"Before you can search for truth, you must be interested in finding it." -Miroslav Volf

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Holiday Travel Phase Two: Shanghai

My sense of wonder, the way I’m working with a loose plan but improvising on some of the details as I go, and the pleasure of meeting various “characters” along the way—these things make this trip comparable in ways to my excursions through central Europe in ’07 and through South America in ’08. This trip has been fun, but educational and perspective-expanding as well, in that it has given me a fuller picture of China: beyond just small-town Xiaogan (only 400,000 people after all) and into big international city life in Shanghai and fishing village life in Xiangshan.

Shanghai…wow. It is one of the more fascinating cities I’ve visited. I’ve never been to New York, but I imagine the feeling of wandering through its streets for the first time is similar to that of navigating Shanghai. Shanghai fascinates not only with what is without a doubt the most creative and diverse modern architecture I’ve ever seen, but also its natural blend of old and new in many parts of the cities. While in places like Prague or Venice, I felt the enchantment of these cities; I think in Shanghai I felt the city’s excitement, a liveliness that captivated me in a different way than these other places.

A summary in pictures…

This was the afternoon worship service of the monks who live and work at the Jade Buddha Temple, one of the hot tourist spots in Shanghai. It was a beautiful and peaceful setting, with elaborate artwork and design. What made this temple especially interesting was that I was able to people-watch a bit and observe numerous worshippers coming to light incense or bow or give money or ask for blessings from the numerous buddhas (all offering different kinds of blessing or meeting different "needs") situated around the temple area. I also enjoyed a lengthy conversation with Craig, a Chinese man who worked at the temple. We had an engaging discussion about our respective religious beliefs, he very intrigued about my Christian faith and what being a pastor looks like, and I very curious about the richness of Buddhism and the level of devotion among the Chinese people, especially among younger people. Which is surprisingly high, according to him...I think maybe there was an era where religion was discouraged as a threat to communist ideals but, as China has changed over time, it has made a place for its cherished ancient religions once again. It was a great dialogue, reminding me again of the treasures in other religions that might enhance our own experience of God and the Christian mission, treasures we tend to miss for whatever reason...some kind of fear, maybe...maybe misunderstanding of where real "evil" is found...or maybe just lack of curiosity.

The prominent structure here is the Pearl TV Tower, overshadowing many other unique buildings on the far side of the river, which you might notice if you look close enough.

The Bund. The famous waterfront street, a distinctly different style from both modern and ancient structures laden throughout the city; this is much more an echo of colonial European influence in Shanghai. Also, many interesting areas of the city were unfortunately under construction in preparation for the World Expo beginning this summer, such as the lengthy promenade along the water.

Nothing too flashy here, other than some interesting brickwork and kind of a quaint feel; I show this because this is the site of the first congress of the communist party in China, led of course by Chairman Mao. There was a nice little museum inside.

Xin Tian Di. This is a popular hub for young Chinese and expats, a neighborhood of restaurants with an international flair. There were Italian, German, Latin, and Thai restaurants, even a Cold Stone. If I lived in Shanghai, I would definitely hang here a lot, as a lot of the restaurants also have live music at night. It’s also a great place to meet people, with plenty of Americans and Europeans and English-speaking Chinese.

Nanjing Rd. A lengthy commercial walking street, a shopper’s paradise, and for me…well…nice to look at. Polished, classy, and lively.

Yuyuan Garden. A gorgeous, ancient park area with a lot of elaborate “rock art” and areas separated by wall and rock designated for contemplation and relaxation, theatrical performance, study, meeting—used for all these things in the past, now mostly a tourist site.

This captures the blend of Shanghai's architecture, with three distinct styles seen here.

Love the blend of ancient and modern here. I passed on DQ, opted for Starbucks.

I have no idea what this place is or WHY it is…but it is.

A shot from the Shanghai Museum, considered the best museum in China. They had some great exhibits of pieces throughout China’s many dynasties, including money, sculpture, weaponry, calligraphy, painting, jade, furniture, and—of course—china.

A collage of skyscraper shots.

Live music at The Paulaner, a German restaurant in Xin Tian Di, on my last night in Shanghai. The all-Philipino band played a variety of American tunes, mostly 70s rock and disco. Talk about a multicultural experience! All enjoyed with an old friend—German wheat beer.


Marie said...

thanks for the pics. Very interesting to see a place I've never been.

Barb said...

Ah yes, a hefeweizen!

Great pic's. Quite a contrast between the old and the new.