Thursday, July 1, 2010

May 15: Shanghai

Breakfast was amazing! My first Chinese breakfast and first meal in china was everything I imagined and more--baozi, mantou and lots of it!

Today’s plans for the group are to go shopping on the famous Nanjing Road. We are taken by bus to the area of Nanjing Road and the sights are a feast for my senses. I usually get car sick if not driving or in the passenger side but my mind is pleasantly distracted.

Shanghai is enormous! Not so much in size, although it is large, but in height. Tall buildings everywhere and multiple layers of roads stacked in some places 5 high. Along all of the roads are beautiful flowers being carefully tended to by workers standing by the sided of the road as if cars, trucks and buses weren’t flying by them.

Many of the buildings were new and modern, but in between them were older ones. Occasionally you could see remnants of a more traditional style of neighborhood, the hutong, as you peered over the railing on the roadway.

I tried to decipher the Chinese characters, hanzi, on the signs to no avail. I may have studied about 200 of them but I wasn’t able to recall them. There are still beautiful. I made a mental note to practice more while I am here.

We arrived at the Huangpo, western side of the Yangtze River. There appeared to be a festival of some sort going on as there were dancers in costumes performing.

So much to see and so little time. We were given 2 hours to shop Nanjing street and meet to be taken over to the area of Old Shanghai for more shopping, lunch and visiting the Yu gardens.

In Old Shanghai I explore the alleys and shops after grabbing a yummy lunch from a small food stand. It was veggies and eggs on a steamed rice pancake. I folded it up like a wrap and gobbled it down. It was delish.

The buildings housing the shops have been made to look like traditional style homes with ornate patterns in the wood work.

In the narrow alleyway I find one of the items I wanted: a scroll writing store. I wanted to get something special for my son who was given a Chinese name by dear friends. I went in and admired the work asking them to make one for me. They did and with both his English and Chinese name. It was just what I wanted. He will love it.

Gathered up my purchases and headed to the meeting area in the center square overlooking a koi pond and an old tea house to people watch while waiting for the rest of the group.

To get to the Yu Gardens you have to cross a narrow zig-zag bridge over the koi pond. It is packed so full of people that the only way to make it through the crowd is to join the local custom of shoving your way through the crowd.

We make it across and it was worth every elbow to the ribs.

After exploring and enjoying the 400 year old complex we returned to our bus and headed back to campus. I am still pinching my self. I am really in China!


About the Yu Gardens (from

Yuyuan Garden is a famous classical garden located in Anren Jie, Shanghai. The garden was finished in 1577 by a government officer of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) named Pan Yunduan. Yu in Chinese means pleasing and satisfying, and this garden was specially built for Pan's parents as a place for them to enjoy a tranquil and happy time in their old age.

In the 400 years of its existence, Yuyuan Garden had undergone many changes. During the late Ming Dynasty, it became very dilapidated with the decline of Pan's family. In 1760, some rich merchants bought Yuyuan Garden and spent more than 20 years reconstructing the buildings. During the Opium War of the 19th century, Yuyuan Garden was severely damaged. The Yuyuan Garden you see today is the result of a five year restoration project which began in 1956. The garden was open to the public in September, 1961.

Yuyuan Garden occupies an area of 20,000 square meters (about five acres). However, the small size is not a representative of the attractions of the garden. The pavilions, halls, rockeries, ponds and cloisters all have unique characteristics. There are six main scenic areas in the garden: Sansui Hall, Wanhua Chamber, Dianchun Hall, Huijing Hall, Yuhua Hall and the Inner Garden. Each area features several scenic spots within its borders.

Upon entering the garden, you will encounter a rockery, which is called the Great Rockery. With a height of 14 meters (about 50 feet), it is the largest as well as the oldest rockery in the southern region of the Yangtze River. On the top of the rockery, you can get a bird's eye view of the garden. Cuixiu Hall sits at the foot of the rockery. It is a quiet and elegant place surrounded by old trees and beautiful flowers. Visitors will find curio shops in the Cuixiu Hall.

Sansui Hall was built in 1760 and was originally used to entertain guests. Later it became a place to hold ceremonies for the gentlemen and bookmen. With a height of nine meters (about 30 feet) and featuring five halls, it is the largest and most commodious structure in the garden. The name Sansui is derived from the book History of the later Han Dynasty, and means 'propitious' and 'lucky'.

Wandering in the area of Yule Pavilion and Wanhua Chamber, you will find pavilions, corridors, streams, courtyards as well as many other natural features. Wanhua Chamber is a delicately chased building surrounded by derious cloisters. Spring bamboos grow beside the cloisters. In front of Wanhua Chamber, there are two old trees. One is a maidenhair tree which is 21 meters tall (about 70 feet).It is said that the tree was planted by the host of the garden 400 years ago.

The Dianchun Hall area is located east of Wanhua Chamber, and includes Hexu Hall, Relic Hall, Ancient Well Pavilion, and the Acting-and-Sing Stage. Dianchun Hall was once the headquarters of Xiaodao Hui, a revolted group who fought against the government of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) during 1853-1855. The coins made by Xiaodao Hui and the bulletins they proclaimed are currently displayed in the hall.

The true treasure of Yuyuan Garden is the Exquisite Jade Rock. Located across from Yuhua Hall, it is one of the three famous rocks in the southern region of the Yangtze River. (The other two are Duanyun Feng in Suzhou and Zhouyun Feng in Hangzhou.) The rock is 3.3 meters (about 10.8 feet) in height and has 72 holes.

What is interesting about this rock is that if you burn a joss stick just below the rock, the smoke will magically float out from all of the holes. Similarly, when you pour water into the rock from top, the water will flow out from each hole creating a spectacular sight to see. Pan Yunduan was very fond of the Exquisite Jade Rock, and he built Yuhua Hall facing the rock so it was convenient to sit in the hall and admire it. The furnishings in the hall were made of top grade rosewood of the Ming Dynasty, appearing both natural and graceful.
The Inner Garden was a separate garden built in 1709, but is now a part of Yuyuan Garden in the south. The Inner Garden is compact and exquisite, and the rocks, pavilions, ornamental ponds and flower walls offer some of the most attractive sceneries in Yuyuan Garden.

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