In English, Xujiahui.
Xujiahui is not to be confused with Lujiazui (loo-jee-yah-zway), the financial district home to the Bottle-Opener, newly-constructed Shanghai Tower, Jin Mao, and Pearl Tower.
|Metro Art – Line 11 – Longhua|
Xujiahui is Water Tower Place and Fifth Avenue on steroids. When I ventured out of the mega-metro hub to the cheerily blue skies above, I was nearly blinded by the glint of sunlight off the ginormous glam-malls and blinged-out lettering of shops I can’t even begin to afford. I stopped off at Gateway 66, a big enough mall, with English-style restaurants dotting the lower level. I opted for Element Fresh (an Asian Panera Bread concept) and a Starbucks to fortify myself for a long afternoon of roaming around.
Before Xujiahui, I rode the newly-opened extension of the metro’s Line 11 to Longhua Station, a golden-roofed beauty that echoes the pretty Longhua Temple, just mere steps across the street from the exit. The beautiful Longhua Pagoda greets visitors and worshipers alike, and it heralds the large gate which, for 5 kuai, you can enter to visit Shanghai’s largest Buddhist complex.
Because it is the October holiday, more people than usual are out and about at Longhua, and the ticket price includes a stick of incense to burn at the large metal “pots” in the centre of the temple grounds. The air was thick, absolutely thick, with incense and evergreen, quite strangely, as evergreens were dotted here and there across the compound.
I was here to be an observer, of course, so I listened intently to monks’ chanting at the statues inside the worship halls decorated with gold and glazed gods. I peeled still-warm chestnuts and felt my heart beat along to drums and my ears ring with the chimes of bells.
|Part of the Martyr’s Memorial|
It was a lovely way to spend the morning, and if you’re adventurous, there’s a small vegetarian cafeteria where you can get some good snacks (if you can read Chinese). One couple helped me pick out two dishes to try, both which were really good, and sent me on my way with even more chestnuts.
Near Longhua is the Shanghai Martyr’s Museum and Park, a very patriotic look into Shanghai’s history leading into the Communist revolution. Most of the museum was in Chinese, but it did help me with understanding the history I’m teaching right now (China Since 1900). The park was well-worth a walkthrough, considering the sculptures and statues were interesting and the flowers were blooming quite prettily.
|To the Unknown Martyrs|
After wandering through the halls of Longhua, I popped back on the metro to find Xujiahui. So, what was here? I wasn’t entirely interested in the malls – there are so many malls here with all the same high-end shops where I don’t spend my time anyway – but more so interested in the old Jesuit Catholic history in Xujiahui. Thanks to Lonely Planet, I even had an idea that it existed; otherwise, it’s quite easy to miss the footsteps of history between all the glitzy malls and pushy shoppers.
|Entrance to Guangqi Park|
I found the old Jesuit library, but since it wasn’t Saturday, I couldn’t take the tour of what is supposed to be a great collection of books. This led me to St. Ignatius Cathedral, one of the few old cathedrals left in Shanghai, but the tourist line (mostly Chinese) was so long to get into the cathedral that I figured it wasn’t entirely worth it to spend time in line just to see the church. Besides, there was a loud, shouting sort of altercation going on outside the cathedral, and I had no interest in hearing that when I wanted peace and quiet.
For a group that had a presence in Shanghai from around 1610 and beyond, there was not much left of the original monasteries and schools.
I ventured further beyond the cathedral just to find some other places connected to the Jesuits. The next pit stop was a tiny museum called the Tushanwan Orphanage Museum, and for a 5 kuai ticket, it was completely packed with art and artifacts from the children raised by the orphanage. They were taught trades like painting, wood-carving, printing, and silver-smithing, and some of their art survived various World Fairs to be gathered back up and put into the museum. When the orphanage was closed sometime in the 1950s or early 60s, this was its enduring legacy.
Once I was done at the museum, I found myself at Guangqi Park, a park which holds the tomb of Xu Guangqi, a well-known Chinese scholar. Several small statues in the park commemorate his scientific and literary pursuits in the 1600s. He worked with the Jesuit Catholics, so it makes sense that his tomb/memorial park are in this area.
The day was getting rather late, and after a cursory walk around the park and watching several intense card games going on, I had to head back to the metro since I was meeting the middle school team for a happy hour at Morton’s (same Morton’s as Chicago) at the IFC Mall.
And boy, was Line 2 packed full of humanity – like sardines in a tin can!