Tangled yarns from London's passers-through

007 : Jack Sidders at the top of the escalator at Exit 7, Jing’an Temple metro station, Jing’an
Born in 1985 in London, Jack Sidders currently works as a trainee journalist. Why Shanghai? Dumplings. He digs the following Shanghai bits: premiership football highlights on the metro; the Oriental Pearl tower — all skyscrapers are phallic but that one requires zero imagination; Bund bunnies; five-star hotels’ brunch rivalries; taxi drivers who can’t be bothered to open the window and just spit on the passenger seat. He is, however, a bit miffed by the traffic; the speed limit in the tunnel; Zapata's; the incredibly slow walking pace of the average local; drying clothes outside, which turns them grey. For more info on Jack Sidders you should send an email.

image: Ippei N.

“Upon seeing the delinquent busker dragged from the scene with his trousers at his ankles, I felt lost. ”

I had only been in Shanghai but a few days when, walking back from work along Nanjing Xi Lu[1], I came across my first city busker. Happily high on Constant Discovery as is generally the case with fresh arrivals, I stopped to listen. The melody was alien but more curious was the attention the minstrel drew. In London, I was used to buskers, no matter how talented, being determinedly ignored.

Here, passers-by not only stopped to watch, they did so wearing polished smiles and toothless grins. Eyes were closed deep in meditation. Perusing the watching faces, I, too, began to drift off in reverie. Suddenly, the crowd’s attention grew fervent. A disturbance rippled through the back of the group, eventually bursting through the assembly to the musical oasis at its core.


Quickly and quietly, policemen handcuffed the musician. As they turned to leave, the crowd began shouting, words indecipherable to my ear but clearly in protest. Soon, cars had stopped on the street and bicycles had been abandoned as their owners gathered to have their say. Then, seemingly in an attempt to fend off the hostile onlookers, the policemen unbuckled the musician’s trousers. My amusement dissipated, and was replaced by disgust.

Until this point, the experience, while odd, had at least made sense to me. Upon seeing the delinquent busker dragged from the scene, with his trousers at his ankles, I felt lost.

A monk, no doubt drawn to the throng from Jing’an Temple[2] just around the corner, studied me. Reading my confusion, he spoke: “He has lost face. Now he will never commit this crime again.”

I stared. My first encounter with a Buddhist monk and I was speechless. But no sooner had he begun to impart his wisdom on me, he turned, pulled out his state-of-the-art mobile phone and walked off, destroying my quaint, half-formed illusion of simple monk life just as the policemen had destroyed the beauty of a stranger’s music with an act of violence and humiliation.

referenced works

  1. Nanjing Xi Lu (or West Nanjing Road) is, according to some sources, the world’s longest shopping district. The strip runs for roughly 6km, and has Shanghai’s highest concentration of high-end brands. Malls on Nanjing Xi Lu including Plaza 66 and Westgate Mall house luxury retailers such as Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Versace. At People’s Square, the street turns into Nanjing Dong Lu (East Nanjing Road); extending all the way to the Bund, this pedestrian-only shopping street is a favourite frolicking spot for domestic tourists. A mix of traditional shops, foreign brands, street vendors and restaurants are crammed onto the lively strip – though it’s low on actual attractions, it’s high on something the Chinese love: renao (literally, a ‘hot and noisy’ ambience). At night, a dizzying parade of neon lights and store signs make Nanjing Dong Lu one of the most memorable stretches of street in Shanghai.

  2. Literally ‘Temple of Peace and Tranquillity’, Jing’an Temple is a Buddhist temple in central Shanghai. First built in 247 AD, the temple was used as a plastics factory during the Cultural Revolution. In 1983, it was restored to its original, intended use as a place of worship.

location information

  • Name: the top of the escalator at Exit 7, Jing'an Temple metro station
  • Time of story: Afternoon
  • Latitude: 31.222509
  • Longitude: 121.446004
  • Map: Google Maps


  1. Jenny [1] in Canada thinks: beautifully written, you’ve captured the essence and dichotomy of Shanghai today.


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