Contrasts of Shanghai

After last week’s trip to Shandong we decided to go to Shanghai for the Easter weekend. Well, the Easter holidays are really not important in China, I did not discover a single piece of information telling me about this Christian holiday. The only religious activity I noticed, was the birthday of Guanyin Pusa on Good Friday. Actually it was only by chance that her birthday was celebrated that day, because the it is calculated from the Chinese calender.

Drum school in Shanghai
Students learning a traditional drum performance in front of Pudong’s skyline.

Shanghai is a thriving city, it seems to be more lively than Beijing, but this might be a matter of climate: While it is still considerably chilly in Beijing, Shanghai has experienced temperatures that made it possible to only wear a pullover or even a T-shirt.
Shanghai seems to be a more westernized (or “taiwanized” as my roommate called it) city than Beijing – more people are speaking English, the clothes are like in cities in Europe or the US. There are also more tourists exploring the city than in Beijing (well, I hardly got to any tourist places in Beijing yet, whereas I went to the main tourist attractions in Shanghai, so I don’t know, whether this really is true). And when having a large groups of tourist, peddlers who want to sell their useless stuff are numerous and you need to say “Bu yao” much too often.

Shanghai lights at night
Lights of Shanghai as seen from the Jinmao Tower.

Shanghai is also a city with big contrasts: The skyline is already impressive and new high rises are build on the rare free spots in the Pudong area which was declared to a special economic area in 1990. Until then it mainly consisted of farmland, now it features not only the Jinmao Tower, China’s highest building, but also several bank headquarters and has become a symbol of China’s economic raise.
On the other hand bank (of Huangpu river) there are still some old quarters with narrow streets, chatting neighbors in Shanghai dialect (that I don’t understand at all) and clothes drying outside the windows. On the little little street markets are few tourists but a lot of tasty food…
Once again it was astonishing how close such large contrast are. Only a few minutes on foot and the whole scenery has changed.

In Shanghai we also visited two large temples on Good Friday, the Longhua and the Yufo (Jade Buddha). The first one was really impressive because on Guanyin’s birthday the temple was filled with praying people and not only with tourists. We actually had lunch at the temple with hundreds of other people honoring Guanyin. The Jade Buddha temple is closer to downtown and obviously visited by more tourist groups – actually we ran into a German group that day in the temple. But the entrance ticket was more expensive than at the first temple and one had to pay extra to see their best Buddha statues.

Longhua Temple in Shanghai
Worshipers at Guanyin’s birthday.

We also visited two museums in Shanghai, the “Shanghai Museum” and the museum that was built at the place where the party’s first congress had been taken place. The Shanghai Museum has an interesting architecture and the pieces on display were really fascinating. In contrast to the American Indian Museum in Washington, D.C. current problems are not mentioned, for examples tensions with minorities were omitted , instead a sign read: “Our splendid and glorious Chinese civilization is the result of integration of various nationalities that have lived in China.”
The founding museum of the CCP was not exactly giving a neutral view, but as we did not expect such thing, we took it as an interesting place to see how history is written (and changed) in China. So even if Shanghai might be a city with lots of banks and businesses and its people obviously love to go shopping in the exclusive boutiques and shopping malls, China after all calls itself a developing country under a Communist leadership.

Food on a street market
Food on a street market.

During our stay we went up the Jinmao tower to the 87th floor and enjoyed the view over Shanghai’s evening lights. We strolled the busy streets and rested in Shanghai’s parks, had a chance to get a boat trip on the Huangpu river and were putting a one-day-trip to Hangzhou into our visiting program. Even though we had four days to visit, it seemed a little short for such a big city. To get the maximum time for the stay, we left Beijing on Thursday evening with the overnight train and got back on Monday evening by plane. That way we also got to see the futuristic Pudong airport that is linked with Shanghai by a 30 km magnetic levitation train (actually the train was build in my hometown in Germany). We stayed in a cheap youth hostel located right next to the People’s Square, it’s location brought Nanjing Donglu, Shanghai’s most famous shopping street, museums and the subway station into walking distance.

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6 Responses to “Contrasts of Shanghai”

  1. Olga Says:

    上海看起來真繁榮,很像台北的感覺,有摩天大樓, Muzeum, 很多小吃 schmeken gut! Mat 你這四天的假期過得似乎真不錯! 在台灣我的學校中興大學(我相信你一定還有印象)也有放春假(4/4~4/8),是五天比你的多一天!我跟我的朋友們(包括你認識的Tim)10個人,去台北吃蛋糕吃到飽,坐火車去花蓮,租機車上Taroko冒險, rode bike along the east coast, swimming in the beach and rafing! Ich habe einen interessant Urlaub auch! Aber ich müss ihr zusammen in China machen Urlaub! ^0^

  2. beijing07 Says:

    我不一定把這四天看作假期,因為我禮拜一,禮拜五總都沒有課,所以我個週末是那麼長.雖然別的天,課程比較緊,但是我每個週末有機會去旅行或發現北京的有意思的地方.
    台北十分留下了很深的印象.上海使我紀念台灣,因為上海有時候很像台灣,很像台北. 比如在上海大樓非常多,摩托車也不少(在北京機車沒有拿麼多). 在上海連一個茶店我們也看到啦!

  3. Olga Says:

    Mat, 我七月可能會去大陸旅行,可以去北京找你們玩嗎?
    我還想要去南京跟我的故鄉~福建

  4. beijing07 Says:

    你真的打算來大陸嗎? 如果你來北京的話,一定要來找我們! 我們七月底有終期考試,以後我有時間去旅行. 我先想跟別的同學一起去內蒙古,然後可能去中國的南部.

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