Liz Chilsen

My work in Shanghai focuses on details – evidences of a kind of clash of culture – and the new stereotype of change in China as it grows, seemingly overnight, into a world power.

American journalist Ted Fishman has written movingly of this transformation in his book China, Inc. and, in his best work, Chinese novelist Qiu Xiaolong conveys the elaborate complexities of everyday life in Shanghai today. Qiu’s characters navigate a world where long-standing cultural assumptions shift form – requiring fluid adaptation – even as they retain their outward shape.

China’s long history is a continuum of dynastic upheaval. In each epoch, new fashions replaced old. Former ideologies were supplanted – often harshly and by official decree. Long-held beliefs could no longer be taken for granted. Yet, traditions remained; the requirements of the new layered over upon and incorporated into the past.

Shanghai today is a palimpsest of transformation. Past and current ideologies and diverse cultures overlay within the context of daily lives.

© Liz Chilsen