On day 3 in Shanghai, Isabelle Chen, my guide (a postgraduate history student at the University of Shanghai) and I had an itinerary that aimed to take in ‘rural’ areas beyond Shanghai. In the end however, after travelling to the end of city line we found ourselves in one town, Zhuan Qiao, south west of Shanghai that ten years ago would have been nothing but farmland and a village and a town even further on, Minhang – listed simply as a Development Town on the railway. Both are situated beyond the city map, but Zhuan Qiao is now swallowed up by the rapid urbanisation stretching Shanghai ever outwards and Minhang is effectively being swallowed as I write. The rationale was to assess the extent to which rural life has spitting even more embedded (for women too) than central Shanghai. In newly urbanised Zhuan Qiao however, there was not too much by way of people traffic (we saw regular(ish), occasional hocking and spitting but not so much and no women spitting) and in the Development Town it was lunchtime with few people around the markets we had hoped to observe. Isabelle reasoned that it was unlikely that the ‘traffic’ would increase much as it was a scorching hot day and hanging around the streets wasn’t going to be easy for us nor too likely for locals either. Rurality proper had eluded us and even if it hadn’t less people traffic likely to have confronted us by way of farms/farmland means spitting observations may well have been difficult in any case. Observations of rural spitting would need a longer more organised research strategy.
We travelled back to the city (where on route we saw our very first -non-dedicated – ‘no spitting’ sign on the train – we didn’t see another that day) and straight to the green campus grounds of the high ranking Jiao Jong University. Within these well-kept grounds we saw a number of men spitting including one, who accompanied by friends and girlfriend, spat noisily and casually to the ground in the shaded grassy area populated by numerous other students.
After Jiao Jong University we went to a very busy, very noisy tourist area (an ‘old’ part of Shanghai now effectively converted to a tourist attraction. The thronging of people was extensive and no spitting was seen, couldn’t be heard and in practice would have been difficult. We speculated that in such an area spitting to the street might be less likely but that spitting into the large street rubbish bins would be perhaps more likely. We sat and observed two sets of bins for around 15 minutes but saw no spitting into the bins either.
Day 5 – as we shall see helped us make more sense of this differential experience of spitting incidence in Shanghai.