Saturday, November 7, 2009

A little bit of history

New Zealand history dates back about 700 years.

Chinese history dates back to 400 000BCE.

When the first Polynesians were making their way towards Aotearoa the Chinese had already been making silk for nearly 5 thousand years, they had fought numerous battles, been ruled by Monarchy, Dynasty, Kingdoms and Emperors, had been using paper currency since 800BCE, invented fireworks, gunpowder, the flame thrower, the wheelbarrow, parachutes, the rudder and compass and been planting in rows all well before the Current Era began. And they had been keeping records for at least three thousand years.

For a Chinese city Shanghai is relatively new it's history spans just eight Dynasties. From a sleepy town of a few thousand families Shanghai grew to 250000 after cementing itself as a cotton and textile manufacturing centre in the 13th century and grew exponentially again during the Qing Dynasty as the British forced a concession after the Opium Wars and trade routes with the West formed up the Yangtze river. By the early 19th century Shanghai had a robust expat population of traders, bankers and real estate investors and an infamous reputation as an exotic 'port of call'. World War II saw Shanghai fall into Japanese hands, it's foreigners left en masse and stayed away even after the war as China became a communist state and firmly closed it's doors for nearly thirty years. Today Shanghai is again a modern cosmopolitan city, the second largest in China after Chongqing.

The city centre is divided into two by the Huangpu River and usually you can stroll along both shores to admire the skyline on each side.

A stroll along The Bund, on the historical side, would typically afford great views of Pudong, the commercial centre on the other side of the murky waters, and a more close up look at the line up of some of Shanghai's most beautiful buildings that once housed banks and trading across the road. I say usually because The Bund is currently undergoing renovation and encircled by a 6 foot tall fence but should be back to its promenading glory early next year just in time for Expo 2010. We walked all the way down Nanjing Road, Shanghai's shopping street, until we hit Zongshan Road, which boarders The Bund, then continued right, down the building side. Fifty-two buildings (minus number four of course) range in architectural styles from gothic to baroque, romanesque to renaissance. Apparently Shanghai has one of the richest art deco collections in the world.

Just south of The Bund lies the remnants of Shanghai's old city wall. In 1553, during the Ming Dynasty, the city of Shanghai constructed a city wall, nearly 5 km around, to protect itself against Japanese pirates. Today just 50 meters is all that is left dating back to the Qing Dynasty and bears the names of Emperors Xianfeng (1851-61) and Tongzhi (1862-74).

The Dajing Ge Pavilion, one of the 30 original towers has not long been rebuilt. For 5 RMB each you can explore. There is a photographic exhibit on life in the old Chinese city and a model in a glass case. The four characters on the piece of the wall of Dajing Ge, a Guan Yu temple, above, translate as 'To keep the faith for thousands of years.' Guan Yu is the Taoist God of War, a Chinese Military General, a hero in ancient China.

There are also shrines to gods inside the temple pavillion but I couldnt find anything about them.

(I've finally worked out I can't upload pictures onto Blogger from home due to the intermittent speed of our electricity at the moment so these are back dated posts I am posting as I add pics using J's work computer.)

No comments: