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Chinese street life

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 4 months ago


Chinese Street Life



Running through the lilong districts, the streets act as the citys arteries. While the major roads contain the department stores and entertainment spots for which Shanghai is famous, the average streets provide for the quotidian. Most common are rice stores, coal-sellers and tailors, as well as sesame cake stores and yanzhidian (煙紙店, “tobacco and paper shops”), which sell tobacco products, magazines and assorted street-corner goods. Of particular note are “tiger stoves”, where large stoves heat water twenty-four hours a day, every day. This is a vital local service, as most lilong do not have hot water facilities. Tiger stoves are often near wine and snack shops and act as neighbourhood teahouses and bathhouses - tin baths are screened from the street with curtains in the back of the shop. Shops and other businesses are often located in front row lilong houses. Facing on to the street and lacking a courtyard, their design is ideal for business purposes.


Things to buy


Aside from the shops, many peddlers walk the streets providing a variety of services. Some sell knick-knacks and snack foods, others carry a portable soup kitchen on their shoulders (see picture). Street barbers armed with nothing more than cutting implements, a towel, mirror and stool, set up on street corners. Their customers are generally youngsters and the elderly, as adults tend to be embarrassed about having their hair cut in public - female customers are very rare.

Craftsmen will go from alley to alley offering such services as shoe repair or basketwork. Portable lending libraries - literally wheeled shelving unit full of books stop in the street. Books cost 10 cents to borrow, and are read there on the spot rather than being taken home.


Another common sight is the dealer of cheap opium. Residue taken from used opium pipes -- longtou zha faucet dregs -- are boiled with water and sold to coolies, rickshaw pullers, beggars and other poor people. The user boils away the water to smoke the opium. The dregs are often bought from maids and other domestic servants who want to supplement their income.


Eating and Drinking


Proletarian puluo restaurants are identified by a sign with the character for rice - fan - writ large. They serve rice with meat, vegetable or bean products - for example, 6 coppers for bowl of rice (two bowls enough for an adult male), 7 coppers for two pork cutlets served with cabbage sprouts. On average, the total cost of a decent meal is 28 coppers, 20 coppers if only vegetable dishes are ordered.


Some puluo restaurants specialise in porridge - 4 coppers for a bowl of porridge made of rice, meat, seafood, vegetables and spices; 4 coppers for a plate of bean curd, 5 for fried peanuts. The porridge restaurants open 24 hours a day (this is also true in many cases of the other kinds of puluo restaurants). Customers are even allowed to sleep in the restaurant if they ask the staff, though usually only after midnight. Exceptions to this are usually made for regulars.


Some specialise in noodles - 16 coppers for a bowl of noodle soup known as spring noodles yangchunmian, made of fresh noodles spiced with sesame oil, soy sauce, green onions, sliced egg and dried shrimp; Vegetable rice restaurants are more expensive, as it offers a combination - one bowl of vegetable rice (rice steamed with peanut oil and bits of vegetable), two pieces of pork spare ribs (customers may substitute stewed pork, duck liver, chicken leg, stewed egg, etc. for one piece at no extra cost) plus a bowl of soup - all for 46 coppers (0.20 small silver dollar).


Wine is not served in restaurants like this but customers can bring their own bottles. If one wishes to purchase from a wine shop nearby and need a wine vessel, a small metal can will be provided. Shanghai has thousands of small wine shops that sell everything from bottled beer to cooking wine to shaojiu (a spirit like whiskey). There is always a wine shop near every restaurant, often next door. These shops sell all kinds of alcohol form big jars - customers must provide their own containers. Restaurant waiters will run over and buy liquor for the customer if asked.



Somebody has to clean up

One vital profession is seen on the streets not by day, but by night. In the early hours, calling out their arrival and departure in each alleyway, the nightsoil collectors serve as the wake-up call each morning for the lilong neighbourhoods, and provide a necessary service for the vast majority of Shanghainese whose houses lack sanitation. Residents leave their nightstool buckets outside their front doors, where they are taken and emptied on to the nightsoil collectors hand-drawn cart. At the end of each mornings route, the human waste is taken down to the docks, where it is loaded on to barges and taken inland to be used as fertiliser.


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