Well, as you learned yesterday, my trip to Beijing didn’t happen because my daughters got sick. (Though my Wife and her Younger Sister made the trek.)

Today you’re learning that I didn’t make it to Shanghai either, partly because various folks I’d hoped to meet there were going to be out of town when I could make it there, partly because we had too much going on here around Xiamen and Anhai to keep us busy.

But I feel like writing something about Shanghai anyway. Here it is….

In the good old days of the 19th century, getting “Shanghai’d” wasn’t such a great thing, as it essentially amounted to being kidnapped and forced to work on a ship sailing to–in most cases–Shanghai. Certain bars in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington, in fact became notorious centers for the practice. (Underground tunnel tours in both cities feature information about the practice, in case you find yourself a tourist in either spot and want to learn more.) In this 21st century Internet age, however, you’re more likely to be roped into Shanghai by one of the numerous English language Web sites devoted to that great city.

But understand that these are not tourist Web sites, for those from Western countries who are planning a visit. No, these booming sites reflect the boom of Westerners who are invading Shanghai to live, to work, to play and–well, in some cases–to simply blog.

Before I introduce you to some of these leading sites, a word or two of background.

Nearly a century ago, before those minor interruptions of the Chinese Communist Revolution and years of hardline Communist rule, Shanghai was the happening place in Asia. Westerners had flocked there for business, missions work, and pleasure. In fact, it was a prime destination for many in the Leisure Classes of the United States and Europe, the Paris of the East.

It was also a financial center for that part of the world.

But then–pardon the overgeneralized history lesson—the Communists came into power, kicked out the foreigners and imprisoned, chased off, or executed the Chinese who were seen to be in collusion with the Foreign Devils. And Shanghai become just another city in Chairman Mao’s version of paradise.

But then fast-forward several years. Chairman Mao died. The Gang of Four fell from power, Deng Xiaoping said, “It doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice?”–not to mention “To get rich is glorious”–and suddenly the leading entrepreneurial and financial spirit that had left Shanghai to roost not too far away in Hong Kong for several decades began to return.

Already Shanghai is easily the financial capital of Asia again and, depending on which statistics you look at, is poised to give New York City a run for its money as financial capital of the world sometime in the next couple decades or so. (An article in this past weekend’s Seattle Times provides some additional food for thought on this “rise of Shanghai.”)

With all this activity going on in Shanghai, and so many Westerners taking up residence there, it should be no surprise that numerous Web sites are right there in the heat of things.

To get you started, here a just a few representative sites to help give you an idea of what’s going on in Shanghai, where I think there are now more Starbucks per capita than in Seattle.

  • Shanghai Expat–A comprehensive community portal for expatriates of other countries living (or planning to live) in Shanghai.
  • SmartShanghai.com–An urban webzine covering the nightlife, dining, culture, art, and stage in Shanghai.
  • Shanghaiist–Part of the “Gothamist” network, Shanghaiist is a website about Shanghai and everything that happens in it. That means news and events, restaurants and bars, happenings and goings-on.
  • China Herald–Weblog with daily updates of the news on the emerging civil society in China, from the quirky perspective of Brussels and Shanghai-based internet entrepreneur and China-consultant Fons Tuinstra.
  • Shanghai Diaries–Former U.S. journalist, now a freelance writer and editor in China, Dan Washburn has launched “a website about Shanghai, China … and lots of other stuff.” (He’s also the editor of Shanghaiist.com, mentioned above.)
  • Running Dog–News And Current Events From Shanghai, China and The World.
  • Shanghai Streets–An incredible photo blog documenting scenes and people on the–you guessed it–streets of Shanghai.
  • Shanghai Sky–Another incredible photo blog, this one Flickr-based, documenting scenes and events in Shanghai.

There are many more quality “Shanghai Sites,” but an hour spent browsing through just these–if you aren’t aware of what Shanghai has been up to in the past 25 years–will amaze and inform…and perhaps even change your view of the world.

And in case you missed Shanghai’s first heyday, check out this one:

  • Tales of Old Shanghai–“Documenting a vanished age in a city which gloried in being `The Paris of the East’ and wasn’t shy about being `the Whore of Asia’.”