Saturday, April 26, 2008

Beautiful Buildings In Shanghai And Pictures That Should Have Been

It’s not often (actually, it's never happened before) that I stay away from blogging for so long, but this Asian cough or whatever finally did me in. Just don’t get too close to the screen and you should be fine.

My Shanghai adventures included a wonderful tour by an expatriate art expert, Michelle, who took us to see the Bund, Shanghai’s most famous street and district, and gave our little group an excellent historical, artistic and architectural appreciation for the area. In some ways, the history of this one street is really a microcosm of Chinese history during the late 19th and 20th centuries – from the Opium Wars through the Cultural Revolution to China today - and it is fascinating.

We took a local ferry to get there, which I admit I was a bit apprehensive about. Gosh, are you lucky that I wasn’t blogging when we went to Hawaii and took a catamaran to Lanai. I hung off the edge during our 2 hour return trip. My kids pretended not to know me and H wasn’t much better.

We followed the motorbikes onto the ferry after Michelle had bought our tickets, worth 7 US cents!!!

In the 7 minute crossing, Michelle told us about what were going to see. Many of the most impressive buildings were built as banks and then after Communism became the law of the land, these were transformed into other uses, including government buildings.

A magnificent example is the HSBC building.

It was built as a bank for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and in its time was the 2nd largest banking building in the world. Especially noteworthy are the magnificent mosaics which remain today only because of the intercession of a very clever architect. During the Cultural Revolution, when the Red Guards were destroying every vestige of the old China, the architect told them that stuccoing over the mosaics was more efficient than knocking them down. Thankfully, they agreed and in 1997, when the building was renovated, the mosaics were uncovered.

Unhappily, this is another place were pictures are not allowed. Since I started blogging, I really resent situations where I can't take pictures. With a guard standing 6 feet away, it would have been a little dicey to try. I still would have, but I didn’t want to entangle Michelle in my shenanigans.

But I want to know how this person got this picture. And after a little (okay A LOT) of sleuthing, I found another picture. Now THIS is what I’m talking about.

There are 8 frescoes around the circular foyer in the HSBC building. Each one represents a different city where the bank had branches - in places as far flung as Calcutta, New York and Bangkok. Incorporated in each one were landmarks of the city. New York’s has the Statue of Liberty and a perfect skyline of lower Manhattan. Paris’s background is Notre Dame and the Seine. These were accurate representations of how these cities looked at the beginning of the 1920’s and still look in many cases. I’m so unhappy not to have pictures…

We walked around many other buildings. Here is some of what we saw:

Okay, food is coming…Here’s a preview:

PS If you're planning a trip to Shanghai and want an excellent guide, email me for Michelle's particulars.


Emiline said...

Hope you get better soon! I'm wearing a surgical mask as I read this.

I like your pictures. It looks like a very gray and dismal day in Shanghai. I love days like that.

And that is one cheap ferry. Too bad about your sickening boat trip in Hawaii.

Sue said...

You are too funny! But I guess I should have gotten the hint when I saw people all of over the streets wearing masks. I just thought it was a quaint Chinese custom.

Yeah, Hawaii was paradise, except for the tortuous waves that surround all the islands.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I love your photos. I was very into the HSBC photos because they're a big client of mine, so I'm always visiting one of their offices when I'm doing training sessions.

So what were those edible things? I must know!

Feel better soon. My show has a bug ripping through the cast (one person got it so bad she left the show and they gave me her part - yay!) and I fear getting it. My throat was bad yesterday. I feel better today, but I have a whopper of a headache!

Sue said...

Hi Rach,
Wow, any chance you can make a trip to their Shanghai office? Maybe you could sneak in a few photos.

Those are spring rolls, which I wrote about in my next post. They were yummy!!!

Don't get sick! Make like the Chinese and wear a mask. I've never drunk so much tea or soup or consumed so much honey in my life. I'm giving it another week, before I get really po'ed.