The Drum Beats in Shanghai, China!

China: The old and new
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Ni Hao! (means “hello” in Chinese) I’m in Shanghai now. 😎 We’re 14 13 hours ahead of EST time. I am here as part of a university delegation, but I will certainly look out for chess. I’m going to Shanghai University and I believe either Bu Xianghzi or Wang Yue goes there. I believe Beijing is where the national team trains. I’ll be in Beijing for three days. If anyone has a contact, let me know! Thanks!!

I had a hard time getting onto The Chess Drum and I thought the site was blocked in China, but I am going through a proxy server. We’re in a nice hotel… the Hua Ting Hotel and Towers in downtown Shanghai. Three of us went for a walk last night and the more countries I go to, the more the large cities begin to look alike. That is globalization.

I’ll add some pictures perhaps.

Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

31 Comments

  1. My “globetrotting” brother. As they say in Jamaica “when I grow up I’d wanna be like you”! Have fun, enjoy and take care. Get some chess in (even some blitz) and do as much as possible to expose our Chinese frinds to the incessant beating DRUM!

  2. Ian…

    I will try to get some chess in… even if it’s Chinese Chess! I went to Shanghai University today. The campus is huge and very presidential… the students are serious. How serious are they? Well… the classrooms have no heat and it was about 5-10C here, but the students are focused and sharp. This mindset is why Chinese will also dominate chess. BTW, the book was nice!

    Note: Mi ha fi come mash up Jamaica still. Tell mi Jamaican brethren that the chess drummer will come a yard and blaze it up!

  3. I’m actually watching a shogi tournament on TV here in hotel room. Interesting!! I saw two commentators analyzing the position on a 9×9 board and it didn’t immediately dawn on me that it was the Japanese artform of shogi given that I’m in China. I thought it was another Chinese chess variant. However, when they showed the players, I immediately knew. These are obviously high-level Grandmasters and there are three judges including a time keeper who counts down when it is a players time to move.

    In the first match I turned to, two players seemed to be gripped in an intense battle and then all of a sudden they were engaging in post-mortem. One of them had resigned! I took some pictures. In another match one player played in a traditional Japanese garments. The specialized ritual and erudition among the small fraternity of shogo players is interesting and something that chess currently lacks.

    I actually interviewed Yoshiru Habu, who has played in a few tournament in the U.S. and is considered the “Garry Kasparov of shogi.” If you’re interested, listen here.

  4. No sign of chess here in Shanghai yet. I asked some of the people at Shanghai University about a chess club and they did not know of one. I saw an interesting commercial while we were heading to dinner with my group. It was a commercial pitting chess against shogi. One side of the board was shogi and the other side was chess. They were apparently showing a battle of the two opposing forces… eastern philosophy vs. western philosophy. Of course we know international chess is still eastern, but the point was clear. It was interesting and apparently commercial selling some type of business solution. I will try to Google it, but I doubt I will find it.

  5. Hey, Daaim! I’m glad to hear that you are enjoying your time amongst the Chinese folks! I have noticed for years how sharp and industrious the Chinese people are: At least the acedemic types that I’ve met in university and my technical work life! I am a bit concerned about what I’m hearing from the media which shows how the Chinese are becoming influenced by some of the negative trappings they have gotten from exposure to the West! Of course, I’m speaking of smoking; intoxicants; and materialism, just to name a few things. I heard that the government sponsors the tobacco industry over there, and that many, many millions of people are hooked on tobacco! Have you seen any evidence during your stay there that any of the latter is true? Anyway, thanks so much for keeping us posted as to your travels in the great land of China! Blessings to you and safe journey home!

  6. Yes… China is booming. There are building projects everywhere and the growth in immense. The Chinese are developing a taste for the “finer things” and like many other societies, are struggling to maintain some of their traditions. I’m watching a Wesley Snipes movie now and earlier I was watching the European Champions Cup (top soccer tournament). If I turn the channel, I can see a French station, Spanish station, Japanese station, American stations and of course extensive, quality Chinese programming.

    Many developing countries look at increased “conspicuous consumption” as a necessary phase in their growth. Many want the prosperity of American without the social ills. My Indian colleague think that social ills are unavoidable. I do feel that China’s political system and the rapid growth of free markets will result in an ideological clash in the future. Nevertheless, the growth is impressive and will certainly help chess development.

    Chinese have been smoking heavily for a long time (famous for “Panda” cigarettes), but when the heavy regulations tightened in the U.S., the big tobacco companies had to find international markets. China was a main market where regulations are weaker. Some of the public places are wreaking with strong smoke and it is unbearable.

    As far as materialism, that is the effect of globalization, but of course the materialism is more prevalent in the younger generation across nationalities and cultures. Pollution is a huge problem here, but the place is immaculate so the social fabric and self-respect is there. Really a lot to look at and take in. There is not much sign of the Olympics coming here, but we’ll go to Beijing and I’m sure we’ll see a lot there. Still looking for chess.

  7. Daaim,

    Nuff rispeck for the kind comments re the book. The next edition will be better!!

    Keep well in your travels. Mi know seh dat yuh ah tek een di Chinese beauties!

    At the Bled Olympiad in 2002 I chatted a bit with the great French GM Joel Lautier who is also of Japanese origin. He told me how impressed he was with Shogi and that the greatest Shogi player ever (can’t recall if it is the person u named-Yoshiru Habu- but there can’t be many Garry Kasparovs of Shogi!) was also a strong chess player (at least solid IM strength). I think that he might even have got a couple of GM norms.

    JAMAICA NICE MAN! You must come the next few months. Mek wi tun de place upside down!

    Planning some serious stuff and will send u some details soon. I’d love to have a lot of the brothers (including Amon) over in addition to some of our European friends. Chess going to set the place alight!

    More Fyah!

    More time.
    Ian 😆 😆

  8. Very interesting day yesterday. The closest thing I got to chess was seeing some elderly Chinese enjoying a game of Mah Jong in the outdoors. We traveled to Yu Gardens which is a shopping district where bargaining is fierce and the contrasting architecture is intriguing. If you look at the picture above you can see the old and the new.

    My group actually went to the 88th floor of the Jin Mao building to get a panoramic view of Shanghai… the urban sprawl is startling. At dinner one of the host stated that all of this development has happened only in the past 13 years!! Construction projects are dotting the huge city of 18 million to accommodate Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and to deal with the increasing migration of Chinese from the rural areas.

    With all of this development, it is understood why China is an economic force. Today my university colleagues will go to Beijing to visit the political, cultural and civic capitol of China. I hope to at least see some Chinese Chess.

    Yu Gardens

    Yu Gardens, a shopping bazaar… wonderful scenery!
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    McDonalds... a worldwide presence.

    McDonalds… a worldwide presence.
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

  9. Daaim,
    Well, McDonald’s does seem to be everywhere, indeed! Did you happen to see what was on the menu in that Chinese Mickey Dee’s? I was just wondering how different (and maybe healthier?) the Mickey Dee’s food is in china…
    Cheers,
    ETJ ❓

  10. Hi Daaim,
    Keep the drum beating man!
    Interestingly, I want to point out that I am a xiangqi player myself; a classmate from Hong Kong bought me a set and taught me the game while I was in Cambridge. I play online sometime and make claim to being the strongest xiangqi player of african descent! 😀

  11. Duane,

    I will research your claim and set up a match if I find another brother or sister. 🙂 I will also warn you, there are African students here and some of them most certainly have picked up xiangqi. I’m going to put the word out on your title and get a match.

    By the way, I met one from Liberia who speaks fluent Chinese and is studying to be a trade diplomat. He has been here three years! I also met a young lady from Tanzania and saw several other Africans at Shanghai University.

    (Note: The student from Liberia was interesting. He explained me his research interests and he will be dealing with the China-Africa trade issues. There are many people in developing countries (like yourself) who are going abroad to better their countries. I suppose the issue will be whether students will want to return! Glad to see you back in Jam-down.)

  12. EJT,

    I did not step inside of McDonald’s, but I hear KFC is the most dominate fast food here. KFC is also very big in South Africa. It is my opinion, eating chicken is more universal than eating hamburgers. 😕 When riding around Shanghai and now Beijing, it is easy to notice how much the cities look like all other major cities. The only difference is the Chinese language. I hope China doesn’t lose their language… that is what will make them unique.

    Beijing is heavily polluted and of course the public places are filled with cigarette smoke. The 2008 Olympics starts on 8th of August, 2008, but I honestly don’t see track and field athletes performing well in this air. China is aggressively attacking the air quality issue with a reduction of gas emissions and I saw electric trolley cars moving around the city. On the news, I saw the Olympic village and it was said to be the largest in history.

    Oh… I have not seen any overweight people here although I hear that China is suffering with obesity, especially in children. I will look closer. Everybody is riding bicycles and walking (all ages). There is also the tradition of exercise with Tai Ch’i amongst the elderly. It is quite inspiring. My colleague who is a Black Buddhist (and Chess Drum visitor) does tai ch’i and stated that they were intrigued at his different style. China does some things better than the rest of the world, but there are some serious issues they will have to address as far as socio-politics.

    This is a giant ad on the wall of a shopping mall. Notice the bicycles parked along the street. If you looked carefully, you can see an ad for Papa John’s pizza. Of course you have basketball player Yi Jiangli featured prominently. We went inside and it is filled with clothing store mainly with westernized fashion. My colleague was shopping for souvenirs and I told him if you don’t find Chinese souvenirs here, get them in Wal-Mart! 😆

  13. Went to the Great Wall of China on today. The entrance actually says, “The Great Wall of Badaling.” As one of the seven wonders of the world the wall structure is imposing and a magnificent marvel. There were hundreds of Chinese coming to take pride in their heritage and several wanted to take pictures with me… I suppose me and my two colleagues stood out! 🙂


    Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    The Great Wall is about 4,000 miles long, but I found out from our host that there are many different walls built by different warring groups. The idea was so that in such a vast country walls were used to mark territory and in total about 100,000 miles of wall traverse China. This wall was solid, but one flaw was that the steps were of uneven height which made it harder to climb. My colleague and I climbed to the top (good cardio workout) and experienced a magnificent view.

    Finally I got to see some chess today. Not our chess, but Chinese Chess (xiang qi). I had been looking for signs of chess and finally I saw a crowd of men hunched over in a familiar scene. I caught a glimpse of the board and saw it was xiang qi. I shouted excitedly, “Oh… they’re playing chess!!” After we found a restaurant (a fabulous vegetarian restaurant catering to Buddhists) and placing an order, I ducked out to take some pictures and here I saw about a dozen men kibitzing during the game. They were even pointing at the board! These men didn’t appear to be that strong, but had a passion that is similar to what you’d see in skittles games at Dupont Circle (Washington, USA) or Washington Square Park (NY, USA).


    Photos by Daaim Shabazz.

  14. Thanks for the excellent photos, dude! I presume you used the same digital unit you had at the 2007 World Open? BTW, are you using this trip as the basis and or data gathering for any research that you’re doing? If so, are you going to publish something for academia? Also, I was wondering how popular are the great Chinese grandmasters? I mean, do the common people seem to know who they are, and how well the Chinese players do in foreign tournaments? Another Western game that seems to be BIG in china is pocket billiards (pool!) Have you seen any evidence of pool playing in China, and or heard any clamoring amongst the common people about their excellent pool players? Keep the beat going…!

  15. EJT,

    I’m using an Olympus, but a much smaller pocket camera… works well. This is a business trip, but I try to keep eyes open for chess. I have heard that chess is not widely available here in China. I saw shogi on TV, but have not heard much on international chess.

    Chinese are doing very well on the world stage. I cannot go into all the details, but I’ve written a number of articles about their rise. However, they do not appear to have broad recognition by the general public. I wouldn’t consider chess a western game since the Chinese have a long history in it (the Chinese version), but even in the international version they do quite well. Their women have won five consecutive Olympiad gold medals and the men won the silver in 2006. Below are a few articles I’ve written in the past:

    The Chess Drum, “China Rising!” 30 January 2008.

    The Chess Drum, “China: The Dragons are Coming!” 11 September 2007.

    The Chess Drum, “China’s Xu Yuhua roars to women’s crown!” 29 March 2006.

    The Chess Drum, “Why China Will Soon Dominate Chess!” 20 September 2003.

  16. Greeting Daaim Shabbazz or Ni Hao Ma wo de pengyou. Which means How are you my friend. I call you my friend because it is because of you that I learned about Darrian Robinson and more details than I would have known about Medina Parilla. I met Medina’s mother and she speaks very highly of you. Also the articles about Emory Tate and Walter Harris are extremely enjoyable.Why do I write this letter..well last year I began to learn Mandarin and I planned to visit China for my birthday. However the trip did not materialize and I became a little disillusioned with visiting China because of their humans right record and other issues. I do continue to study Mandarin on my own and your trip ignites my desire to visit the East again. I thank you for the seeds that you continue to sow with your web-site. Perhaps we will meet one day.

  17. The famous image known worldwide. Chairman Mao Tse-Tung
    is considered the father of the nation who lead the 1949 revolution.

    A crush of people waiting to honor their history
    and others waiting to pay respects.

    The beat goes on! An interesting and tiring day. We went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The place was crowded with proud Chinese who were paying their respects to their proud history. The compound is humongous and has several different sections for the emperors, assistants and concubines. Every building, every room and every tree either had a name or purpose of being there and it was spelled out.

    Within the “Forbidden City,” a place for the emperor’s elite.

    Look at the size of this compound as well as the majestic backdrop!

    One of the things that happened to me was the attention I was getting from the Chinese. They were staring, pointing and also asking to take pictures with me. It was quite flattering and I’ll never forget this day. I realize that it is not often that they will encounter a Black man, so I clearly understand their fascination. I hope I presented myself well to the Chinese people. My two colleagues were teasing me and calling me “Mr. Celebrity.” Not at all, but I have developed much more of an appreciation for Chinese people… and I already had a lot of respect for their history and culture.

    Me along with my colleague Dr. George Clark
    and two Chinese who honored us.

    Two Chinese asking to take pictures. Everyone had a good laugh and there were crowds of people watching this spectacle. All those people probably thought I was somebody important! 😆

    We went to the shopping mall and more of the same… people wanting my attention and whispering. I saw a little girl staring at me and I exchanged smiles and played peek-a-boo with her. Chinese people are genuine and I cannot wait to meet the chess players in Dresden Olympiad. I met former World Champion GM Xie Jun at the 2004 Olympiad and I’ll never forget her smile. If you ever have the opportunity, do not hesitate to visit China. While the air pollution is undesirable, the experience is enriching and fulfilling.

    Anything wrong with this picture?

    Unbelievable! 🙂

    Get ready for the 2008 Olympics!!
    Best wishes in running a successful event!

    Why am I sharing this experience since I didn’t find chess? Well… I thought it would provide an insight as to what components make a high-achieving society tick. Of course an appreciation for one’s own culture and history can evolve into an unshakable confidence. One may feel that anything can be accomplished. China is on the verge of dominating chess in a decade. Why? The pictures tell part of the story.

  18. Ni Hao Mr. Beatty,

    Thanks for the kind words. Yes… both Medina Parrilla and Darrian Robinson are fine talents and their mothers have been instrumental in their success.

    China’s Shanghai and Beijing are very interesting places, but are dominated by skyscrapers and a taste for “modern” goods. The old China is being lost in this transformation and the industrial growth is on a breakneck pace. One of the issues that is most pressing is the air pollution. Here in Beijing, cigarette smoke dominates the air as many Chinese men smoke… and smoke a lot. Industrial fumes waft throughout the air and there is a ever-present haze over the horizon. You may be able to tell by the pictures above. I have seen the city plans for Shanghai and I cannot imagine how they can keep up this pace of growth and expansion.

    China’s human rights record has its issues, but the U.S. is certainly no beacon of light in this regard. That is something you will have to determine for yourself, but I’d certainly recommend China. I would imagine that there are some additional places besides Shanghai and Beijing where you can see authentic Chinese culture.

  19. Ni Hao! Well thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am with you on both counts. China awaits me. 😉 Enjoy the rest of your trip.

  20. I’m looking out of my hotel window and I see some shacks below me with the famous terra cotta roofs. In the background I see the “Forbidden City” and the distinctive pagodas dotting the landscape. There is a fog covering the length of this historic landmark. It is ironic that the industrial smog seems to be obscuring an old era to make way for the new.

    Looking at the length of the city gives me an understanding of how large the compound was and how far we walked yesterday. I also see cranes hovering over the city ushering in the new China. The old and the new China… can they co-exist?

  21. Here are some final images of Beijing, China… a true mixture of culture and traditions! Photos by Daaim Shabazz.


    Catholic Wedding in China


    Sports Ad for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games


    National Pride

    McDonalds does a brisk business… Olympic sponsor of course!


    Muslim Halal restaurant

    Airport ad for MBA program
    Beijing International MBA at Peking

  22. Here are some final images of Shanghai, China… an idea of social and cultural expression! Photos by Daaim Shabazz.


    View of China Telecom building
    from the 88th floor of the Jin Mao Tower (4th largest in the world)

    Unique Architecture in Shanghai

    Growth has a price…
    pollution a big problem in China.

    Newstand… plenty of choices. Communism?

    Morning exercise… wushu dancing with fans!

    Traffic jam of cyclists!

    Grabbing a morning bite to eat before work.

    Hua Ting Hotel & Towers (5-star)

    Here I am in the stunning lobby of the Hua Ting.

  23. Daaim, these shots are amazing! Your camera and eye do these shots justice. I can’t believe we were in the same place and time! Now I’ll have to go to photography school!

  24. You da man Daaim ! Love the pics. Thanks for giving us a “education from your eyes” of China and your experience. You probably walked by some very strong players since there are sooooo many people there. Take care and once again thanks……………………….

  25. Hey Cuz,
    These are beautiful shots of China!!! Wow!! The architecture in Shanghai is stunning! Totally amazing! Thank you so much for sharing. What an exciting experience this must have been!! Wish I was there too!! Oh… and you look so handsome! 😆

  26. I’m also in China looking for Chess. I’ve gone two weeks trying to find information and finally came up with this. Chinesse chess federation number (86-10) 67 102 301 and they gave me the cel phone for a famous Shanghai trainer, called Mr Li, that is 1-31-621-877-11, I have not been able to reach him, but I intend to play chess during my stay in China. Greeting from China, from a Mexican player.

  27. Javier,

    Could you please keep us updated and send pictures?

    I met the Chinese Olympiad team members Yi Jiangchuan and Xie Jun in 2004, but I only ended up getting the number of a journalist in the delegation. I believe they have a training center in Shanghai, but not many clubs.

  28. Hi, those are some nice pictures. i’m planning on going to Hong Kong Univ. in Jan of 09. I’ve never been to China. How was it there? are the people nice to foreigners? Do they have masjids close to the university?

    Thanks you

  29. China is great, the people are great… they are enthusiastic, smile a lot and are optimistic. They have a long history and are a proud people… justifiably so.

    I did not travel to Hong Kong, but I hear it is a totally different world from mainland China. I’m sure there are masjids in Hong Kong since that it attracts a lot of Middle Eastern business people from different countries. I’m sure you saw the Muslim halal restaurant above in Beijing. There also are vegetarian restaurants catering to Buddhist population. Otherwise it is challenging to eat halal in China.

    There are many kosher restaurants in China and also Indian vegetarian restaurant which generally do not serve pork or beef. In fact, I hear that many restaurants will be catering to a wide variety of Olympic palates.

    Last note… Chinese are very tolerant, but do not make salat in a public park. Religion is considered private matter in China.

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