Sunday, February 28, 2010

China - February 21

Sunday... time to head to the airport for the trip home. It's funny but we left at 2/21 at 1:30PM and arrived back in San Francisco before we left on 2/21 at 8:30AM. The plane ride was shorter than the trip over and for me was more relaxed.

We are so very thankful to Ying's brother DaJoJo, his wife and daughter for being such good hosts in Beijing. We were happy that DaJoJo and family were able to come to Shanghai to be with us while visiting there. DaJoJo was always looking out for us and making sure we stayed together as a group and that we didn't get lost.

In Shanghai JoJo and JoMa along with a number of their friends made us feel very welcome. They treated us to a wonderful road trip and would accept no reimbursement. Besides opening their home to us JoJo and JoMa gave us some cherished memento's of our time in their country that will be in our homes forever. The trip will be in our hearts forever.

Lastly to my sister-in-law, Ying, my thanks for being so willing to take us to her childhood home. I never dreamed or realized how much time this trip would take her. She was our constant tour guide and helper for all of the trip. It is a tiring job when you think we were gone for several weeks.

China - February 20th

Friday, we rested at home. We spent time sorting though our pictures and trying to weed down the numbers to a more manageable size. In the evening JoMa's family was hosting a dinner though we girls stayed behind as Leslie & Jenny were dealing with not feeling quite up to par.
Saturday we spent the morning getting all of our things together and packing for our trip home to Ca on Sunday.

Saturday afternoon was our last trip out into Shanghai where we went to vist some of the old neighborhoods. These traditional shikumen ("stone gate") houses are disappearing at a rapid rate in Shanghai and are being replaced with high rise living spaces. The people that have been living in the neighborhoods are being moved out to the outskirts of the city.

While out we visited XinTianDi which is an area of restored shikumen houses on narrow alleys with some adjoining houses which now serve as book stores, cafes and restaurants, and shopping malls. Most of the cafes and restaurants feature both indoor and outdoor seatings. This area is built to appeal to the tourists and to get them to part with their money in the shops there.
Saturday evening was spent with friends and family coming by to talk and say goodbye. Ying will be seeing them again in the summer as will Michelle. Jeff will see them again in the future but for the Morgan girls it is doubtful we'll be visiting China again.

China - February 18th

Thursday was a day to meet with family. Ying's 3rd brother was hosting a lunch for the family at a restaurant in the financial district of Shanghai. The restaurant was the Dynasty Imperial Court. The food was delicious and our group of about 20 people spent several hours eating and relaxing. Again, first, we were served cold dishes and later in the meal hot dishes were brought to the table. All tables are set up with a glass lazy susan where the dishes can be placed so everyone can move the tray around to serve themselves.

After lunch we were whisked off to the river for a walk and to view the Bund from across the RIver. The Shanghai Bund has dozens of historical buildings, lining the Huangpu River, that once housed numerous banks and trading houses from Britain, France, the U.S., Russia, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands and Belgium, as well as the consulates of Russia and Britain, a newspaper, the Shanghai Club and the Masonic Club. This area is a popular tourist area but is presently closed as the governement is moving the roadway to give back room for the park.

Later we walked to the The Jin Mao Tower. It is an 88-story supertall skyscraper in Pudong district of Shanghai. It contains offices and the Shanghai Grand Hyatt hotel. Until 2007 it was the tallest building in the PRC, the fifth tallest in the world by roof height and the seventh tallest by pinnacle height. Along with the Oriental Pearl Tower, it is a centerpiece of the Pudong skyline. Its height was surpassed on September 14, 2007 by the Shanghai World Financial Center which is next to the building. We were having dinner at the restaurant on the 56th floor. Our host wanted us to see the lights of Shanghai go on in the evening. Our dinner was at the Western style restaurant so for the first time in a while I had a steak. It was neat to see all of the skyscrapers light up. There also were fireworks around the city that we could see.

China - February 17th

Now the days are passing quickly as we realize that we only have a few more days to see Shanghai and fit in dinners with Ying's family. Today we are going to walk to the Longhau Temple which is about 20 minutes from JoJo's home.

Although most of the present-day buildings of the Longhau Temple date from later reconstructions, the temple preserves the architectural design of a Song Dynasty monastery of the Buddhist Chan sect. It is the largest, most authentic and complete ancient temple complex in the city of Shanghai. There are 5 main halls are arranged along a central north-south pointing axis. From the entrance, the buildings are:
The Maitreya Hall housing a statue of Maitreya buddha. The Heavenly King Hall housing statues of the Four Heavenly Kings.

The Grand Hall of the Great Sage is the main hall, housing statues of the historical Buddha (Shakyamuni) and two disciples. At the back of the hall is a base relief carving, including a depiction of Guanyin, or the Buddistava Avalokiteśvara in his female manifestation. Around the front portion are arranged the twenty Guardians of Buddhist Law, and around the back the sixteen principal arhats. The hall also features an ancient bell cast in 1586, during the Wanli era of the Ming Dynasty. The Three Sages Hall houses statues of the Amitabha buddha, and the Buddistavas Avalokiteśvara (male form) and Mahāsthāmaprāpta. The Abbot's Hall is a place for lectures and formal meetings.

Outside of the Temple is the Longhua Pagoda. The Longhua Pagoda is the only remaining pre-modern pagoda in Shanghai city. It has an octagonal floor layout. The size of the seven storeys decreases from the bottom to the top. The pagoda consists of a hollow, tube-like brick core surrounded by a wooden staircase. On the outside, it is decorated with balconies, banisters, and upturned eaves. These outer decorations have been reconstructed in keeping with the original style.

Although previous pagodas existed on the same site, the current brick base and body of the pagoda was built in 977 during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), with continuous renovations of its more fragile wooden components on the exterior. Because of its age, the pagoda is fragile and is not open to the public

China - February 16th

Today Jeff, Michelle, Jenny, Leslie and I went with Jack to the Shanghai Museum. Jack is a friend of the families' son who speaks some English so between Jeff, Michelle and Jack we were able to get around the city by subway. Jack is 15 and used to taking the subway downtown.

Ying, JoMa, and JoJo went to JoMa's Mothers' funeral and burial.

The Shanghai Museum was high on our list of places to vist in Shanghai because it possesses a large collection of precious works of art. It has a high-quality collection of ancient Chinese bronze, ceramics, painting and calligraphy. It is located in very center of the citya on the People's Square. The building has a unique architectural form of a round top with a square base, symbolizing the ancient Chinese philosophy that the square earth is under the round sky, is a distinguished architectural combination of traditional feature and modern spirit.

After we looked at evrything in the museum of interest to us we went outside and walked over to Nanjing Lu which is a pedestrian walkway along the shops. We had lunch at Pizza Hut before walking outside. The walkway was crowded with many people, more than Jeff normally sees there and he thought it was because of the Chinese NY's holiday which goes on for 3 weeks.

China - February 15th

More pictures from Monday...

China - February 15th

Today's trip was to the YuYuan Gardens that is located in thecenter of the Old City area. Ying wanted to travel by bus to see some of the changes that have taken place in Shanghai since her move to the States over 15 years ago. The buses fill fast and once the seats are full, more passengers pack into the aisle so you can end up with 50 people standing in the center aisle unable to move uin any direction. Luckily we were getting off at the last stop as much of the trip Jenny and I were isolated across the bus from the rest of our party of 10. As it was drizzling again several of us had taken umbrellas that later proved to be a Godsend! Once off the bus you were engulfed in the crowds of people that were celebrating the Chinese New Year holiday by visiting the area.

Yuyuan Gardens is considered one of the finest gardens in the area. It occupies 5 acres, and is divided into six general areas laid out in the Suzhou style: Grand Rockery - rockery made of huangshi stone, featuring peaks, cliffs, winding caves and gorges, the Heralding Spring Hall, the Inner Garden - rockeries, ponds, pavilions, and towers, first laid out in 1709, the Jade Magnificence Hall that is furnished with rosewood pieces from the Ming Dynasty, the Lotus Pool - with a zigzag bridge and mid-lake pavilion and the Ten Thousand-Flower Tower. Each of the garden areas are separated by "dragon walls" with undulating gray tiled ridges, each terminating in a dragon's head.

Once we were done viewing the garden we had lunch at one of the street vendors in the immediate area. I had pork that was barbecued on a stick while others had squid barbecued on a stick. Then it was off to a shopping area where all of us were able to find some souvenirs to take back home with us. Because the area was so crowded we used the umbrella as a guide by holding it up in the air so all 1o of us could keep track of each other. This worked well and was Leslie's idea!

China - February 14th

My niece, Michelle spends her summers in Shanghai after having a weeks vacation at my home in NJ. So she has made friends with 2 other girls in the building where JoJo lives. She was very glad to get to Shanghai and see her friends. They enjoy skateboarding right in the lobby of the building which is just outside of his house.
Today was a day of shopping at the mall. Leslie was successful in finding some new sweaters. Ying was able to find a great bookstore to purchase some novels written in Chinese for her to bring back to the States.

China - February 13th

Happy New Year's Eve!

During the day we were to walk to a nearby temple but our hostess's Mother was admitted to the hospital so they needed to go off to visit her. Sadly later during dinner they were called away as JoMa's Mother had passed away.

The picture of the buildings shows the Olympic Soccer Stadium from the 2008 Olympics. It is about 2 (Chinese) blocks from JoJo's house as my niece Michelle would say.

You could hear fireworks all evening but at about 11:45 PM the fireworks started in earnest. Each Community holds their own celebration with fireworks bought by the residents. I have never seen such beautiful fireworks. The show lasted over an hour and went on continuously.

China - February 12th

Today was a much needed day of rest back in Shanghai. We had a tour of JoJo's and JoMa's community. The gated community has about 15 buildings plus a commerical office building. Each building is at least 25 stories high. The grounds are filled with foundations and beautiful landscaping. There are outdoor areas where children can play, exercise areas and an area where outdoor weddings or parties can be held.

During the afternoon JoJo, JoMa, Ying, Jeff, Michelle and I went to the mall at Xu Jia Hui to buy electronics so we could setup both laptops at the house.

China - February 11th

We spent the night at Vaton Yungi Resort Hotel on West Lake. Hangzhou is one of the most renowned and prosperous cities of China for much of the last 1,000 years. It is also well-known for its beautiful natural scenery, with the West Lake as the most well-known location. The city was the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty from 1127 until the Mongol invasion of 1276.

In the morning our first stop was at the Song Dynasty village which is a restored village. We were there when they first opened and the shows do not open until after 1PM. We strolled the village looking at the wares and having a fun time.

Then it was a short drive over to West Lake where we got out to take a walk around the perimeter of the lake. By this time it was raining again and most of us opted to go back to the cars. Brother#1 and his wife, Leslie, JoJo and I went for the walk. JoJo wants to show you everything regardless of the weather and after about 1/2 hr of walking Leslie & I decided we needed to return to the car as we were really wet. I was really cold as my pants were pretty wet also. It took a lot of convincing for JoJo to turn back.

Lunch was next. Many of our meals were served in private dining rooms with much food being
served. Often the cold food is brought out first and everyone eats their full of that before the warm dishes come out. We would be thinking that no more food would be coming and many more dishes would arrive. Food in this region is noted for it's elaborate preparation, sophisticated cooking and refreshing taste.

In the afternoon we went to Six Harmonies Pagoda where the view of the lake is spectacular.

The drive home to Shanghai that afternoon was fraught with tension as we were traveling in the
rain and it changed to freezing rain as the temperatures. The highways iced up quickly and we saw many auto accidents on the way. I would have been happy to spend another night away as the icy roadways frighten me.