Sunday, October 19, 2008

Visiting the ‘Paris of the Orient’

Today Shanghai is once again worthy of its 1930’s title, ‘Paris of the Orient’. At night the city lights transform the Bund area into a magical and colourful world, reflected in the Huangpu River which glides through the city.

Although it has become a cosmopolitan economic centre, Shanghai also has much to offer in terms of tradition and the celebration of art. In fact, the Shanghai Museum has won many awards and displays a proud selection of some of China’s most important cultural relics.

My own personal favourite is the hall dedicated to Chinese paintings. The whimsical brushstrokes and calligraphy tell enchanting stories of a spiritual life that honours beauty and is lived close to nature. As with Chinese calligraphy, these paintings are so delicate and it represents an era where people still had time to express their highest abilities.

Other halls exhibit Chinese ceramics, bronze and other sculptures, jade, furniture, currencies, ethnic arts and crafts as well as ancient Chinese seals. Although these distinctive seals were first used as a validation of authority it eventually became widely used as a personal signature and was fused with the art of calligraphy and painting.

What is astonishing is the depth of history that is contained inside this modern museum. It spans 5000 years worth of history from the Neolithic Age through the Ming and Qing Dynasties, while I even spotted some pottery shards from 6800 BC.

The museum shop is supposedly a great place to shop for souvenirs but as I am heading for the Yu Yuan garden and market I end up buying only with my eyes. Outside the door two young Chinese women ask me to take pictures of them.

“We’re visiting Shanghai from the north for a friend’s wedding,” says Yan Dan, “If you don’t mind, you can join us for a tea ceremony. We would like to practise our English and it would be nice for you to see this tea celebration.”

Considering my insatiable passion for Oriental tea, I cannot believe my luck. I look into Yan Dan’s eyes for a few seconds to try and gage if I can trust this stranger. Why do I always have this issue with trust?

Then I think of my mom’s words: “Who risks nothing has nothing and is nothing,” and promptly accept their invitation.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lize
En hoe was die tee en die ervaring?!

Mona Lize said...

Heerlik! Nounet updated. Ongelukkig wou hulle my nie toelaat om fotos te neem nie. Dit was pragtig daar binne. Goed gaan.