On our first full day in Shanghai Holly and I walked a great deal. Down into the Old City, under bamboo, across the French Concession and more. But first before all that was breakfast. We found baozi steamed and fried and ate heartily my first food back in this land. I loved baozi so much in Wanzhou. In my first year I quickly got sick of noodles for lunch and made my way down the road to the baozi lady in her tiny storefront where people speedily made off with their steamed bread and pork packets. Eating this baozi in Shanghai brought all that back (though to be completely accurate this baozi was larger than the ones I remember with such fondness). In any case they squirted oil and flavour and were an excellent start to a day.
As I’d been somewhat afraid of Holly was less than impressed with the Old City. It was more touristy than I remembered, all loaded with Esprit and other stores. That was fine with my mom who wanted to shop for gold but less exciting for a four-year China hand. (Where does the phrase Old China Hand come from? It seems specific to this country and not necessarily a blanket colonial term, though I may be wrong.)
So from there we walked and walked. Milk tea was purchased, apples were eaten, hepatitis was wondered about. We stopped in a tiny fragrant leather shop where the bag Holly was attracted by turned out to be too thin. We also wandered through a small supermarket where the brand-nostalgia almost overcame me. Where else but China would I be happy to see Chocolate Peanut Butter Oreos in those little sleeves?
Before I get into the museum and the long chat in Xushenmeshenme Park I should get down to Wang Yen [See 04c Wang Yen.]
There was more to Shanghai too. The Shanghai Museum was good as far as it went. There were painting and calligraphy exhibits I enjoyed. Supposedly back in the Qin Dynsaty there was an effort to standardize the official seals that were used. This was known as the Shu Tong Wen decree and symbolized the centralized power of the emperor and it lasted for eight centuries. Then when political upheaval in the Eastern Jin and Five Dyanasties periods struck, disintegrating the nation you see the seals get cruder and coarser. I love that “security of information” parallel with today. As the codes break down and you can’t guarantee your information, you aren’t unified. Any liar or spambot can say they’re the king of Nigeria.
Other exhibits included minorty masks with bizarrely phallic eyes. I mean they bulged right out of their sockets and their pupils were mounds on the tips of them. Also, very detailed Liaoning paintings with bizarre perspective, especially in regard to the boats. The painting was kind of isometric but when boats were heading in different directions they made no sense. Bows pointed in completely wrong directions and such. There was a bridge I misunderstood, thinking it was Moebius strip twisted, but that was due to not noticing the swarm of people on top. Once they were integrated it worked better, but was still a little unsettling. I could see the old “wrong” way and the right one at almost the same time.
It’s kind of like that being here in general. My past is mixing up with my present in all sorts of ways. For some reason Urumqi is cropping up in my thoughts quite a bit, as well as that crappy city Aileen and I went to Beijing from. Or did we go to Yanan from there? There were cold noodles and a big swooping train station square. And a dragon wall. But that doesn’t bear reflection now. Now I’m going to be in transit again. To Nanjing!baozi food holly museum painting seals shanghai the hangman walking wanzhou