More on Shanghai

Rocking out to one very awesome Christmas music playlist right now. There’s a surprising amount of history behind the various recordings of pieces, but I’ve managed to find most the “classic” recordings. Of the ones I’ve found, of course; there are a lot of great Christmas songs, and I’m only about half-way to getting a complete list.

Anyways, there have been some nice adventures these past 3 days. Two days ago was the Pearl Tower and Shanghai History Museum. Yesterday was largely the Yu Gardens, and today was the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center and the Shanghai Museum.

While we were walking around Yu Gardens yesterday, my dad offhandedly said, “There are two big tourist traps in Shanghai. Number one is the Pearl Tower. Number two is Yu Gardens.” For a moment, it felt like a far-shoulder tap, since we had seen both. Every tourist sees him or herself (is that “him or herself” or “himself or herself?”) as the one tourist who knows the hot spots, who only surreptitiously takes pictures, who blends into the natives. But that can’t be everyone.

Tourist traps aren’t just popular sites; they’re the generic ones. They’re built up as modern wonders, yet the only wonder is in the visitors of where the time went. We travel the world to see something new, but not everything is new. Not every park is spectacular. Not every shopping center is new. Not every palace strikes awe.

The Pearl Tower was just another high point. I’ve been to the top of the Tokyo Tower, the Empire State Building, and Victoria Peak (thought not the CN Tower). Sure, the view can be pretty cool, especially at sunsets. Unfortunately, the tops of buildings usually aren’t well-decorated. And I think the postcard makers have ruined the charm of it. Algother, the Pearl Tower was just a trap.

Yu Gardens was only somewhat better. Filled with ponds, classic Chinese architecture, and much greenery, it was very nice. Throw in running water and electricity, it would be a great place to live. It, however, wasn’t new. Kind of a combination of the Huaqian Hot Springs and the Forbidden City.

They were traps, absolutely. Neither were the paramount example of their class, and certainly were well-within their classes. But I’ve still managed to convince myself that it was for the best that I saw them. Very well-made traps.

Today’s trip was somewhat different. It’s been somewhat yucky around Shanghai for the past couple days. Falling water tends to discourage outdoor activities. With all the rain today, we decided to make the museum run. The Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center was added at the recommendation of a friend, and ended up being an interesting addition.

It is what it sounds like: a big show of what Shanghai is planning for city development. With the World Expo arriving in 2010, Shanghai is another place for China to show off its new face (Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics being the first). In their 9th five-year plan, Shanghai has many environmental, technological, and societal targets, such as 40% green coverage of land and increased area of internet infrastructure. A large model of the Shanghai-Pudong area almost covered a whole floor with detailed reproductions of the whole area, including future development.

The Shanghai Museum was largely what I expected: artifacts of Chinese culture, including pottery, sculptures, seals, coins, calligraphy, and paintings. What was unusual was an exhibit on Rembrandt and Dutch Humanist art. This, too, was probably blunted by the “Dali’s Dreams” exhibit in the Urban Planning Center on Salvador Dali’s work.

One goes to China and expects to see Chinese culture. Instead, parts of it are just like home. It’s fair for the exhibits to be there. Collections move around the world so everyonce can see them. I remember going to the Houston Museum of Natural Science to see an exhibit on Kremlin Gold and Russian treasures. That’s no different than Rembradt in Shanghai. (I would provide a good insightful comment here, but I’m drawing a blank. Is blogging different in this respect than normal writing (with no editing)?)

Be patient on pictures, too. I’d upload to Facebook, but internet is a little slow here. But don’t get too anxious. I have the feeling I’m just going to pick the ones that I have quips for you, and you know how much funnier I think I am than I actually am.

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