Despite being one of the biggest metropolis in the world, Shanghai conserves the ancient China spirit in lots of places, obviously assaulted by tourists. One of these ancient-looking places is Tiánzifāng 田子坊, a commercial trap for tourists in Dăpŭqiáo 打浦桥 district.
Tianzifang is a built up area of narrow alleys full of souvenir shops, restaurants, stalls and people. It is among the most touristy place I’ve been to and the reason why I like it so much is a mystery. There’s something in there that really fascinated me – maybe the shikumen (traditional architectural style of Shanghai) buildings, artists painting beautiful landscapes in front of you, the knots of electric cables, handmade (??) souvenirs shops, food stalls, the delicious “Shanghai traditional yogurt” – tough I doubt Shanghai has a yogurt tradition –, or the pendant with my chinese name I found in a shop (it is nearly impossible to find a pendant with one’s exact chinese name without ordering it in advance).
Tianzifang is just this, and nothing more: a commercial area built on purpose of attracting tourists. But who imagined it did a great job. Walking those alleys make you feel back in ancient China – maybe not the real one, but the one most people imagine. It is fascinating, and relaxing even when you jostle groups of loud tourists or visit the toilets – you are immersed in a colourful, flokloristic ambience that makes you enjoy being there. I went there twice in two days and still wish I could stay there a little bit more, and I suppose this feeling is the only thing that made me buy a pink bracelet I will never wear and a notebook I forgot as soon as I came back home.
Featured image: thanks to Michael Vito.