Nine Thousand Words

by Brian Jewell 2. March 2011 07:22

This afternoon, I'll board a plane in Shanghai and begin the 30-hour trip home. I leave China with a wealth of memories and images. We've seen and done so much more than I've had the opportunity to blog about here. So as a farewell gift, here are some of my other favorite images from this trip. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this is about 9,000 words' worth of travel treasure.

 

A chef in Beijing prepares the world-famous Peking duck.

Beijing artists practice calligraphy by painting with water on dry stone.

The Temple of Heaven is Beijing's most significant historic religious site.

Artwork at Beijing's Summer Palace, a lakeside retreate of the Ming Dynasty emperors.

Xi'an's elaboarte preparations for the Chinese New Year celebration.

The underground swimming pool at the beautiful new Sheraton hotel in Shanghai.

Locals and visitors browse the shops at Shanghai's "Chinatown in China."

The Shanghai Acrobats perform amazing athletic feats nightly.

 

A Legacy of Art

by Brian Jewell 1. March 2011 07:00

So far, I've written a lot about China's history, its imperial dynasties and how that heritage shows up in modern Chinese life. Today, though, we took a welcome break from history lessons to explore the Shanghai Museum, a free public institution that houses some of the best of Chinese artwork.

Beautiful art is among China's greatest contribution to the world, and the exhibits at this museum follow the development of various media from pre-history to modern times. One large gallery traces jade carving in China, from 3.000-year old simple ceremonial tools to elaborately carved jewelry worn by royalty in the early 20th century. A gallery on currency showed the fascinating artistic touches in ancient Chinese coins and more modern paper bills, and a clothing gallery highlighted the traditional costumes of many of the ethnic minority groups in the country.

Among my favorite were the painting and calligraphy galleries. There is an art form in Chinese writing that we in the West can little understand. Masters of calligraphy are considered artists here in China, and their best works are presented on long scrolls in the museum's display cases. Many of the paintings, also presented on scrolls, used black ink or soft water colors to create idyllic natural scenes reflecting the diverse beauty of the Chinese countryside.

Many visitors will also enjoy a visit to the porcelain gallery, which explains how Chinese craftsmen created a new kind of pottery that grew to become a world-famous art form. Some of the finest porcelain works on the planet are on display in this museum, and guests come to realize how fine porcelain pottery came to be known as "China" in the Western world.

Our group spent about an hour and a half in the museum, and at the end of that time, I found myself wishing for much more. If I ever find myself in Shanghai again, this museum will be at the top of my to-do list.

Ancient stone carvings in the sculpture gallery.

A world-class example of Chinese porcelain art.

A Tibetan ceremonial mask.

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Wonders of China

Eat Your (Ox) Heart Out

by Brian Jewell 28. February 2011 17:15

We've enjoyed a number of over-the-top meals here in China, including hosted dinners last night in Xi'an and tonight in Shanghai. Chris Lee, owner of China Plus USA, is very well respected here in China, and so when he brings a FAM tour on a visit, his tourism friends pull out all the stops.

Last night's dinner included a number of colorful dumplings, many shaped to resemble frogs, ducks or other animals, as well as a variety of local delicacies. Among them were some foods that you won't find on western menus, such as ox hearts (I tried them -- not nearly as bad as you might think). But the meal also included many wonderful pork, chicken, beef and seafood dishes. All together, we counted some 37 dishes that were served family-style to our small group.

Tonight we're in Shanghai, China's business center, and staying in the brand new Sheraton hotel that is currently in its soft opening phase. The hotel management treated us to a wonderful dinner at their upscale Japanese restaurant on the 37th floor. The meal included beautiful sashimi --  raw tuna, salmon and shellfish -- as well as a number of traditional Japanese soups, salads and fried rice. The highlight, though, was the Wagyu beef, prepared in front of us on a tepenyaki grill. The cattle that Wagyu comes from are fed a premium diet, and caretakers massage them daily by hand to make their muscles extra soft and tender. The result was one of the best steak meals I've ever had, impossible tender and full of fresh flavor.

There are some perks that come along with working in the travel industry, and in China many of those are built on personal relationships. Here, as in so many other places, it's all about who you know.

 

A platter of ox heart and other delicacies... yum!

Frog-shaped dumplings in Xi'an.

Gathering around the tepenyaki table at the Sheraton in Shanghai. 

Fancy fingerwork makes dinner entertaining.

A splash of red wine turns beef preparation into fireworks.

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Wonders of China

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