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7 Awesome Things from Shanghai

Cool products, concepts and people from this dynamic city

Shanghai is becoming a new hub for creative minds from all walks of life. But great products have been created here for many decades. Read on to learn more about a few of the most dynamic products, concepts and people born in this innovative city.

 

Forever Bicycle

In the autumn of 1940, Shanghai’s first bicycle factory opened on Tangshan Lu in Yangpu District.

 

According to the Forever’s website, the name of the brand was conceived with foreign policies of the late 1940s in mind. The original idea, “熊球 Xiongqiu,” was inspired by the close relations between China and the former Soviet Union, and the logo featured a polar bear standing on top of the globe. In the end, the officials decided on “Yongjiu” (Forever), and the original logo featured the Chinese characters in bold red colors (a symbolic color for Communism). Subsequently, bicycles named Forever started appearing in late 1949.

 

Since then, the company has increased their production from about 3,000 bikes per year in the early 1940s to more than 28,000 by 1952 -- more than one-third of China’s total production at the time. In subsequent years and decades, Forever’s catalogue of bicycles has grown from traditional bicycles to include road bikes, mountain bikes, children’s bikes, e-scooters and more.

 

In 2010, the brand introduced “Forever C,” a sleeker version of Forever’s famous postman’s bike aimed at a younger audience. During its initial launch, Forever C became an overnight Internet sensation among the post-1980s generation, providing the classic brand with a re-energized image.

 

Find it: www.cnforever.com or www.cforever.net 

 

White Rabbit Candy

China’s answer to nougat and taffy isn’t just a familiar snack, they’re also an essential part of every Chinese New Year.

 

Shanghai’s ABC Candy Factory first produced White Rabbit Creamy Candy back in 1943. It’s said to be inspired by an English milk candy that one of the company’s merchants had tried. At the time, the packaging involved another “animal” that we all know and love -- Mickey Mouse. “ABC Mickey Mouse Sweets” became an instant hit due to their lower prices compared to other imported candies.

 

However, following the Chinese Communist Revolution in 1949, ABC became a state-owned enterprise. The famous Disney character was seen as a symbol of worshipping foreign culture, and the trademark and name was changed to “White Rabbit.”

 

White Rabbit candy also made an appearance during U.S. President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972, when Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai presented them as a gift to his guest.

 

Much later, White Rabbit Creamy Candy was caught in the middle of the 2008 Chinese milk scandal, where the product was listed among dozens of dairy products that contained melamine. The candies were recalled from the shelves of retailers in China and abroad, but subsequently returned to market a few months after the crisis after passing rigorous safety tests.

 

Today, you’ll find the improved version of the candy in major supermarkets in China and around the world. In addition to the original soft milk candies, manufacturer Guan Sheng Yuan has since added chocolate, yogurt, red bean, corn and more flavors to the mix.

 

Find it: www.gsygroup.com 

 

Feiyue Sneakers

 Cloth shoes brand Feiyue dates all the way back to the 1920s. 

 

Worn by everyone from politicians to Shaolin monks and Chinese martial arts practitioners, the cloth shoes made by a Shanghai-based manufacturing company named Da Fu were the original prototype of the now world famous sneakers. The first pair of Feiyue (which were cloth-bound rubber shoes) was born in 1959.Throughout the 1960s to ’80s, owning a pair of Feiyue was a symbol for one’s upper class status in China.

 

After a dip in popularity during the ’90s and early 2000s, three Frenchmen -- Patrice Bastian, Clement Fauth and Nicolas Seguy -- took the initiative to revamp the brand. According to an interview with Footwearnews.com, Patrice Bastian, an avid sneaker collector, became enthralled by Feiyue while he was living in Asia in 2005, and made a bid to purchase it along with his two partners. A year later, the trio launched the first collection of Feiyue in France, which became an instant success. The company sold a million pairs of shoes within the first four years.

 

Feiyue’s popularity continued to grow after collaborations with several famous brands, including Celine and Agnes B, and the company now has retail outlets across the globe.

 

Find it: www.feiyue-shoes.com 

 

Seagull Camera

China’s oldest camera maker and most prominent producer of vintage twin- and single-lens reflex cameras dates back to the late 1950s. 

 

Originally named “Shanghai” (before 1968), the brand produced its first camera model, “58-I,” which was inspired by the German Leica IIIB 35mm rangefinder camera, in January 1958.

 

One of the brand’s most famous models is the Seagull 4, a TLR camera first released in 1967. Initially, the 4 and its subsequent models (4A and 4A-1) cost more than RMB200 each and was hence inaccessible to those who weren’t working for the government or the press (the average monthly salary was reportedly around RMB20 at the time). In recent years, Seagull has also branched off into producing digital cameras as well.

 

For those who are interested in seeing the history of Seagull cameras, the Shanghai Camera History Museum on Anfu Lu showcases some of the brand’s oldest models in its ongoing exhibition.

 

Find it: www.seagull-digital.com 

 

Neri & Hu

Popular Shanghai restaurants MercatoCHI-QThe Commune SocialTable No. 1 and Capo were all designed by a Shanghai-based design firm with another office in London.

 

Founded by architects Lyndon Neri and Rosanna Hu in 2004, this is one of the few China-based design firms to make it big on a global scale. The duo were named the Designer of the Year by Wallpaper* in 2014 and inducted into Hall of Fame by Interior Design in 2013 -- just two of the firm’s many accolades.

 

Neri & Hu’s services include architectural, interior, graphic and product design, and their portfolio spans several continents.Prominent projects include the Waterhouse Hotel (pictured) and “Rethinking the Split House” in Shanghai, Beijing East Hotel, The Cluny House in Singapore, Le Meridien Hotel Zhengzhou and Pollen Street Social in London.

 

Find it: www.neriandhu.com 

 

Ultraviolet

For five nights a week, there are 10 people paying RMB4,000 or RMB6,000 per person for a multi-sensory meal in Shanghai.

Photo by Scott Wright

 

“Ultraviolet” was conceived by chef Paul Pairet (also of Mr & Mrs Bund) back in 1996 while he was working in Australia. Its goal is to remove the constraints of an à la carte menu, giving Pairet full control over the food, timing, sounds, visuals and scents that accompany a meal.

 

After 16 years of planning, Ultraviolet finally opened in May 2012. It works like this: Ten guests meet up at Mr & Mrs Bund and are transported to an undisclosed location (a former warehouse space near Suzhou Creek). There, a theatrical four-hour-long, 20-course meal ensues. Though each course is paired with audio and visual effects, the focus, according to Pairet, is all about the food. Everything that happens around the dishes are there to enhance the experience.

 

The “Oyster x2” course on the UVB menu is the best example. Right before it’s served, scent diffusers release the smell of seawater, while a 360-degree projection wall displays the image of a calming seashore around the room, as gentle waves whisper in your ears.

 

In 2015, Ultraviolet made it onto the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list on the number 24 spot, and placed third on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

 

Find it: www.uvbypp.cc 

 

Yao Ming

To say that Yao Ming is one of China’s most recognizable faces isn’t really a bold statement.

 

After spending a decade in the NBA, Yao Ming has remained a household name, even for those who don’t follow basketball.

 

The now-retired NBA player was born on September 12, 1980 in Shanghai. The seven-foot-six center started his basketball career with the Shanghai Sharks as a teenager (he later acquired the team in 2009), where he played for five seasons between 1997 and 2002.

 

After his contract with the Sharks ended, Yao was chosen by The Houston Rockets as the first overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft. He spent a decade (2002-2011) and eight seasons (he skipped the 2009-2010 season due to injury), playing in the NBA All-Star games every year.

 

The final years of Yao’s NBA tenure were plagued with injuries. For several seasons, he often had to sit out for multiple games due to surgeries on his left foot. Shortly after his contract ended with the Houston Rockets in the 2011, Yao announced his retirement from professional basketball. He currently resides in Shanghai with his family. According to the latest Hurun Rich List 2015 released in October, the former Houston Rockets center’s net worth is around US$330 million.

 

Find it: www.facebook.com/Yao (VPN required)

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