Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Letter to New York Times


I wrote the following letter to New York Times as a protest, this past Sunday:

Dear Editor:

I have some concern over a quoted name of Shanghai the writer of the article "Shanghai , a Far East Feast" (Sunday, Oct 9) used, in the second paragraph.

"...the chic boutiques and throbbing dance halls that gave Shanghai its reputation as "the whore of the Orient".

Maybe so. But this never came to my knowledge when I search back to my historical knowledge of the city.

Shanghai used to be called the "Paris of the Orient", for its vibrant night life, lights along the Huangu river, and large number of emigrants before World War II. Although still very colonial and west-centered, it is a more appropriate and accurate description for the city then.

I trust the writer has his or her own resources and perspective. But I am first of all surprised that he or she has not encountered the other name during his or her trip and research for write up.

Secondly, whether it is appropriate to use such a slang name (Whore of the Orient) in an article very well written to encourage tourists to visit this fun and explosive city does not seem to be seriously considered. Such a name will naturally link some readers with the sex industry image of some Asian countries or cities.

I feel that is a regrettable overlook on an otherwise very enjoyable article.

Sincerely,

Vivian Zhu

Am I over reacting?

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why this subject?
Ray at selling time share

Albatross said...

no at all! but i can imagine those retarded people writting those stupid articles.

Beijing Loafer said...

I'm curious how they would reply to your letter. Why don't you contact some professors at NYU and Columbia to see if they could suggest the origin of that nickname? I've never heard of it myself. It's loaded with prejudices.

robin2 said...

Ok -- I found this paragraph in an article on CNN.com: "In its colonial heyday at the start of the 20th century, Shanghai was a byword for cosmopolitan extravagance and excess: the "Paris of the East" or the "Whore of the Orient -- depending on your point of view." I also found the latter usage on a Guardian article from 1999, so I think this term has indeed been in use (in the West) for about 100 years. I presume that Shanghai itself was aware of this, but would be interested in a local perspective. Net-net, I don't think the NY Times reporter was out-of-line relying on this frame of reference. One poster's opinion.

vivianzhu said...

Robin2, thanks for the comment. I guess I will feel better if New York Times used both quote as the CNN.com did, at least reflecting both view. ;-)

ladyrain said...

Great blog. Found your blog while searching for more information at yahoo about A Letter to New York Times. Your blog has quite a lot of interesting thoughts. Keep up the good work, vivianzhu.

Cheers,
new york post