I forgot to mention one of the photos from Day 5. It is the photo of Tom and I standing along the Bund with the Pearl TV tower in the background. I imagine you notice the smog; not fog but smog. Huang did mention that pollution is a problem in China. So far I am still able to breathe, so hoping the river air will be a little better. We also learned that one reason this financial area is so modern is that it is only 23 years old.
In the afternoon we visited the Shanghai Museum. The Gallery of Chinese Ancient Bronze has a collection of more than 400 bronze articles. I really enjoyed this section. When I was teaching, I had a time line of the world’s inventions. The students added a colored map of the place of the invention. In ancient times everything and I mean everything was invented in China. An amazing cultural development considering the rest of the world was still so primitive. Some of the bronze pieces were 18th century B.C. One of the oldest bronze weapons was even decorated with turquoise. Not sure why one would decorate a weapon, but the ancient Chinese were certainly into beauty. I also enjoyed the Ming Dynasty vases. How advanced the Chinese people were. Of course, when looking at the beautiful vases, you have to smile thinking of all of the movies where it is the Ming Dynasty priceless vase that is broken by some means.
We left our hotel at 8:00 a.m. and headed off for a five hour bus ride. Not my favorite part of travel. Along the way we stopped at a silk factory and learned how they make silk. What an amazing process. Through mankind’s handiwork the silk moth can no longer fly. The entire process from egg to moth is about 32 days. The actually moth only lives about three days so I guess being able to fly isn’t important. The people working there make $400 a month. The silk factory was government owned so no bargaining here. Huang told us that even though China makes almost everything you own, it is not for sale to the Chinese.
Next, we stopped at what our guide called the small city of Suzhou, a city of only 6 million. Ok, not so small. However, they are trying to preserve some of the old parts of the city and yet allow the other half to modernize. We went to a Garden called the Master of Nets Garden. Unlike the once privately owned garden in Shanghai, this one was owned by a government official and was five times the size of the one in Shanghai. It dates back to the Song Dynasty 960 AD. It is complete with furniture that has been mostly refurbished. There is however a tree that is 900 years old. As our local guide said, “Oh if that tree could talk.” They are trying to do everything possible to save the tree, and it has slings and cement limbs to help protect it. Even though it was owned by a government official he lost his right to live there when Communism took over.
Suzhou does not allow gasoline engines on scooters, so everyone has a battery operated one. It is a start but the pollution is soooo bad it isn’t funny. I guess in Beijing the pollution is so bad that there are actually particles in the air that can become lodged in one lungs. One of the couples in our group had extra masks, so gave Tom and I each a mask as they had brought extras. At the Garden we met some people who were just getting off the ship and heading for Shanghai. The first thing they told us about the cruise is, “I hope you brought your masks.” Dr. Newcombe told me to bring masks, but Tom thought it was dumb idea, so we didn’t get them. Turns out that it was dumb on our part to not bring them.
Huang, our guide, has been telling us stories of growing up in China under communism. Each family was only allotted so many liters of oil and other food. It was rationed by how many people in the family and your rank within the government. The rationing went for everything you bought. His mom would buy the fat from hogs and cook the fat to render it and then store it for cooking later. When bock choy was in season that is all they ate mixed with the fat from the hog. Huang said he has had enough bock choy to last him a life time. I guess that is why we have had bock choy for breakfast, lunch and dinner since we have been here. So far I still like it. When he was talking about what we should and should not eat while in China, he keeps mentioning for us to remember that although almost everything we own was made in China, our stomachs were not.
When Huang recently visited the United States, he wanted to find something made in the US. We all laughed. He told us he finally found that rubberband were made in America. He was fascinated how they worked.
The only Western influence one sees so far in China is Starbucks Coffee. You see it everywhere. Huang told us that it has actually taken over tea drinking.
My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.Diane Arbus
Confucius say – Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.
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Tom & Holly