We are on the eve of a great and wondrous time here in Shanghai -- a new renaissance, a cataclysmic rebirth, a period of unparalleled affluence and prosperity. We are entering the era of the Da Tong Mall
Get used to the name: "The Da Tong Mall."
Located beneath a park at Julu Lu and Ruijin Lu -- as well as at the swirling vortex of the prevailing commercial, social, and cultural currents of our heady modern Shanghai times -- the Da Tong Mall is this city's newest F&B(&T&A) hub, currently under construction and set to open in March-ish. A petulant bastard child of Xintiandi
, New Factories
, Cool Docks
et al., The Da Tong Mall will offer some 40 hole-in-the-wall bars, at least four massive and craptacular dance clubs, a mini outdoor amphitheater, a shop or two, a café or two, a restaurant or two, an indoor walking promenade, and -- hail Satan! -- so much more.
So far... who cares. Who cares, right? Another bullshit "lifestyle hub". But wait! Wait! Unlike Shanghai's other bar/resto destinations, The Da Tong Mall commits to a certain base honesty and blunt degeneracy hitherto unprovided by a place like the New Factories. This is where a bunch of the Tongren Lu bars are going. This is where more of their ilk will set up shop. Combine that with about four banging hip hop clubs chewing up and spitting out rural youth by the cab load, and now we're really on to something here. It's going to be a terrific clash. A terrific clash.
Earlier clones of Xintiandi pertain to emulate a sober depth and maturity that, incidentally, isn't even really conveyed in the original. In failing to copy something that was never there to copy, Shanghai F&B hubs are boring, stiff, and lifeless. Not so with the Da Tong Mall. At the core of this massive, multi-million rmb project is cool resignation to the truism that humans are monsters. We're monsters! Give us corruption. Give us perversion. Give us moral decadence. That's what we want. That's what we want! Fuck culture. Fuck tapas
. Give us depravity. Give us 900 bars in a pit.
In reverent anticipation of our impending doom, St. Cavish and myself snuck in today to have a look at the ongoing construction (those are his arty photos). When you pull up to the park, it's really quite serene and innocuous. Old people are milling around and kids are playing basketball in a nearby court. The whole area seems untouched by Western ambition. As you breach the area into the center of the park, however, the whole thing opens up into a yawning cavern, and the mid-day reverie is shattered by the calculated hammering of industry. This is just one of the three or so open courtyards around which all manner of wackness abuts. We walked furiously past the guards talking loudly of blueprints, projected construction plans, and the daily grind of "sourcing" things.
The overall aesthetic is, wisely, rococo. Replicants of cherubs and nudes adorn the walls, redundant but ornate Solomonic columns are placed throughout, and there are even a few jarringly contemporary interpretations of classic frescoes. Very nice. Combined this with the purple and pink bric-a-brac already overflowing from the dance clubs, and the effect is not unlike visiting a museum curated by a drag queen.
And the size of the place. It's massive and intricate. We visited while half the province of Anhui was hard at work finishing construction. It was like being implicated in some larger being's nefarious game of SimCity. Who's paying for this? Where is the money coming from and going? What do I have to do to get some of this money? Can I -- at the very least -- hang out with the people with this kind of money? Each twist and turn opens up into yet another jubilantly vile addition to a larger monument to drunken self-gratification. Look at this. Someone is opening some kind of bar in something that looks like a crashed plane! God, that's good.
As an open-air crater in the middle of some strange neighbourhood, it's entirely possible that the Da Tong Mall is just an enormous, glittering venus flytrap in which to lure Shanghai's baser elements, and the authorities can just, quietly one night, bury us all alive before the Expo. We'd have the music on too loud and wouldn't notice the rumbling bulldozers dumping dirt onto our heads. I think it would be entirely fitting if that were the case, and I welcome such a fate.
We've had a good run.