Style | Diary of a Somebody

Yann Debelle de Montby

The luxury consultant on the frustrations and rewards of life in Shanghai

Yann Debelle de Montby

Image: Derrick Santini

April 26 2011
Yann Debelle de Montby

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

I woke early this morning, amazingly with the sound of singing birds – so clear and loud that I thought for a moment I had left all my windows open. I could not hear any sounds of cars or human voices. Just the wonderful, almost crystalline songs of two or three birds calling out and answering each other.

This is what truly surprises me every day in Shanghai, this constant contrast between noise and music, between ugliness and beauty, between past and future. Life here is not always the way we would like it to be, but it is just the way it is, with all its downsides, but also with all those feelings that make one feel truly alive in China in general, and in Shanghai in particular.

China is everything you read about it. And for us foreigners, it’s difficult to understand the way the Chinese do business; and yet, at the same time, I have found it easier and often more rewarding than in the rest of the world. Words such as trust, friendship, reputation and generosity seem to be the basis of whatever you try to do in China.

I am a born collector. I do not collect specific kinds of object: I collect all objects that inspire me. I do believe that objects sometimes have a “soul”, and that’s what I am looking for. The eclecticism of my search reflects the diversity of my creativity in my different projects.

The latest addition to my collection is a beautiful turtle shell ingrained with gold and silver Chinese letters, which nobody seems to be able to read. The turtle shell, coming from a mountain turtle, seems to be a very old one and it has got such a beautiful patina! I love it because it is a true discovery, I think quite rare (I found it in a flea market) and because it has a tremendous “presence”. It is quite big (about two feet long) and came as a perfect addition to my numerous wooden statues from Africa and Oceania. I will try to contact a Chinese anthropologist or ethnologist to help me to understand what the beautiful and complex writing on my turtle shell means.

See also

People, Shanghai