Ik Soo Yoo
Updated: 2014-12-11
By Ik Soo Yoo (en.study-shanghai.org)

In the 20th century, people often called a multicultural society a “melting pot”. New York City was considered the ultimate melting point, with people from all over the world settling in the city. But today the term seems outdated.

Just as the individual ingredients in a melting pot lose their distinct fl avors, a city which is a melting pot will lose its unique characteristics. Sociologists in the 21st century have been looking for a new term to replace ‘melting pot’. They fi nally agreed on “salad bowl” to describe a mosaic society. In contrast to melting pot, which refers to a society that wants immigrants from diverse backgrounds to lose their individual characteristics and form one unified group, the term salad bowl refers to a harmonious, multicultural society that respects the traits of each social member.

After a few months living in Shanghai, I can claim with confidence that the term salad bowl is the best way to describe the city, not only in the present, but also in the past and future. In our first Shanghai Studies class, professor Yu Hai quoted one writer’s description of the city, “Shanghai is where the best and the worst of the East and the West converge”.

The writer is correct. However, I would add that the convergence has happened in a harmonious and efficient way, not in a forceful and coercive way. From the late 19th century to the early 20th century Shanghai was already a global, multicultural city.

In my course, History of Shanghai through Western Eyes by professor Michael Lestz, we are learning about the history of the city during the period when Shanghai started opening to Western countries such as the United Kingdom and France. After the foreigners arrived in Shanghai, they established concession areas.

Those concession areas show why I think Shanghai was already a giant salad bowl. Regardless of whether each country wanted to or not, every concession area did not interfere each other during its time in Shanghai. They made borders to separate each concession area’s territory. Each had its own police system. Each concession area displayed its unique characteristic.

Professor Lestz has taken the class on many field trips around Shanghai. The places we have visited were mostly founded during the concession era. We have been to the British concession, French concession, and the Jewish refugees’ living area. Wherever we went, those places had different styles of architecture that still remain today.

Shanghai’s status as a giant salad bowl is further enhanced by the economic globalization in the Pudong area. Shanghai is a model of a world-leading multinational and multicultural city. Besides taking classes in Fudan University, I work as an intern in Fudan Development Institute. Our team’s main task was to prepare for the Shanghai Forum, which was held on May 24. Shanghai Forum is an international forum hosted by Fudan University.

The forum invites global elite scholars from different academic, political, and economic circles. I don’t know how large the salad bowl will grow in the future. But my first impression of Shanghai was, “Oh, I think I will have to visit here again one day in the future.”

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