Published: March 2010



Shanghai Dreams

China’s global city tries to recapture the glories of its past—this time on its own terms.

By Brook Larmer
Photograph by Fritz Hoffmann

The secret world of the old Shanghai bomb shelter seems to exist in a parallel universe. On the sun-splashed street above, migrant laborers slurp down rice and tofu lunches, while clusters of office workers in crisp white shirts walk past the small sign on the sidewalk. But in the dark recess behind a display of foreign-brand toilet seats, a young woman descends a staircase into a place she knows only as "0093."

Passing through a pair of metal blast doors, the woman—22-year-old Sheng Jiahui, who goes by the nickname "Sammy"—moves deep into dimly lit corridors. The bunker glows an unnat­ural shade of green. In its perpetual twilight, 0093 still evokes the deadening claustrophobia of war and communist revolution that snuffed out Shanghai's swinging heyday, when the mingling of East and West transformed the city into the Paris of the Orient.

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