Part 2: Shanghai

The following day, we spent some time in the South Bund Fabric Market. It was a market filled with cloth of all different hues and textures. Per a Time Out Shanghai 2011 recommendation, we found the stall 273 by Jennifer. I have never gotten any clothing made by scratch before so it was quite an experience. It was fairly simple. First, I flipped through books of shirts, suits, and other outfits to chose the style I wanted. Then I found the cloth and color I wanted. Next, Jennifer took my measurements and it was done. We were instructed to come back a few days later. It usually takes a week but we had to rush order our clothes since we were leaving in less than a week. It was a fascinating experience.

Then we went off to Yuyuan Gardens. The area is a mix of bustle and serenity. The gardens are located in the middle of a bustling bazaar filled with all sorts of souvenir shops. There are people everywhere, a mix of tourists and people hawking various goods. Once you get close to the gardens, there is a lovely pond with a tea house in the middle of it. Leading from the chaos to the tea house is a zig zagged bridge. I was told that there is a  belief that spirits can only travel in straight lines so they would be perplexed by this zig zagged bridge. We stopped to have some tea inside, which I highly recommend. I ordered flowering tea. It’s something I’ve been told about but haven’t actually done before. I was served a clear glass with a ball of tea inside of it. In two minutes, the ball would bloom into a lovely flower. Simply marvelous.

Tea house near Yuyuan Gardens, Shanghai
Tea house near Yuyuan Gardens, Shanghai

After our pit stop, we finally entered the Yuyuan Gardens themselves. Suddenly, it was wonderfully serene. There were trees, bushes, and flowers all over the place, accented by irregular rocks. There were ponds everywhere, filled with the many greens and reds from the overhanging plants. There were pagodas dedicated to various gods. It was marvelous. My heart sang at the beauty of all of it. There is vitality to these places, full of bustling plant life. Nowadays, I make a point to go to parks when I travel. Despite my city ways, I need a bit of green.

Yuyuan Gardens
Yuyuan Gardens

Later that day, I went to the Propaganda Poster Art Center. I love propaganda immensely. When I was in graduate school, I studied and wrote my thesis on Cuban poster propaganda. I was absolutely thrilled at going to this museum. It’s a bit of an interesting set up. You go the address and the guard hands you a business card with instructions to get to the museum. It’s an apartment bloc with several buildings. You walk around, find the right building, and then take the elevator to the basement where the museum was located.

It was well worth a visit. They had posters from the 1940s to the present day. They had a variety posters from ones that were almost caricatures to bold, beautiful ones. There was an excellent selection of posters. They had posters showing the denunciation of the landlords, others were about festivals. One poster talked about saving pig manure for fertilizer. My favorite was a poster celebrating wheat that showed people actually riding sprigs of wheat. So cool. There were several posters in solidarity with Cuba and Vietnam. The museum made me want to write a paper comparing the solidarity posters of Cuba and China.

In the back of the museum, there were some fascinating posters from the Cultural Revolution. These were hand drawn posters covered in Chinese characters that denounced people. Some had characters drawn on top, which was how the accused responded to the accusations. Walls would be covered in them. Very incredible to see. It was also interesting that these were included at all. There were other more traditional posters from the Cultural Revolution; posters showed happy people with their Red books. On a lighter side, they had many beautiful posters of the “Shanghai Girls” who sold various consumer goods like cigarettes etc from the early 20th century.

The next day, we took a morning walk of the Nanjing Street. It was very different at 9 in the morning. The stores were mostly closed and the neon signs were not on. But all along it, there were people with swords and fans. I think they were doing Tai Chi. It was simply sweet.

Then it was off to Hong Kong!


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