Shanghai, although seemingly similar in the basic underpinnings of Chinese society, was the extreme opposite of Xian. Beijing showed me China’s Modern civilization where as Xian showed me her Ancient one. Beijing felt so permanent, so controlled, and as deterministically drawn out as her rigid avenues (as an extension of a several-thousand year dynastic tradition would warrant). But to know China’s post-modern contemporary civilization, you really need to experience Shanghai. Shanghai seems to be so much more about the impermanence of life, and thus the need to live life for all it is worth before it ends suddenly – almost more close to a sense of living each day as if it were your last.
Shanghai was so much more a post-modern, contemporary, Western-styled city, and so much more capitalistic even as I was driving in from the airport. There were so many more high-rises, fewer bikes and more luxury cars, a sea of neon as well as a host of popular commercial "consumerism", and a skyline of construction cranes and a perma-haze of gritty construction dust and debris (as opposed to the outright exhaust pollution and the ultra-dry air in Beijing & Xian).