just how much the older generation has seen. Their experiences are so extraordinarily different from my own; luckily I’ve so far escaped the war, famine, poverty which were ubiquitous during the first half of the twentieth century. Shanghai, in particular, changed enormously through the course of the last century – from the days of the Concessions and its reputation as the ‘Whore of the Orient’, to the brutal Japanese invasion; the Communist victory and ‘Liberation’ in 1949, then acting as the headquarters of the Gang of Four. I was curious to know what the people I passed every day had seen: what they had been through. This was why, in May 2008, I decided to write a book about the older generation living in Shanghai.
By Elizabeth Watson, November 25 '08, 9:35a.m.