A Shanghai High
- I want to thank Susie Berteaux for being the guest blogger for the last two excellent posts, “Fairy Tale Updated” and ” Go for Broke”, while I was having a wonderful two-week adventure in China. Shanghai, our first gateway city to China — aka “the Paris of Asia”– is renowned for its historical landmarks: the Bund, the Yuyuan classical Ming gardens, the French and British Concessions, as well as the extensive and growing skyline, the “showpiece” of the booming economy of mainland China.
- Shanghai is bisected by the Huangpu river, a tributary of the famous Yangtze, and a wonder to behold at night. Riding on a boat with about a hundred Chinese tourists, we looked to the left to see what 19th century Shanghai looked like–Parisian in feeling–and to the right to see what the 22nd century might be. Shanghai is “Paris meets Blade Runner”. Words cannot describe the dazzling light show on the facades of 127-story gravity-defying skyscrapers with images projected and controlled by computer programs. They are jaw-dropping, stiff-neck inducing miracles of architectural design! These buildings are so unbelievable they looked like a movie set for “Mission Impossible”. No wonder American action films (including the new James Bond movie) are partly filmed on location in Shanghai! Despite meteoric redevelopment, the old city still retains beautiful traditional buildings, both European and Chinese. One of the most interesting in the Bund was the secret meeting place for the first Congress of Mao Tse-tung, carefully preserved with rare photographs of Mao and his key advisors. Additional photographs of American and European politicians with Mao are also prominently displayed. During the Second World War 20,000 Jews fled Hitler’s regime to seek refuge in Shanghai and formed a vibrant community centered on the Ohel Moshe Synagogue, which is preserved as part of Shanghai’s complex religious past. (There is also a Muslim Street and mosques in the area.)
From neoclassical to art deco, Shanghai’s rich collection of architectural styles are visual teasers. Award-winning international post-modern buildings are being constructed by the hundreds per year in this thriving metropolis of 25 million people. In recent years, a large number of architecturally distinctive– even eccentric– buildings have sprung up throughout Shanghai. Among the noteworthy examples of contemporary architecture is the Shanghai Museum, designed by prominent local architect Xing Tonghe.
Designed in the shape of an ancient Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BCE) bronze ritual vessel, the Shanghai museum has an entire floor (out of five floors) devoted to these exquisite 4000 year-old artifacts. This is the best collection in the world. The building has a round top and a square base, symbolizing the ancient Chinese perception of the world as “round sky, square earth” and was partly designed by a French architectural team as well.
There is no way to truly communicate to anyone the splendor of this city, like no other I have ever visited. Seeing is believing. This was a Shanghai high–a razor’s edge of fantasy and reality!