At around 5:30am on June 27, an unoccupied building still under construction at Lianhuanan Road in the Minxing district of Shanghai city toppled over.  One worker was killed.  According to information, a 70 meter section of the flood prevention wall in nearby Dianpu River and that may have something to do with this building collapse.

But the high-resolution photos are really amazing.  What kind of construction would allow a building to just fall on its side with all the many windows still intact?


On June 27, a 13-story apartment building toppled over in the Riverside View Estate by the Lianhua River in the Minhang district, Shanghai city.  This drew netizen comments such as:

- The 2009 popular saying: A building says "I fall!!!" and it really fell.
- This is the first time that I saw a building collapse with such panache.
- The building said that it fell accidentally.  It also said that it will get up from wherever it fell.  Don't worry.
- While it stood, it was a commercial building; where it lays, it is a urn for ashed."
- The Transformers have arrived in Shanghai.
- Since high-level apartment buildings are no longer popular, the Urban Planning Department decided to let it lie down and be sold as single-story units.
- The significance of this building collapse is that it will create two new industries in China -- the business of predicting building collapses and the business of raising toppled buildings.
- Actually, the building has not collapsed.  The problem is that you have the wrong angle of observation.  From the viewpoint of the building, you are the one who has fallen down.
- The quality of Chinese window glass astonished the whole world.
- This is astonishing happiness is like watching a pretty woman trotting past you in a long skirt but suddenly she does a handstand and the skirt falls down to reveal all ...

I don't have the ability to determine the cause of the building collapse, but I am very interested in the comic effects as shown in the netizen comments.  Under normal circumstances, any building collapse should be a tragedy regardness of whether there were any inhabitants.  So why did the Shanghai building collapse create a comic effect?  I find it very funny.  William Hazlitt had this to say about funniness: "Something unexpected has happened.  If this incident is incongruous with the subject, people will laugh.  When this incongruity conflicts with social habits and the result contradicts normal expectations, it becomes funny."  Under this theory, I can imagine that when people read this story, they must be subconsciously thinking: Shanghai is not Wenchuan and there is no earthquake here, so how can this building fall down on its side?  People normally expects buildings to be like the Great Wall of China and stand forever.  But this building was dead before arrival.  This becomes exceedingly funny from whence came the comic results.

The netizen comments represent how they capture and respond to the comic effect.  When something funny happens, people cannot stop giggling, even loudly, in order to release the tension.  Who says the Chinese are not humorous?  Among the comments, we can see the netizens were adept in using various linguistic techniques.  Lu Xun lived in Shanghai and he said: "Comedy is about ripping about the valueless things for people to see."  When the building collapsed with the bottom exposed, this valueless thing was exposed and captured by the people.  As we look at this building, we remind ourselves of Mr. Lu Xun's teachings.

Of course, among this ecstatic talk, I also recognized that there is even much more information behind.  For the longest time, the public have paid a certain degree of attention to issues such as the quality of public housing, "tofu dreg" construction projects and so on.  The underlying problems such as government-business collusion, shortchanging on labor and materials and so on remain unsolved.  The collapse of this Shanghai building woke up people's memories and linked it to these other past incidents.  When people are unable to discuss such problems normally, they have to resort to using sarcasm, humor and spoofing.  Therefore, this kind of ecstatic talk may seem cold-hearted but it is actually a distorted expression of deep pain inside the heart.

Once we realize this, we are not longer shocked by the Internet talk.  In my judgment, these subtle, humorous and wise expressions represent the maximum truth under the current conditions.



  • Why Did The Apartment Building In Shanghai Collapse?  (07/01/2009)  (

Final design of the Riverside View Villas

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