An island park so close to downtown but still obscure
Unless you are looking at a map, it’s hard to recognize Fuxing Island as an island. In fact, it’s the only isle on the Huangpu River in downtown Shanghai.
Fuxing Island, which lies in Yangpu District in the northeastern corner of downtown, is connected to the rest of the district by two bridges and Metro Line 12.
When I visited the island during the Chinese New Year, a sense of tranquility washed over me. Its broad, straight streets are shadowed by the crowns of huge trees lining both sides.
There are some old red-brick factory workshops, now covered in ivy. It also has a popular bicycle route that attracts mainly local residents or people working in the factories.
The park in the center of the island is what drew me to the island. The Fuxing Island Park is believed to be the only Japanese-style park in the city. Online research found entries calling it “the most mysterious place in Shanghai,” and referred to “paranormal events” there.
However, I didn’t find any actual stories of the park being haunted.
The gate of the park resembles a torii, a traditional gate at the entrance or inside Shinto shrines in Japan.
Walking through the gate, I find few other park visitors. This is a park unlike most others in Shanghai. There are no cleanly mown lawns or fancy floral landscapes. Few mothers are pushing baby strollers; nor are senior citizens dancing to loud music. There is just solitude.
Huge trees and rich shrubbery indicate the park has been there a while.
In 1926, what was then called
Zhoujiazui Island was created when a man-made canal separated it from the city land mass. Four years later, the park was created as the garden of a sports club for the then city dredging administration.
After the Japanese army invaded Shanghai in 1937, the entire island became a restricted zone, serving as a residence for various military leaders. It was renamed Dinghai Island. According to local residents, the Japanese military even built a runway along what is now Gongqing Road, which may explain why the road runs in such a straight line through most of the island.
Today one road and one of the bridges to the island still bear the name Dinghai.
The occupiers changed the landscape, layout and vegetation of the park, creating a Japanese-style garden and planting a profusion of cherry trees.
Walking further into the park, I come to a pavilion on a pond. This is probably the most “Japanese” part of the park. The pavilion and the pond water covered by thick, green duckweed and high trees behind it formed a view I once saw in gardens in Tokyo and Kyoto.
A man is playing a harmonica beside the pond. The pitched tunes, which are reminiscent of grand Soviet-style songs, remind me of the World War II era. Somehow, the music captures the atmosphere of a cold, winter day.
The harmonica player tells me he lives nearby and playing in the park is his daily routine.
“It is always quiet here,” says the man, who is in his 60s and asks that his name not be used.
“Even during the cherry blossom season,” he went on, “you don’t see many visitors here. I don’t think many locals know about this place. You don’t see it on TV. When cherry blossoms open, everyone talks about seeing them in Gucun Park. It’s actually a good thing.”
The man leads me to a white house hidden in one corner of the park, behind a copse of trees. It’s called Bailu, or White Cottage.
“Chiang Kai-shek stayed here before he fled to Taiwan,” he tells me. “It’s not open though, but it’s the real thing.”
I check Bailu online. What the man told me is true, though Chiang, former Kuomintang leader, didn’t stay long in the cottage.
It’s a building combining both Japanese and Western styles. With an octagonal pavilion attached to the main building, the house resembles a common American suburban home with a Japanese-style rooftop and cornices.
Indeed, the harmonica player is
It is always quiet here. Even during the cherry blossom season, you don’t see many visitors here ... It’s actually a good thing.
correct. The house is locked, but the curtains in the pavilion leave a gap so I can peek through. There is no furniture left, but a fireplace opposite the window still looks cozy even though the home has been sealed for more than half a century.
Records show that the cottage was first built with the garden. During the Japanese occupation, more Japanese features were added to the cottage.
What Chiang precisely was doing in the cottage is undocumented, but stories abound.
One tale goes that Chiang used it as a command central for all military actions just before liberation in 1949. It also claims that a secret passage under the cottage allowed him to come and go without passing through the front gate.
No such passage was actually found during later restorations, despite the persistent rumors that Chiang always had a “backdoor” exit everywhere he stayed.
Another story, more accepted by historians, is that Chiang arrived at
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YIN Liping, 67, a national representative inheritor of Chengdu lacquerware art, has been engaged in the craft design and production for 45 years.
Yin entered Chengdu lacquerware factory in Sichuan Province in 1975 and was fascinated by the lacquer art’s beauty the first time she touched it.
Chengdu lacquerware integrates artistry and practicability and was enlisted in the National Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2006.
The lacquerware goes through around 100 procedures, including lacquer kneading, lacquer painting, decoration and polishing.
Under the guidance of Chen Chunhe, a renowned master of the lacquer art, and other experienced artists, Yin made rapid progress because of her excellent traditional Chinese painting skills. In the late 1980s, she was promoted as the factory’s design department director.
In recent years, Yin has continuously explored the art tradition, and her works have won many provincial and national arts and crafts awards.
While continuing her study on lacquer art, Yin also focuses on training the next generation
of Chengdu lacquer art inheritors. To her delight, many young people majoring in design and painting have acknowledged Yin as their teacher.
“Young people have brought their understanding of fashion to the lacquer art. I hope they can make better artworks than our generation,” Yin said.
CHINA’S first restaurant that invited people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease to be waiters and waitresses soon became a hit in Shanghai after its opening earlier this month.
The restaurant has already gained a large number of fans as the location of a popular reality television show “Forget Me Not Cafe,” for which the unique restaurant was created to call attention to the plight of those with Alzheimer’s.
After the show ended, the restaurant carried on and opened to the public under the same name with some of the stars continuing as servers.
Shanghai Daily reporter invited her friend Da Guai, a renowned Shanghai connoisseur, to check out the magic restaurant on the opening day, February 5.
Located inside Yongjiating, the restaurant’s theme is “forget me not,” with special displays in the outdoor area, including an informational wall for guests to learn more about the disease, a mailbox for letters to the waiters and waitresses, a telephone booth with an interactive screen and a large graffiti wall featuring the staff.
The theme extends to the interior decorations with photos of the servers in the TV show displayed on the wall, and a
“memory capsule” where guests can put the records of their happy moments.
Qin Ling, the restaurant owner, hopes to provide a good environment for people suffering from Alzheimer’s, and serve as a way for them to connect with people — which is believed to slow the disease’s progression.
About 50 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s globally, a figure expected to triple by 2050, according to the World Alzheimer Report 2018. In China, 10 million people live with Alzheimer’s, and the number could reach 40 million by 2050.
“We’ve recently invited six people with
Alzheimer’s to be waiters and waitresses, all of whom are from a cooperative nursing home and hospital,” Qin said. “Two or three of them will work in the restaurant at the same time. Their health conditions are monitored by the cooperative to ensure the work here is beneficial for them. There are fulltime waiters to help them as assistants, making sure they’ve taken the correct order and reminding them to serve dishes. Also, each elderly must be accompanied by a family member.”
Working hours for the servers are only at lunch time, between 10:30am and 2pm, which earns them a free lunch box and payment. However, most of them don’t do it for the money.
“I feel happy here,” said Li Junhu, a 72-year-old Alzheimer’s patient who appeared on the TV show and has a nickname — Grandpa Xiaomin.
Because of the disease, the servers often forget dish names. So before their shifts begin, Qin and a group of volunteers mark each dish name with a number, which is easier for them to remember.
“We do the training every day before work in case they’ve forgotten the serving routine,” Qin said. “Their work begins after a staff lunch.”
Grandpa Xiaomin smiled as he brought the menu.
“Do you have any recommendations?” the reporter asked him.
“I forgot, but I’ve tried all the dishes here and all of them are delicious,” he said.
After being reminded the dish name, he told them his favorite is hongshaorou (pork braised in brown sauce).
“One hongshaorou is enough for you two.”
Although he had already forgotten the dish number, he suggested not order too many dishes.
Guests can watch stories from the TV show on an iPad at their tables. The waiters and waitresses may not serve as fast as ordinary people — and they may even bring you the wrong dish — but they do their best. People in a hurry can order by scanning a QR code.
The menu primarily features traditional Shanghai cuisine at affordable prices. The signature lunch box (the same as the staff lunch) is priced at 18 yuan (US$2.79), and consists of meat and a vegetable of your choice served over rice or noodles in a vintage Shanghai-style lunch box.
Da Guai’s favorite is the gaifan (rice with braised pork in brown
“It tastes great and isn’t greasy,” he said. “A beautiful pork belly in layers, no unpleasant porky smell, and tender. For 38 yuan, it’s more than you would expect. There are five pieces of pork and even a piece of abalone.”
There are also fusion dishes on the menu, such as Malaysian laksa and Hong Kong-style noodles.
Qin said the restaurant hopes to attract more young people from across the city.
“We’ve gotten support from the government and the community, who help with the supply of ingredients and compensate for the lack of staff due to the pandemic,” Qin said. “We’ve even received invitations from other cities to offer the restaurant as a public welfare project.”
Forget Me Not Cafe
Address: 570 Yongjia Rd
Opening hours: 11am-2pm, 5-9pm