Whilst Shanghai slowly returns to normal it is still being extremely careful. Any resurgence of the virus and compounds are locked down again on a case by case basis. Mass testing still happens and it is fair to say that the whole city is being very cautious.
For us it is the summer vacation time but few teachers have left the country. Some intrepid folks have gone to other provinces, notably Sanya which is like the Costa Del Sol of China. They have to quarantine for 7 days on arrival but think it is worth it to then spend the rest of time there. A sunbed on my own is not for me. Instead Shifu and Leping were kind enough to invite me for a mini break in Songjiang
Just two nights and three days away in this Shanghai district which is an hour’s drive from where we live. Songjian is the place where Shanghai first began as a small fishing village which grew into the metropolis that we know today. It is the root of Shanghai and a fascinating place to visit to learn about local history and culture.
Fascinating fact: Shang means up and hai means ocean. The modern name that we know so well comes from ancient fishing terminology for returning from below the ocean to the land with your catch.
I had long wanted to visit this site just from the interesting shape of the buildings which I had seen in photographs.
In 1958 workers were digging the area in preparation for a river diversion when they uncovered this archeological site of a Neolithic settlement. The museum recreates the dig
Well designed exhibits create a feel for life at that time from one of the early fishing boats which gave rise to the community
To the houses they constructed
The bulk of the museum is underwater and the whole experience was fascinating. China is one of the places where early man first settled into communities and began farming/fishing. The museum then traced the development of civilization here up to the present day.
Also at this location was a Buddhist Temple and a Taoist Temple.
We visited an ancient garden which once belonged to a government minister in the 1600s (Ming Dynasty). The centre of the garden is a beautiful lotus pond full of enormous flowers.
I particularly liked these unusual doorways shaped like a vase. The word for vase in Mandarin is ‘ping’ and the word for peace is also ‘ping’ (different character but the same sound) so this means that the homeowner wishes you peace as you enter.
Beyond the entrance is a fan shaped aperture because in Chinese culture you do not see everything immediately, some things remain hidden until you reach them.
There was a covid case that day in Songjiang close by and the result was that most people stayed at home. No one wants to be sent to a quarantine facility! But we were already out so we soldiered on and had every attraction pretty much to ourselves which made for a much pleasanter experience. Normally these gardens would have been heaving. it was like having a private tour.
No visit to Songjiang is complete without seeing Thames’s Town. This is the Chinese attempt at creating an ‘English’ zone. Well, I guess that we all have China Towns so why not.
There was even a church
It was such a cute effort but definitely not really like being in the UK because the humidity made the temperature feel like 44 degrees which is totally unrealistic for home.
The did have a pretty amazing bookshop though. I am always a sucker for a good bookshop
Even the restaurants were empty. This was where we had our evening meal. It was an old country house that had been brought to Shanghai, reconstructed and preserved. It was a beautiful and atmospheric setting.
Any tourist can visit temples, gardens, museums and bookshops but for our next stop we did something completely different. Leping had booked Xiaoma and me in to make rice cakes.
We also did a spot of Crayfishing and to my surprise I actually caught one!!! Technically you could keep them but we didn’t have anywhere to put them so all ours were thrown back… well the ones that didn’t escape that is.
I feel I need to mention the hotel room. It was lovely. Spacious with a loft area for the beds
It was very modern and high tech. There was a computer and you could voice activate the lights and curtains etc but naturally it only spoke mandarin. So I was thinking that I might have to sleep with either all the lights on full or the curtains open!!! My meager mandarin does not cover this necessary vocabulary.
I need not have worried. I had a confident 7 year old who happily operated everything for me (multiple times in fact…)
After all wearing white tops one day we all had red on the next. It felt like being in a family which meant a great deal to me now that I am on my own here. I so much appreciated being included.
This day was the walk up Sheshen Mountain or as I called it Sheshen small hill! Shanghai is gloriously flat (good for cycle rides) and at 100.8m this is the highest point. But when you have lived in the Lake District this is not high at all.
There is an observatory and a church on the top of the hill but both were closed. Interestingly before the nationalist revolution the old emperor realized that China needed to modernize and embrace science and technology so he ordered the building of the observatory and supported astronomers. His mother, The dowager empress held all the power and legend has it that she poisoned her son slowly. They ended up dying on the same day. He first of poison (heavy metal) and she a few hours later of old age, her triumph at getting rid of him was very short lived.
Finally we had a sumptuous afternoon in this exquisite hotel. Again, transferred from its original location this was the stunning house of a Ming Dynasty Prime Minister built with teak pillars and intricate carved beams this was a treasure to visit. So much history was destroyed in the Cultural Revolution that these old buildings are extremely rare. Without my friends I would never have known about this gem.
I had an absolutely wonderful time. Luca and Leping really looked after me so well. We learned a lot, had a variety of experiences and even fitted in some relaxing Taiji
And finally home via the Huangpu river
We packed a lot into just three days and made some beautiful memories. Thank you.