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08/05/2013

12 best relics in the Shanghai Museum I

With hundreds of exhibits and very few explanatory panels, navigating the Shanghai Museum can be a daunting task. You go in, spend hours and come out knowing little more than when you started for your affordable China travel packages.

Not exactly the cultural experience you were hoping for.

That’s why Daniel Newman, of the Shanghai-based Newman Tours, initiated his tour of the Shanghai Museum last year.

“If you don’t know the context and how the piece fits into the bigger picture, the museum can be rather lifeless,” he explains.

Newman, who has a master degree in Modern Chinese studies from Cambridge and a clear love of the country’s past, uses history, stories and amusing anecdotes to bring the pieces to life. We catch up with Newman to hear some of those tales.

1. What you're looking at: Fu yi gong (wine vessel)

Exhibition hall: Bronze

Period: Late Shang Dynasty, 13-11 century B.C.

Why you should care: This vessel was used to make offerings to the gods and ancestors. Objects like this are so well-preserved because they were buried with the kings in chambers that were often airtight.

This one is particularly interesting because you can clearly make out the animal motifs found on such vessels.

“The animals they picked are symbolic of the connections between the living and the dead,” Newman says.

The birds are flying to the heavens, the snakes shed their skins in a death and renewal ritual, and the phoenix dies and is reborn.

2. What you're looking at: Bells of Marquis Su of Jin

Exhibition hall: Bronze

Period: Western Zhou Dynasty, mid ninth century B.C.

Why you should care: These bells are an example of the gift-giving culture in the Western Zhou dynasty, the predecessor of the modern day hongbao.

King Li gave nobleman Marquis Su some land and other goods after performing well in a war. In return, the nobleman commissioned these bronze bells for the king, with his "thank you" message and name inscribed.

“This is a thank you, but it’s also a way of showing off how close you are to the king,” Newman explains.

The bells themselves illustrate just how sophisticated bronze casting had become -- the spikes on the exterior could be filed down to create the perfect pitch.

The head of the Shanghai museum discovered 14 of these bells in a Hong Kong (a must-see for your top 10 China tour packages) antique shop. The other missing two were eventually discovered and are now housed in the Shanxi Museum.

3. What you're looking at: Da ke ding (food vessel)

Exhibition hall: Bronze

Period: Western Zhou, 10th century B.C.

Why you should care: This commonly-used vessel has an uncommon story: it’s cursed.

When a senior official dug it up and took it home during the Qing Dynasty, his sons began dying one after another. Later, a widow named Pan Da Yu inherited the vessel.

Soon thereafter, Japan invaded China, and she was forced to hide and protect it. Ultimately, in the early 1950s, she donated the ding to the museum -- which itself was actually built to be shaped like a ding.

“By then, she had enough of the darn thing,” Newman says. “I like the story of this ancient vessel’s afterlife.”

4. What you're looking at: He of Fu Chai (wine vessel)

Exhibition hall: Bronze

Period: King of Wu State (early 6th century, 476 B.C.)

Why you should care: This bronze is linked to the story of King Fu, and how he turned a defeated enemy -- Gou Jian of Yue -- and turned him into his servant, only to have the tables reversed. From this bronze, you can learn something about Chinese history to enrich your popular China tours.

The story goes that after years of humiliation, Gou Jian (who was earlier defeated in battle by Fu) persuaded King Fu to set him free. But Gou Jian wasn’t ready to make peace. He sent King Fu a gift: one of ancient China’s four great beauties named Xi Shi.

While King Fu was focusing on this beautiful woman, Gou Jian invaded the kingdom, leading to King Fu’s defeat and ultimate suicide.

Inscribed on this bronze, which belonged to King Fu, are the words: “For a beautiful woman.” Historians like to guess it was made for Xi from King Fu.

“Xi Shi is seen as the key to his downfall,” Newman says. “It’s rather sexist, but it’s still a good story.”

5. What you're looking at: Buddhist stele stone

Exhibition hall: Sculpture

Period: Northern Wei, 386-534 A.D.

Why you should care: This stone marker is typical of the Buddhist sculptures found along the Silk Road (where you can have Silk Road travel), a beacon wishing travelers good karma and success in business.

“In this and similar sculptures we see how Buddhism is becoming more and more materialistic,” Newman says.

The scene at the top of the stele has its origins in the Indian text called Vimalakirti Sutra.

Vimalakirti, an influential preacher, pretended to be bedridden so that he could persuade well-wishing visitors of his philosophies. In this scene, he invited Manjusri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, for a debate.

Although Indian Buddhists considered this sutra minor, Chinese gravitated toward its humor: a comic scene punctuated by a fool’s pedestrian remarks.

6. What you're looking at: Bodhisattva stone

Exhibition hall: Sculpture

Period: Tang, 618-907 A.D.

Why you should care: Look closely at this Bodhisattva. Is it male or female? The original Indian version of Pusa Guan Yin-- Avalokite?vara -- was male. But, at the time the story spread to China, Daoist fertility goddesses were popular.

“That’s one of the major reasons we believe he slowly became a woman,” Newman explains. “You can see a degree of gender ambiguity here.”

There is a soft, yet still masculine face and just a hint of breasts. The changes reflects how religion was morphing to fit with China's culture identity.

For more, you can contact with China travel agents.

08:49 Publié dans Voyage | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)

06/05/2013

Swimming with sharks in Shanghai

What’s the most exhilarating thing you can do in Shanghai for your last minute China travel deals ? Climb to the highest observatory in the world? Take a ride on a magnetic levitating train? How about scuba diving with more than 150 sharks?

That last one should do it. And I did it, at Changfeng Ocean World, where scuba divers can suit up and jump in a tank with the ocean's most fearsome killing machines.

The larger, more intimidating sharks have menacing teeth inside mouths that are larger than our heads.

Preparing for "Jaws"

I sign up for a shark session with Big Blue Scuba, which runs regular sessions at Changfeng. On the way to the aquarium, instructor Leigh Chan tells my group that after millions of years of evolution sharks have become some of the most successful predators in the world.

“So we’ve got no chance against them,” I say.

“You should be OK,” Chan says with a smile. “These sharks aren’t interested in humans. There are plenty of other things they’d rather eat in that tank first.”

Last-minute jitters

Changfeng's expansive dive tank is 5.5 meters deep and teems with stingrays, turtles, eels, a variety of large fish and, of course, sharks. Five different types to be precise -- sand tiger sharks, nurse sharks, whitetip reef sharks, blacktip reef sharks and guitar sharks -- those being the ones with triangular heads.

Shanghailander Heather Hunt is one of the divers in our group.

“That shark is freaking huge,” she says as she peers through the aquarium tank at one of the ten-foot monsters. “I’m getting quite nervous. I’m slowly crumbling.”'

With the sharks

After some last-minute instruction from Chan and Changfeng's divemaster, we make our way to the top of the tank and reluctantly jump in.

Swimming side by side with more than a hundred of these perfect, powerful creatures is breathtaking. Literally. For a moment, I think I forget to breathe. So I suggest tourists to try it to color your China tour

The larger, more intimidating sharks are fat and slow, though they have menacing teeth inside mouths that are larger than our heads.

For the most part, however, the sharks appear disinterested in the human interlopers. After a few minutes in their midst, my nervousness subsides.

Even so, I keep repeating in my head Chan's instructions to keep my arms in close to my body. I really do want to leave this tank with all my limbs still attached.

No longer terrified, and more fascinated, I swim around the tank, getting close to all the sea creatures. Tourists who have popular China tours pass through the tunnel below and snap photos. They'll have some great shots, but they'll never know the exhiliration of this unique and unforgettable experience.

10:33 Publié dans Voyage | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)

28/04/2013

8 strangest Shanghai museums II

Shanghai Postal Museum

Admission: Free

Why it's odd but awesome: The museum itself is almost as compelling as its contents: it’s housed in a colonial-era post office, with a majestic glass atrium. The carefully-laid out displays detail the stories of the early post scouts, showcase tortoise shells and bamboo with inscribed messages, and include clay seals that ensured mail privacy.

But, according to one security guard, the best part is the rooftop deck: “It’s a great view, from the Bund to Lujiazui,” he says. The deck will reopen in the spring of 2011.

Don't leave without seeing: Yellowed letters postmarked from the former concessions which is one of popular attractions in Shanghai for your China travel deals.

Shanghai Museum of Public Security

Admission price: RMB 8

Why it's odd but awesome: This expansive museum -- which contains 8,000 items -- follows the history of China’s public security forces from the mid-19th century to the present.

Visitors who join China vacation packageswander through the spacious halls past wax figurines of diverse patrol officers: Indians, British and Chinese. There’s everything from badges and uniforms to propaganda posters and full-sized emergency vehicles.

Don't leave without seeing: Sun Yat-sen’s personal sidearm.

Shanghai Museum of Public Security, 518 Ruijin Nan Lu, near Xietu Lu, +86 21 6472 0256, hours: Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum

Admission: RMB 50 (adults)

Why it's odd but awesome: This museum is housed in the former Ohel Moshe synagogue, which Russian Jews built in 1927. The original place of worship is on the first floor, while the upper floors showcase Jewish-related artwork. There’s also a searchable database of Jews who lived in Shanghai.

The best part is the exterior exhibition halls which detail the personal stories of escape and sanctuary during Wold War II.

“I’m proud of the history in our district,” says Hongkou resident Miley Yin, a volunteer tour guide and college student.

Don't leave without seeing: The story of one Jewish man’s lost Shanghai love, a woman named "Ms. Wong." Apparently, Wong left him for someone whom she thought was a foreign oil executive, only to find that man just owned a Texas gas station.

If you want to know more, you can contact with China tour agents.

09:34 Publié dans Voyage | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)