Thursday, August 26, 2010

In Shanghai, exploring the Ancient City

Chinese society and economy are developing so fast that even the population can barely catch up. One of the most evident symptoms is the way they cross the street: any foreigner will notice horrified that despite the hectic traffic, locals cross huge roads without even checking if cars are coming their way.

Drivers in Shanghai are busier trying to avoid running over reckless pedestrians rather than following traffic signs.

Chinese are very proud of their bike-tradition, they have always gone through the streets by bike and no matter what the traffic is like, they will keep going by bike, little respecting the red light, barely watching if cars are crossing from side streets, seemingly caring very little whether they'll actually be able to cross or they'll end up lying on the ground. 

As for me, the post-London re-adjusting to the left side of the road is happening quite fast, due to the massive amount of any sort of vehicles present in Shanghai's roads and sidelwalks.
Following this resilience to modernity that characterises Chinese people, I thought I would enjoy a walk through the Ancient City and its Yu Gardens. Lucky guess.

What is called the Ancient City is actually a cluster of shops selling all things traditional, from pearls and jade to silk, to tea sets. And of course many sit-in and take-away restaurants. They are pretty much tourist traps, but if you can bargain the price, the stuff you'll find there is quite of a good quality.
All shops inside the Ancient City are set on traditional-looking surroundings, but the real jewel are to be considered the Yu Gardens, an evocative model of classical Chinese gardening architecture. 

Built during the Ming dinasty in 1559 as the private garden of high-rank official of Sichuan Province, Pan Yunduan, they are a lovely collaboration of architecture and tradition.

The many halls are separated from each other by rare plants, small rivers, ponds and decorative rocks. Rocks are an important part of Chinese culture, as they are seen as a gift from Nature to men.

Visiting these cultural spots makes it evident how Chinese people love their own traditions, as most tourists are actually locals.

I'm discovering Shanghai little by little, and I hope my passion for old-fashioned things will lead me to unearth unusual spots, less glitzy than the tall skyscrapers but by all means with a richer past.


Strauss said...

Well you owe me for the blog, I’ve been reading your post for the last half hour, and it all has been really informative and well written.

AngelaCorrias said...

Thanks a lot, more posts to come, my mission is to unearth the most unsung spots and traditions in China!

Nancie said...

I agree that the "ancient city" around Yu Gardens is a tourist trap. The gardens are pretty though.

Two of my favorite spots in the city are the French Concession and the Bund.

Enjoy China!

AngelaCorrias said...

Thanks for stopping by Nancie! I haven't had the time to visit the French Concession and the Bund yet, only heard about them. Been quite busy with visa paperworks, but they will be my next day out :)

kitchen table said...

When I first visit Shanghai we didn't have the chance to visit that place. I think We have missed one of the best parts of Shanghai. That Ancient City looks a good place to be. Next time I will make sure that we will go in that place first.

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