Meet the contributors to Chinese Characters: Anna Greenspan
Tell me about the first time you went to China.
I first came to Shanghai in 2002. A decade before, I’d traveled to Hong Kong, and in 2000 I spent about eight months in Taipei. I came to Shanghai because a Taiwanese friend told me to check it out. At that time I didn’t really know anyone who had been here. Shanghai then had the reputation of being a “wild west.” Maybe it still does — it’s hard for me to tell. I expected it to be interesting, but ultimately too intense. From the start I was surprised — and seduced — by Shanghai’s mellow charm. For a megacity of close to 25 million people that is mutating at an incredible speed Shanghai is a remarkably relaxed place to be.
What was the most interesting thing you learned from working on your chapter for Chinese Characters?
My chapter reflects upon an ongoing experiment in living. My son Max has just finished grade one at a local private school. I am astounded — and somewhat humbled — by all he has learned. He has memorized dozens of poems and hundreds of characters and can recite the entire multiplication table in a singsong chant. Yet, most of the discussion among both parents and teachers is how students can become more creative without losing any of these remarkable achievements. For me, one of the most fascinating aspects of living here is the ability to witness the changing Chinese education system up close.
Where are you right now and what are you working on?
I live in Shanghai, where I am teaching at NYU Shanghai, working on building a research hub and finishing my book, Modernity 2.0: The Reemergence of Shanghai in the 21st Century.
Take a walk in Shanghai with Chinese Characters contributor Anna Greenspan. Greenspan’s chapter in the book is about being an immigrant in China and sending her children to China’s schools.