So far on our journey through China we have explored the major cities of Beijing and Xi’an. But of course we couldn’t very well leave without stopping through Shanghai, right?! So on our final day in China, we crammed a full days’ worth of Shanghai fun into one day. We walked through the People’s Square to see the Shanghai Museum and then walked through a shopping center to enter into the Yuyuan Garden. Later, before we headed onto a cruise of the Huangpu River in the afternoon and then explore the Bund area, we made a quick visit to a Silk Museum to see how silk was made.
People’s Square: The People’s Square is a large public square surrounded by museums, halls, and a theater. Located in this area is the Shanghai Museum.
Shanghai Museum: The Shanghai Museum is a world-famous museum of ancient Chinese art. Inside, nearly 130,000 pieces of national treasures cover 21 categories, such as bronzes, ceramics, calligraphy, paintings, jade and ivory works, bamboo and lacquer wares, oracle bones, seals, coins, and artifacts of the ethnic minorities (the first four of which are among the best collections in the world).
- Chinese Bronzes: The Bronze Age in China started in the 21st century BC and lasted about 2,000 years through Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties. The bronzes, as a precious metal ware, were mainly used for ceremonial purposes by the upper class at that time. The variety and quantity of the bronzes that be used in an occasion could be a reflection of the owner’s social status and power. It was high-technically cast in great varieties of category, sophisticated shapes, and beautiful designs, and distributed in the middle and lower reaches both of the Yellow and Changjiang rivers and some remote border areas. The ancient Chinese bronze technology is one of the most important achievements of Chinese civilization.
- Ancient Chinese Sculpture: The Chinese sculptural art can be traced back to the prehistoric stone carving and pottery making. The large numbers of pottery and wooden funeral figurines of human beings and animals of the Warring States period and Qin and Han dynasties (5th century BC- AD 220) exemplified the native Chinese sculptural art. Along with the introduction of Buddhism in the turn of Western and Eastern Han dynasties (1st century), Buddhist sculpture developed quickly in China.
- Chinese Painting: Chinese painting is a national fine art of China, celebrated for its long history and distinctive styles. It emphasizes the execution of lines by brush strokes without any perspective limitation in subject expression, thus initiating a special painting system in the world of fine arts.
- Chinese Calligraphy: Chinese calligraphy is a very special Chinese art with a long tradition. The works displayed in the Calligraphy Gallery of this museum expose the evolution of Chinese characters, which show people’s long exploration in the beauty of the art of writing.
- Chinese Ming and Qing Furniture: Classical Chinese furniture developed from ancient times. The change of the habit of kneeling or sitting cross-legged on a platform to sitting with legs pendant on a stool give rise to the furniture of level height. The Ming furniture is characterized by a simple and elegant structure with fluent lines and appealing proportions. The Qing furniture, in contrast, is larger and more imposing with elaborate carving and inlaid decoration. Both types are of great charms in world furniture by their fine materials, special workmanship, and high artistic level.
- Ancient Chinese Currencies: Money emerged spontaneously in the circulation of commodities. In ancient China, cowries and livestock were used as a medium of exchange in late Neolithic period (21st century BC). This kind of money substitute was gradually replaced by the unwrought weight-metals and cast coins in the Shang and Zhou dynasties. Later, the cast coins as the major form of ancient Chinese currency developed very systematically. After Qin’s unification of the country (221 BC), the round-with-a-central-square-hole coins superseded all the previous types of the cast coins and circulated continuously until the Ming and Qing dynasties, though they varied in style with ages. By the time of the Song dynasty, Chinese paper notes appeared and were popularly used in the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. The silver dollars appeared in the Qing Daoguang reign period and the minted silver and copper coins circulated since the Qing Guangxu reign period. The development of monetary system in ancient China has a close connection with the history of the Chinese economy and politics.
History & Construction: Yuyuan Garden is a famous classical garden located in Shanghai, 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 its 400 years of existence, this garden has 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 it and spent more than 20 years reconstructing the buildings. During the Opium War of the 19th century, it was severely damaged. The garden seen today is the result of a five year restoration project which began in 1956.
About: 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 here: Sansui Hall, Wanhua Chamber, Dianchun Hall, Huijing Hall, Yuhua Hall and the Inner Garden. Each area features several scenic spots within its border.
Something to think about: We learned that there are 4 staples of Chinese gardens: rockery, pond, buildings (corridors), and plants.
Jade Rock (above): The true treasure of Yuyuan 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. It is said 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.
Silk Factory Tour: We caught a glimpse of the tedious way silk in made and the particular process that the Chinese use for making beautiful silk clothing and other silk materials. The process starts with the eggs of silkworms to worms’ production of fibers to make their cocoons. The silk is unraveled from the cocoons like thread from a spool. It was such a neat thing to watch.
Huangpu River Cruise (Yellow River): Called the “Mother River of Shanghai,” this yellow and ice-free river is 114 kilometers (about 71 miles) long and 400 meters (0.25 miles) wide with an average depth of nine meters (30 feet). It joins 29 kilometers (18 miles) north of downtown Shanghai and divides the city into two parts, east and west. Local people call them Pudong and Puxi. The Huangpu River is a multi-functional river with the values of drinking water, shipping, fishery, flood discharge, tourism and many other aspects. The famous Shanghai Port is situated on it. We took a cruise down the river.
The Bund: A famous waterfront, regarded as the symbol of Shanghai for hundreds of years, located on the west bank of Huangpu River. The most famous and attractive sight, which is at the west side of the Bund, are the 26 various buildings of different architectural styles including Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque, Classicism and the Renaissance.
Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!