Tourist for a day…

This week on PhD Wednesday, I hung up my coat of academia, and my ever-growing list of work priorities, to let myself be a tourist for the day. RJW’s Aunty and Uncle were in Shanghai for four nights and three days with two friends, one from the UK and the other from Luxembourg. The two friends also knew someone from Shanghai…a late twenty-something year old guy called Mathias from Luxembourg, who was a family friend’s son. Mathias and I took the four visitors under our wing and tried to show them some of what Shanghai had to offer in a very small window of time…and because of work, I could only do this on PhD Wednesday.

The day began, for me, very slowly. This past week, I have had a bad sore throat that has now developed into a dry chesty cough…more than anything it is just plain annoying (*cough cough*). That day, my throat felt like the size of Shanghai itself…eugh. Thankfully I’d packed “grade A” throat lozenges from the UK as I knew China’s versions were just not as good, or very hard to find. This meant I was running late, though to be honest that’s nothing unusual…and I was supposed to be outside the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Shanghai for 10am. I arrived about 15-20 minutes late and the visitors were nowhere to be seen.  Surprise, surprise the taxi driver had taken them to the wrong place…to the Shanghai Art Museum just next door.

First stop was MOCA to see the exhibition ‘Nostalgia: East Asia Contemporary Art Exhibition’ as they had requested to see some contemporary art. I thought this would give them a broad overview of what East Asia has to offer at the moment, rather than overwhelming them with somewhere like the m50 art area, and it went down quite well. They were surprised about how easy the works were to interpret and understand, as they expected the works to be more abstract and conceptual. This instigated a conversation about the development of artistic processes and artistic practice in China, and East Asia, in reference to the West, and how East Asia deals with visual representation in different ways. They are perhaps using techniques that the West has already exhausted, or they are re-inventing and re-processing these techniques though the use of different medias. I won’t talk about the exhibition again as I have already written about it on here last weekend. I always like the fact that when you go and visit an exhibition for a second time, you see and find out new things. After here, they wanted to go back the Shanghai Museum where they had been the day before as they’d run out of time. They only had chance to look at the special exhibition on ancient bronzes, and therefore, didn’t get to see the Chinese Ancient Jade, Chinese Ming and Qing Furniture, or Chinese Painting galleries of the museum. This is one place I’d never been to in Shanghai so it was good to be made to go somewhere I probably would never go. It’s not often I delve into historical institutions of this kind, and I was pleasantly surprised. The Shanghai Museum is absolutely huge with over 39,000 square metres of space divided into ten galleries, all dedicated to different aspects of ancient Chinese art. To be honest, I thought I really should have come here before now…anyway, here are some of the things I saw during our three-hour visit that I thought were particularly special, beautiful or just plain impressive.

I particularly liked seeing the traditional study room arrangement, which I still see referenced within contemporary Chinese artist’ studios today. The museum has a great book section in their shop by the way that I’ll be going back to at some stage.

After a very random lunch of a green salad covered in too much mayonnaise and a small bowl of what was called Russian soup…basically vegetable broth with cabbage, onion and the odd slice of processed meat (I left the meat, and actually forgot to take a photo of this random meal, very unlike me)…we headed onto our third stop of the day, the Jade Buddha Temple 玉佛寺 (yù fósì), in the Putuo district of Shanghai where I used to live back in 2010. Again, this was somewhere I had never visited before and, considering I used to live two blocks away from this place, I really should have gone to see it sooner. The Jade Buddha Temple 玉佛寺 (yù fósì) was founded in 1882 to house two white jade Buddhas brought from Burma the year before by a monk of the Putuo Shan area of China. Destroyed and then abandoned after the 1911, the temple buildings were reconstructed on the same site in 1918-28, and is now a monastery of Chan (Zen) Buddhism. As soon as we got there, the heavens opened and it continued for the rest of the day.

After these three visits, it was definitely time for a sit down, time for refreshments and time for a relax, so I took them to the ‘Boxing Cat Brewery’ for a few drinks…beers for the boys, cups of tea for the girls…and to get warm in front of a roaring log fire. I love log fires. One thing I love and miss about UK living. Then onto dinner at ‘Goga’, which I’d researched online as being (apparently) one of the restaurants to go to in Shanghai at the moment. It didn’t fail to impress. It is a tiny restaurant with seating for maximum of I’d say 20 people…reservations at 6.30pm or 8.30pm only…an open kitchen set up so you can see the chefs prepare and cook the food…and very welcoming and helpful waiters, although a little quick on the removal of your empty plates…oh and it’s cash only. I had the sizzling kampachi sashimi with fresh yuzu, white soy, and white truffle starter and the miso broiled black cod with pea puree…absolutely yummy amazing…I couldn’t stop talking about this food as I was eating it. I love good food.

Mathias had the uni and avocado with lemon oil on grilled toast and the seared Dalian red snapper with charred eggplant main…which I obviously had to try. Super good too…though the broth with the snapper had quite a hidden spice kick to it. Mike had the seared scallops accompanied by white asparagus, porcini mushrooms, and a lobster champagne nage starter (scallops are one of his favourite foods and he loved this) and the seared Dalian red snapper with charred eggplant main…Chris had the cup of pumpkin and apple soup starter and the stuffed chicken with creamed taro and peanut satay sauce…and the final picture is of the West Coast lobster roll starter. Perfectly  (not too largely) sized portions, creatively constructed, and definitely playtime for you palate. I’d really recommend this place.

As it is such a small place, their dessert menu is very limited with only two options of either a lemon curd or chocolate mousse edible creation. Ice cream was requested, so after paying up we jumped in a taxi, as it was still pouring with rain, and I took them to ‘Le Creme Milano’, a pretty good ice-cream gelato and coffee place round the corner from where I live. This went down very well…cherry tart with hazelnut gelato for me…things I really shouldn’t eat, but it tasted good, good, good. That scoop of chocolate isn’t mine by the way! Nice to be distracted for the day and lovely to show visitors around my area of the world…it’s not often I get the chance. Back to work reality the next day…thanks for the tourist interlude.

1 Comment

  1. Interesting comment, ‘… the traditional study room arrangement, which I still see referenced within contemporary Chinese artist’ studios today.’ Such as? Can you give an example? Beyond the bareness? They really don’t seem to go in for clutter and mess in the way we do.

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