Further Shanghai Explorations

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June 21st 2015
Published: June 27th 2015
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First stop, the Shanghai Museum. Short stay since I had plans to meet up with Kanon, a guy I met at breakfast at the hotel, who offered to show me around town. He’s originally from Shanghai and is visiting for some job interviews. At 32, he is far more traveled than most Chinese his age that I’ve met, having been around Europe and throughout a good deal of Asia, much of it on business. He’s just earned an MBA from a university in Singapore.

There’s a lot to take in at the Museum and my 1 ½ hours only allowed me to scratch the surface of two sections, bronze and pottery, each filling an entire floor. The short stay was a reminder of how far ahead of the West the Chinese kingdoms were in both technology and creativity in at least these two areas.

After meeting up with Kanon, we headed for a remainder of old Shanghai, the area around Yuyuan Gardens. This area was what was once all there was of Chinese Shanghai. We walked around some of the streets surrounding the Gardens and stopped for some food in a place where I was welcomed as the first foreigner they had served. On the menu, zongi, a bamboo-leaf wrapped glutinous rice/meat dish served during the current Dragon Boat Festival holiday. There seem to be many stories of the antecedents of the Festival. According to Kanon, one version is something involving a relationship between a poet and king, in which the poet ultimately committed suicide by drowning in the river. The local people, who admired the poet raced out in their boats to save him, or at least to retrieve his body…thus the dragon boat races. When they couldn’t find his body, they dropped rice balls into the water so the fish would eat those instead of the poet’s body…thus the zongi.

We next went on an exploration of the French Concession. Kanon grew up in the area, living a very unique life in Shanghai, since the Concession was and still is the most international of all areas of Shanghai. It is also another area relatively untouched by modern development. It is home for a number of consulates, restaurants, bars and boutiques. Built mostly in the mid-19th Century in the European style, it has wonderful tree-lined streets and the feeling of a calm residential neighborhood.

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