SHANG­HAI: A GLO­RI­OUS NEW AGE CITY

Airports India - - CONTENTS - TEXT & PHO­TOS: SUBHASISH CHAKRABORTY

The city of Shang­hai is China’s show­piece me­trop­o­lis that has drawn the at­ten­tion of dis­cern­ing world trav­el­ers. The city is ideally lo­cated on the es­tu­ary of the shim­mer­ing Yangtze River and over the past decades, has evolved into one of the most sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic and fi­nan­cial hubs in China. Need­less to say, the city, with its plethora of at­trac­tions, both nat­u­ral and man-made, has be­come one of the most vis­ited cities in China in terms of qual­ity in­ter­na­tional tourists.

For the first time vis­i­tor to this thriv­ing me­trop­o­lis, the sheer scale of mod­ern­iza­tion, is in it­self as­ton­ish­ing. This is one Chi­nese city which is renowned for its multi-cul­tur­al­ism, and the har­mony of the con­tem­po­rary cul­ture with that of the tra­di­tional one is pretty unique. Shang­hai be­ing the largest city in China and the eco­nomic powe­house that it is, the city is

al­ways in the news.

Shang­hai is ba­si­cally a port city on the pic­turesque Huangpu river and in the days of yore used to be a fish­ing and tex­tile hub. This great city has carved a niche for it­self af­ter the Chi­nese opened up the city via the Treaty of Nank­ing, way back in 1842. As a re­sult, this port city was much pre­ferred by the Bri­tish, French, Amer­i­cans, Ger­mans, and Rus­sians, each of whom have left their in­deli­ble ar­chi­tec­tural im­pres­sion through their dis­tinc­tive river banks, trad­ing cen­tres and grace­ful man­sions, all of which fas­ci­nates to­day’s global trav­eler.

The city’s cos­mopoli­tan cul­ture and boom­ing com­merce, earned it the soubri­quet of “Paris of the East” in the 1930’s era. Even though the city used to be the focal point of Chi­nese Com­mu­nism, much to the amaze­ment of the world com­mu­nity, Shang­hai was ig­nored and over­looked dur­ing

the 1960s and 1970s - the pe­riod of Chi­neese Cul­tural Revo­lu­tion. It was only in the 1990s that the Chi­nese chose this city for ac­cel­er­ated de­vel­op­ment and to be a bea­con of China’s re­form and de­vel­op­ment.

As dusk de­scends on Shang­hai, the city comes alive in all its glory. The Huangpu river bank, which is dot­ted with di­verse ar­chi­tec­tural spec­i­mens, pop­u­larly re­ferred to as “the Bund,” of­fers a truly sur­real sight. Each of these his­tor­i­cal ed­i­fices was built dur­ing dif­fer­ent eras and is an amal­ga­ma­tion of Gothic and Baroque style ar­chi­tec­ture.

The two most re­mark­able ed­i­fices are the mag­nif­i­cent Bank of China Build­ing and the exquisitely de­signed Peace Ho­tel, both of which are suf­fused in state-of-the-art light­ing. Apart from the Bund, the city of Shang­hai is re­plete with stately man­sions, im­pec­ca­bly de­signed gar­den es­tates, el­e­gant clubs and mag­nif­i­cent cathe­drals built by Western sea­far­ers more than a cen­tury back.

Vis­i­tors to Shang­hai would do well to em­bark on a walk­ing tour of the Old City and the sight of an old tea­house, ori­en­tal tem­ples, exquisitely de­signed pago­das and ar­che­typal Chi­nese gar­dens will come as a breath of fresh air for vis­i­tors. Time per­mit­ting, a visit to the Huangpu River bank, pop­u­larly re­ferred to as Puxi, can be a very re­ward­ing sight. There is also the Pudong New Area, which is well worth a visit, with its plethora of sky­scrapers, like the iconic Ori­ent Pearl Tower, which hap­pens to be one of Asia’s high­est ob­ser­va­tion decks. Other prom­i­nent ed­i­fices like the con­tem­po­rary Jin Mao Tow­ers and

the out­stand­ing World Fi­nan­cial Cen­tre, where the world’s tallest ho­tel – the Park Hy­att – is po­si­tioned, can be a very ex­cit­ing sight­see­ing op­tion.

The renowned “Nan­jing Road”, which hap­pens to be China’s fore­most com­mer­cial district, has, over the years, evolved into an iconic land­mark of Shang­hai. This buzzing com­mer­cial hub, which stretches ap­prox­i­mately for 5.5 kilo­me­ters, is re­plete with shops sell­ing ev­ery­thing from or­di­nary gro­ceries to some of the world’s most high­end brands and lux­ury gad­gets.

From the ex­cite­ment and buzz of Nan­jing Road to the serene vis­tas of Yuyuan Gar­den, with its har­mo­nious blend of Ming and Qing style of ar­chi­tec­ture, makes for a truly ethe­real ex­pe­ri­ence. The most beau­ti­ful part of the gar­den is the Grand Rock­ery and in close prox­im­ity is the grace­ful City God Tem­ple, where one can in­dulge in mouth wa­ter­ing Chi­nese del­i­ca­cies served pip­ing hot by lo­cal street snack ven­dors.

For Bud­dhist afi­ciona­dos, Shang­hai’s mag­nif­i­cent Jade Bud­dha Tem­ple is a must visit. Leg­end has it that the White Jade Bud­dhas were trans­ported all the way from Burma (Myan­mar)in the 19th cen­tury. The tem­ple oozes spir­i­tu­al­ity and devo­tees can be seen of­fer­ing prayers at this holy tem­ple. The

cyno­sure of all eyes is of course the sit­ting Bud­dha and the fas­ci­nat­ing ar­ray of im­ages of roy­alty, which makes for a ver­i­ta­ble treat.

Those with a pas­sion for art and cul­ture would do well to visit Shang­hai Mu­seum, where some of China’s rare and price­less ar­ti­facts are im­pec­ca­bly pre­served. The Mu­seum has care­fully pre­served an­cient Chi­nese bronzes, pot­tery items, rare paint­ings and in­scrip­tions. The re­mark­able fea­ture of the Mu­seum is that it looks a lot like the an­cient Chi­nese cook­ing pot –“Ding”. Apart from Shang­hai Mu­seum, other mu­se­ums worth vis­it­ing are the Site of the First Na­tional Congress of the Com­mu­nist Party of China, Res­i­dences of Sun Yat-sen, Song Qin­gling, Chenyun and Pingpu Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Me­mo­rial Hall, The Me­mo­rial Hall of Fushou Gar­den, as well as the To­bacco Mu­seum, Sci­ence and Te­chol­ogy Mu­seum and the el­e­gant Ur­ban Plan­ning Ex­hi­bi­tion Hall.

Yuyuan Gar­den, lo­cated be­side the City God Tem­ple in the Old City of Shang­hai

Shim­mer­ing wa­ters of Yu Botan­i­cal Gar­den, Shang­hai

Peo­ple’s Square - a large pub­lic square in the Huangpu District of Shang­hai

Cruis­ing along the Huangpu River, which is a 113 kilo­me­tre long river flow­ing through Shang­hai

Xin­tiandi is an af­flu­ent en­ter­tain­ment district of Shang­hai

The City God Tem­ple within the old walled city

Panoramic view of Shang­hai from Huangpu River Bay

The mag­nif­i­cent Shang­hai Mu­seum in the Huangpu District of Shang­hai

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