Snapshot: Shanghai’s Perilous Carts

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The sight of carts, bikes and trucks piled to overflowing with precarious cargo loads is relatively common in China, even in modern Shanghai. Capturing footage these gravity-defying feats of packing can be a bit of a challenge as you often don’t see them until they are already passing. Several times I found myself standing open-mouthed on a Shanghai sidewalk while some outrageously towering cart rumbled by.

Among my favorites were the industrious local recyclers who often had a coworker ride atop the day’s haul of plastics and cardboard. Shanghai’s loads often weren’t as stupefying as those we saw in Vietnam, but they still brought me no small amount of amusement. Here are a few of the best I managed to photograph during my two years in the city. Let me know which ones you find the most astounding in the comments!


As you can (barely) see, there is a bicycle under all those boxes. And the driver was nonchalantly talking on the phone while driving through speeding traffic! Even local Chinese stopped to gape at this one.


A modest amount of recycling.





Just so we’re clear, there are two people, some boxes and a bicycle in the back of this cart.



Can you imagine the outrageous noise all that bubble wrap would create if dropped onto the highway and run over?


I actually saw several of these massive loads of chairs while in Shanghai. At least the guy pulling the cart has a place to sit should he get tired.


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Okay, this isn’t a cart, but it’s certainly perilous!


It’s a mobile toy store!

22 thoughts on “Snapshot: Shanghai’s Perilous Carts

  1. Hey, I am very surprised to see migrant workers carrying tons of stuff on little bike in the so called luxurious Shanghai. It is an interesting point to demonstrate the widening gap between the super rich and utterly poor people in China. Thanks for sharing more photos!

    • Thanks Matthew! You’re right, the gap between rich and poor is widening and very visible. I have another collection of luxury cars cruising the streets of Shanghai I’ll share soon. The middle class is growing, though, and I’ve read that the recyclers actually make more per month than the taxi drivers!

  2. Great collection! I saw a guy yesterday with water filled aquariums on his cart I couldn’t believe it and the lights turned against me before I could get a photo. Th truck one is my favourite.

    • The cart of chairs just kills me because the poor guy had to pull it by hand! I hope he didn’t have far to go. We saw some real head-scratchers in Vietnam, like two guys carrying a giant mirror and another family with a live hog strapped to the back of their bike! I can’t imagine how they got him on there.
      Heather Hall recently posted…Snapshot: Shanghai’s Perilous CartsMy Profile

  3. Thanks for sharing with us some candid shots in Shanghai. I found it also in Philippines. Carts that are very helpful because they used it as a source of their livelihood.

    • Yes, it’s amazing what one can do with a cart and a little ingenuity. I’ve read that some of Shanghai’s recyclers earn more money than the taxi drivers!

    • LOL I know, right? I would have loved to watch the first one with all the white boxes being loaded. I just can’t imagine how they were able to achieve that near-perfect balance! This is definitely another thing I’m going to miss about China.

  4. Haha, this is amazing! You have quite the photo collection going on. I am always baffled by the things I see people carrying in carts or even the back of their motorbike. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. I was totally amazed by what they were able to carry on their bikes and carts! The one that impressed me the most was the chairs. They must have been super heavy, but he was motoring down the street so fast I couldn’t get a good photo. Glad you could move faster! You don’t have pictures posted of them, but I liked the ones with all the balloons. They were so colorful! Good post.

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