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Introducing Mudan Boutique

mudanboutiquelogo.gifI have hinted at it a couple times on this site, and now I am finally ready to go public with my latest project. It’s a bit of a departure for me, but something I am really excited about. It’s an online store called Mudan Boutique. To start, we are featuring affordable pearls and jade and a variety of handbags, fashion accessories and gift items — all of which embody an Asian aesthetic. (We’re offering free worldwide shipping until July 17, too.)

Most exciting to me right now are the partnerships we are forging with local Shanghai designers, like Fiona Peng of Punk Pilgrim and Christine Tsui of Christine Tsui’s Fashion Club on Xinle Lu. That duo is responsible for Mudan Boutique’s current crop of handbags and clutches. And we’re currently working on adding more items from different local designers to the store — products and designs that until now were only available in small stores and boutiques in Shanghai.

Surprised by this? Yeah, me too. But something about Shanghai turns almost everyone into an entrepreneur. Ask most people what they do here, and their answer usually begins with, “Well, that’s a good question …” Most people I know have a few irons in the fire here. Maybe that’s why some people are calling Shanghai the new city of dreams.

So, I invite you to take a look at Mudan Boutique. I am really proud of the way the shop looks right now, and I really like the products we have been able to find thus far. We’re a small “company” — just a couple of us here in Shanghai and a couple of my oldest friends back in the States — but we have big plans and high expectations. Expect our product lines to grow in the very near future.

Mudan Boutique welcomes your input about anything. We have a boutique blog, a newsletter and you can always reach us by email: info at mudanboutique.com. If you are a China-based designer or artist and you think your work would be a good fit for Mudan Boutique, please email me directly at dan at mudanboutique.com.

You might also like to know that Mudan Boutique contributes five percent of net proceeds from each purchase to CARE, a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty.

So there you have it, my new baby Mudan Boutique. Please have a look and tell me what you think. Perhaps it (and Shanghaiist, celebrating its one-year anniversary today) offer some excuse for why I have been so out of reach and this site has been so neglected for, oh, I don’t know, the past year or so.

I sure am busy for an unemployed guy.

Mudan Boutique’s online store was designed by the great team at Rockbeatspaper and the product photography was taken by Brad at Shanghai Streets.

07.11.2006, 12:44 PM · Culture, Diary, Featured, Site News · Comments (1)

The Top 20 Albums Of 2005

chadvangaaleninfiniheart.jpgKind of hard to top that last post, so I won’t even try. I’m writing this from Manhattan’s Upper East Side. My fiancee (she has not changed her mind yet) in napping next to me. The sun is setting and everything is pink and gold outside my window on the 26th floor. We’re staying at my good friend Veronica’s place here in New York. Unfortunately, Veronica is not here — still sunning on one of the Caribbean islands. St. Barts, I think. Hopefully she gets back before Bliss and I fly back to Shanghai on the 6th.

We drove here in a rented Ford Taurus, through the Poconos along Interstate 380, where the roadside woods were either covered with snow or encased in ice. Trees, some leaning in from the weight, sparkled in the sunlight — they looked like they had tiny leaves carved out of crystal. The scene felt rather fragile, like one strong breeze could come in and shatter the entire forest and make it fall onto the soft bed of white waiting below.

During the ride we listened to Chad VanGaalen’s beautifully eery album Infiniheart, and that reminded me — although it appeared on Shanghaiist, I never posted my top albums of 2005 on this site. (And, no, not one reader has emailed to complain.)

For various reasons, I have failed to give this site the attention it deserves for the past half a year or so. I hope to change that soon. But my 2005 music list will have far fewer bells and whistles than my 2004 list. In fact, all you get are some snazzy italics. Anyway, for what it’s worth, here are my top 20 albums of 2005:

  1. Chad VanGaalen - Infiniheart
  2. Wolf Parade - Apologies To The Queen Mary
  3. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
  4. Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy
  5. John Vanderslice - Pixel Revolt
  6. My Morning Jacket - Z
  7. Bright Eyes - I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
  8. Andrew Bird - The Mysterious Production Of Eggs
  9. Spoon - Gimme Fiction
  10. Rogue Wave - Descended Like Vultures
  11. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
  12. of Montreal - The Sunlandic Twins
  13. Brakes - Give Blood
  14. Iron & Wine - Woman King EP/In the Reins EP (with Calexico)
  15. Superwolf - Superwolf
  16. Stephen Malkmus - Face The Truth
  17. The Decemberists - Picaresque
  18. M. Ward - Transistor Radio
  19. The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree
  20. The Capitol Years - Let Them Drink

Some images, links and mp3s can be found over at Shanghaiist or at my mid-2005 picks page. I may add albums beyond No. 20 as I think of them. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. If you are really quick, maybe I can be listening to some of your music picks on my long, long flight back to China.

The Top 25 Albums Of 2004
This is when I force my taste in music on you

On Shanghaiist:
Shanghaiist presents The Best Albums of 2005
25 after 7: The Best Music of 2005 (so far)

01.05.2006, 4:57 AM · Diary, Featured, Music · Comments (2)

HSBC Champions: Golf still an elitist pursuit in China

This story originally appeared on ESPN.com.

washburnespngolf11122005-2.jpgby DAN WASHBURN

Sheshan International Golf Club, site of this week’s HSBC Champions tournament, is about an hour west of Shanghai — if you are lucky. The only way to get there from downtown is a start-and-stop ride along the Hu Ning “Expressway,” an overcrowded stretch of asphalt that cuts through a grim part of the city you won’t find mentioned in any tour book. Most spectators are bussed in and bussed out and never set foot outside the picturesque private grounds. And if you were part of that crowd on Thursday and Friday, it would be easy to draw this conclusion: China loves Tiger Woods.

In a nation of 1.3 billion, crowds are not hard to come by. But on a golf course? That’s something new in a country with only an estimated 200,000 people who play the sport, a country that didn’t have a golf course until 1984. The gallery following Woods for the tournament’s first two rounds easily topped 1,000. Some guessed it was closer to 2,000. That’s more than four times the number of fans who followed Ernie Els during the final round of the BMW Asian Open here in May.

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11.15.2005, 11:04 PM · Featured, Sports, Stories

Unzipped: Doing my part to end poverty in China

myfirstinfomercial2.jpgI starred in my first infomercial yesterday. (Photos from the shoot)

I’m very proud of this.

Actually, no I’m not.

The advertisement was for a electric device that exercises your facial muscles by using “hi tech ti-golden prods” and an “internal intelligent chip” that emits “organism waves” and causes “facial musicales aerobics.”

I saw people using it. It looked dangerous.

I played the device’s inventor, Dr. James.

It was a funny day. And I took many notes. I kept the notepad in a zippered pocket of my backpack.

I also got paid 3,500 RMB. In cash, of course. Not bad for a day’s work. It wouldn’t fit in my wallet, so I placed it in the pocket with my notepad and my iPod and zipped it up. I would be taking a taxi home.

The filming was in an empty office building in Pudong. Pudong seems to have a lot of empty office buildings.

My taxi driver couldn’t go to Puxi. Traffic had been halted, during rush hour, on the Friday before one of the biggest Chinese holidays of the year. That makes sense.

So he dropped me off at the nearest subway station. I was wearing a tie. I never wear ties. Some of the cars were packed, but I walked to the front, where it was pretty empty.

People’s Square station was not empty. It was the opposite of empty. And people got pretty bunched up while I was transferring from Line 2 to LIne 1.

That’s probably when someone stole my money. All 3,500 of it.

And my notepad.

But not my iPod.

I said bad words when I discovered this.

Several of them.


My stomach tightened.

And I started to sweat.

Why did you steal my fucking notepad!

I met Johnson and Matthew Bell for much-needed drink. Johnson told me I never should have had my money in my backpack.

Thank you, Johnson.

I told them that it was ironic that I held my new phone in my hand, because I didn’t want to to get stolen.

“You could have bought two new phones with the money in the bag!” Johnson pointed out.

Thanks again.

None of this would have happened if my taxi could have made the trip to Puxi. And he couldn’t make the trip because of National Day.

So, I blame Mao.

Of course, maybe I should have read this more closely.

Perhaps this is my punishment for being a bad blogger recently. And I’m sorry for that. I’ve been very busy. With some projects you are aware of. And some that you aren’t. I plan to pay more attention to this website very soon. Some big changes are in store. I promise.

It is my National Day resolution.

But it will have to wait until after my trip to Xiamen, which begins in a few hours. I’ll get back on Wednesday.

Right now, I need to go shave. The director of the infomercial wanted me to be unshaven.

He said it made me look like a “power man.”

And we all know pickpockets love those.

10.01.2005, 3:05 PM · Featured, Observations · Comments (9)

Shanghai Diaries featured in TIME magazine

timeeuropeshanghaidiaries.jpgIt seems that when you neglect your blog for most of the month of July, major magazines take notice … and reward you for it. TIME magazine, in its Europe and Asia editions for August 8, ran a story titled “Web of Knowledge: Some of the most informative travel guides are now online,” by Graham Holliday, who writes a column called “Time Traveler.” Here’s an excerpt:

Planning a trip and need a heads-up on the hidden quarters and cool hangouts that the average visitor doesn’t get to hear about? Then leave your guidebook at home and instead let a growing army of travel bloggers show you the way. Traditional travel books often can’t compete with the vast breadth of information on the Internet — or a dedicated blogger’s constantly updated insights into his home turf or topic. So whether you’re after the best burger in Brooklyn or the hottest hotel in Berlin, simply log on. There’s a blogger waiting to help.

Our favorites:

SHANGHAIDIARIES.COM This stylish blog is the work of American journalist Dan Washburn, who moved to China in 2002. Alongside Shanghai restaurant reviews and city listings, you’ll find hundreds of articles, pictures and short videos. And if that isn’t enough coverage of China’s most dynamic city, Washburn also edits online city guide shanghaiist.com.

Other sites featured in the story are Notes From The Road, Vagablogging, Derelict London and Gridskipper.

While I’m bragging, Shanghaiist, my other online project, has been getting a fair amount of international attention, as well. You can read all about that here. And, in case you didn’t already know, the real brains behind both of these operations is Frank — he’s going to own the internet one day.

Story in TIME Asia
Story in TIME Europe

UPDATE: I am quoted, somewhat randomly, in Sunday’s New York Daily News. Rumor has it I will also be making make an appearance in Monday’s paper. And my friend Liu Yi should be featured in Wednesday’s Daily News.

08.05.2005, 11:59 PM · Featured, Site News · Comments (3)

The best steak in Shanghai

BEST OF SHANGHAI: ‘One man’s opinion’

IMGP0709.jpgI wasn’t expecting much from the Backyard Cafe, just a semi-normal sandwich within walking distance from the apartment. What I got was the best steak I’ve eaten in nearly three years in China. So tender, so tasty, so juicy … so ridiculously cheap. For just RMB 69, Backyard serves up a thick 220 gram beef tenderloin prepared on a proper outdoor grill. It comes topped with a black pepper sauce that provides just the right amount of spice and, as if that wasn’t enough, Backyard also throws in some spinach and potatoes, too. Still not enough? Add two ears of corn on the cob for 19 kuai. Yep, they’ve got that, too.

It was so perfect, I had to wonder — was this all a big joke? Was this some sort of Spanish Prisoner-esque ruse that ends with me returning to the restaurant the following day only to find that it’s really an abandoned warehouse and Steve Martin has run off with my life’s savings? (If so, the joke’s on you, Steve. I have no life’s savings. Ha!) Aware that Chinese television has been dabbling in reality, I started looking for hidden cameras, worried that I might be the unwitting subject of a new Shanghai TV production called The Make A Foreigner Think He Finally Gets A Good Steak In China And Then Visciously Rip His Heart Out And Dip It In That Brown Sauce His Ayi Drowns Everything In, Lycra Show. (It’s a working title.)

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07.21.2005, 8:38 PM · Best of Shanghai, Featured, Food · Comments (3)

ESPN.com’s package on golf in China

You just might recognize the author

ESPN.com, the internet’s sports website of record, is running two stories I wrote about golf in China:

Golf in China grows bigger by the day
Chinese events bring interesting questions

At the time of this posting, the package was ESPN.com’s featured story on the site’s main page. But that changes pretty often, so here is a screen shot. It’s also the lead story on ESPN.com’s golf page (screen shot).

And yes, I think this is all pretty cool. It’s not too often you get to write for one of your favorite websites. (Even if they do initially spell your name wrong.)

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05.19.2005, 2:20 AM · Featured, Sports, Stories · Comments (2)

The best events calendar in Shanghai

sdevents.jpgThat is, of course, if you want it to be

Look to your right. No, not that far. On your computer screen. On your web browser. On this web page. In that gray area over there. Below SPONSORS. Above SEARCH. Welcome to your very own Shanghai events calendar. I say “your very own” because that’s exactly what it is. You — the people of Shanghai — control the content of this calendar. And the 15 most current events will always appear under EVENTS on this website.

We are pulling events for our calendar from the Shanghai metro listing of a great site called Upcoming.org. Anyone can browse the listings at Upcoming, and registered users (it’s free) can add events, tag them, comment on events and “mingle” with people who have similar interests. Upcoming also allows you to create private events — ones that won’t appear on the main calendar — and you can use the site to organize the event and send out invites. Not bad.

Right now, thanks to me and Micah, Upcoming’s Shanghai metro has 60 events listed. That ties us with the San Francisco Bay Area for eighth most in the world. New York City is No. 1 with 267 events listed.

Currently, all of the Shanghai listings are either sports or music. I added the Shanghai schedules for the China Super League and the China Baseball League. And Micah added a bunch of listings from Shanghai’s underground music scene, which does indeed exist and is only getting better.

But for an events calendar like this to work, we need many more people to add listings — listings that cover a wide range of interests. So if you know of something that needs/deserves publicity, go add it to the list. And tell your friends to do the same. (Note: Right now all the Shanghai listings have address information in English and Chinese. It would be cool, and very helpful, if that trend would continue.) I know if I was in charge of publicity for a band, a bar, an art gallery — any event, really — I’d be all over Upcoming. It’s free. It’s easy. And it has the potential to be seen by many, many people.

I’ve always wanted a tool like this on the web — a listing of Shanghai events that I’d actually be interested in. I have one now. And you can too. Check it out.

04.13.2005, 2:25 PM · Best of Shanghai, Featured, Site News · Comments (2)

The best vegetarian restaurant in Shanghai

BEST OF SHANGHAI: ‘One man’s opinion’

My girlfriend is a vegetarian. Actually, no she’s not. Well … kind of. Really, she’s a pescetarian, but no one knows what the hell that means. So, she usually just tells people that she’s a vegetarian who eats fish — a label that likely infuriates hardcore vegetarians. But at least it’s not as bad as those “I am a vegetarian … but I eat chicken” posers. (I actually know a girl who is a “vegetarian” … but eats barbecued lamb skewers. That amuses me.)

My girlfriend, by the way, is now very close to dropping her pesce- prefix altogether. Why? Because a fish recently attacked her … in our kitchen. Earlier on the day in question, I had heard some strange noises coming from that part of the apartment. A crashing. A rattling. I couldn’t place the sound. I checked it out, saw nothing out of the ordinary, and assumed the sound came from some sort of construction project in my building — people are always drilling, hammering, scraping, sawing, etc., in this place (this place meaning China) … and sound travels all too well in uninsulated apartment buildings … especially when I am trying to sleep. So, I thought nothing of the noise — until my girlfriend screamed.

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03.30.2005, 1:28 AM · Best of Shanghai, Featured, Food, Observations · Comments (8)

Flavored condoms: Ice Cream, Green Tea and … Ordinary?

While Bliss paid our bills recently during a trip to a typically unfriendly neighborhood KEDI market — many bills get paid at 24-hour shops here in Shanghai — I perused the condom display rack, always good for a laugh. Always, indeed. Flavored condoms. Ice Cream. Green Tea. And, my personal favorite, Ordinary.

I find the concept of flavored condoms humorous to begin with, but I’ve also never had to taste a condom. So I guess they serve their purpose. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, right? (Or, in this case, it actually prevents it from going down.) Ice cream? OK, I guess I can undertand this one. But there are many flavors of ice cream out there. Let’s hope it’s not Mississippi Mud Pie or Moose Tracks or Brownie Batter or anything that ends in “nut crunch.” Something like Karamel Sutra seems appropriate. But, hell, it’s probably Green Tea Ice Cream.

Which brings us to our next condom flavor … Green Tea. You know that awful bitter aftertaste that green tea leaves in your mouth sometimes? I can’t imagine spunk tastes much worse than that. But this is China, so we have condoms flavored to taste like Green Tea. Now, the Sex Herald tells us that “the right cup of tea will turn us on.” But I would imagine that if a Green Tea Condom is already inserted in your mouth, getting turned on is not really the issue. Finally, we have the Ordinary flavored condom, which I think is the wild card here. Ordinary what? An ordinary condom? Latex flavor? If so, does that really count as a flavored condom? Or perhaps Ordinary means what we all really hope it means. Maybe the Ordinary Condom is flavored to taste like a penis.

03.24.2005, 4:35 PM · Featured, Humor, Observations · Comments (5)


Shanghai Diaries is a website about Shanghai, China ... and lots of other stuff. Voted Best Mainland China Blog in the 2004 Asia Blog Awards.

Editor: Dan Washburn

Related: Shanghaiist and Mudan Boutique

Dan is a freelance writer living in Shanghai. More about Dan.

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10.08.2005 (127 new)
Fujian Power!
Visit an old colonial island in Xiamen and huge earthen roundhouses in rural Fujian. Scenes from my National Day 2005 holiday.

10.08.2005 (41 new)
Go on the set for my very first infomercial! I play the role of “Dr. James,” inventor of a product called “Dolly.”

10.08.2005 (57 new)
Gaelic Football
Get some sweaty culture at the Asian Gaelic Games. Gaelic football comes to Shanghai!

10.08.2005 (14 new)
Xingfu 13
Jam with Xingfu 13 at the Shanghaiist.com launch party.

10.08.2005 (29 new)
Shanghai Sex Expo
Take a stroll through the Second Annual China International Adult Toys and Reproductive Health Exhibition, also known as the Adult Expo or the Adult-Care Expo.

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