上海 Shanghai

After our quick (快的) and convenient (方便) train (火车) ride, we headed to the hostel for a good night’s sleep. The Blue Mountain Bund Youth Hostel, as it is aptly named, is located in very close proximity to the Bund. Dee and I were slightly confused upon our arrival when we had to walk into another hotel lobby to get to the hostel. It was located on the seventh floor. This hostel was fine, except that our room could have doubled as a broom closet. As we were hardly in the room, this was not in fact a deal-breaker.
 
The following day we headed to the Jade Buddha Temple. Though it’s an active Buddhist monastery today, the real emphasis is solely on tourism. Deanna even noted the fact that we saw one monk talking on an Iphone. This is the 21st century, even monks need to be “trendy.” The main attractions of the temple are two white jade Buddhas, each carved from an individual slab of Burmese jade and brought to Shanghai in 1881 by the monk Huigen. The first is a a lustrous seated Buddha weighing 455 pounds, measuring over six feet, and adorned with jewels and stones – the second is a sleeping Buddha. We were forbidden from photographing the former, just in case it lost some of its lustre. After meandering around, we ate lunch at the Temple’s vegetarian restaurant. It was nothing to write home about. After satisfying our stomachs, as best as we could, we headed for the former residences of Sun-Yat Sen and Zhou Enlai. For those unfamiliar with these names, Sun-Yat Sen is the founder of the Chinese Republic and Zhou Enlai was the first Premier of the PRC (People’s Republic of China), under Mao Zedong. Both homes are located in the French Concession, a district that still retains its name even after the Vichy French government turned the area over to the pro-Japanese puppet government in Nanjing. I recently read an article that disputes the latter fact. A growing number of “Shanghainese” are growing disdainful of the name. They cite that it refers too much to Shanghai’s colonized past, in addition to encompassing an area that is too large to in fact know the location of a particular place within its confines. It seems arduous, mostly because Shanghai owes a lot of its breakneck development to its colonial past. Ok, enough of my squabbling…In the evening, we visited the Bund (外滩), Nanjing Pedestrian Street (南京路步行街), and the Jade Garden (豫园).  After a long day, we opted for a drink at the trendy bar/club called M2.
 
On our final day in Shanghai, we also found ourselves rather busy. Our first stop was the Jewish Quarter. This was in fact the most inconceivably interesting part of the trip, at least for me. In all my years at Hebrew school, I was never once made aware of the fact that there were Jews living in Shanghai. Shanghai actually experienced several waves of Jewish immigration, beginning with Sephardic Jews in the late 1840s, and lasting until the 1930s with a wave of European Jews fleeing Hitler. The former Ohel Moshe Synagogue, now known as the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum (摩西会堂), makes light of the 30,000 Jews that lived in Shanghai during the late 1930s to the early 1940s. The synagogue, built in 1927 by the Ashkenazi Jewish community, no longer serves as a synagogue. After visiting the museum, we took some times to walk around and discover some of the remnants of the Jewish Quarter. The home where Michael Blumenthal, the Treasury Secretary under Carter, grew up. It began raining during our Jewish Quarter visit, and as we had seen everything the museum map directed us to, we decided to head to the Pudong district and visit one of the observatory towers. We visited the Oriental Pearl TV Tower (东方明珠电视广播塔)。It’s not nearly as high as the Jin Mao (the observatory which I visited with Tine last year), but it has an acclaimed glass observatory deck. Acclaimed, only if you have decent weather, which we unfortunately did not. The views were a bit obscured by the smog, which befall most Chinese cities. Our last adventure took us back to the Jade Garden, where we had Deanna’s favorite meal, xiaolong bao, steamed pork dumplings with delicious broth that squirts all over the moment you bite into the wrapper. We dined at the famous Nanxiang Mantou Dian (南翔馒头店) ate on the second floor only to discover it wasn’t nearly enough food. We visited the third floor (better service with prices to match), and gorged on xiaolong and some other scrumptious dishes.
 
By this time, we had to say goodbye to Shanghai and head to the train station for our soft sleeper ride to Beijing. Deanna and I discovered that we were housed in different compartments, but as the soft sleeper allows the rider (and their bunkmates) close and lock the door, I wasn’t concerned. The main differences, we discovered, between the soft and hard sleeper, is extensive. Each compartment houses four beds, instead of six. There is a door that closes and locks in every compartment. The bathrooms boast a Western toilet, toilet paper, and hand soap. Deanna was overwhelmed when she discovered these finds. It’s important to note that these luxuries are mostly because this train left Shanghai bound for Beijing. I can’t imagine that all the soft sleeper compartment on every train bound for any destination would be as luxurious, but that’s inconsequential. At least we got our money’s worth as I dished out a whole lot of kuai (块) for this particular train ride. We arrived early the next morning in Beijing, feeling surprisingly refreshed, due to the comfort, quickness, and tranquility of our train ride. 
Jade Buddha Temple (玉佛寺)
Shakyamuni Buddha
Koi pond at the Temple
Also at the Jade Buddha Temple
Sun-Yat Sen’s former residence
Still retains its French colonialism. 
Zhou Enlai’s former residence. It was unfortunately closed by the time we finished the tour of Sen’s. 
Xiao Long Bao, better known as fried soup dumplings.
The Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, formerly the Ohel Moshe Synagogue. Also, Deanna looks as if she is frolicking!
Judaica in China!
This building was formerly the synagogue.
The memorial inscribed in English and Hebrew by Yitzhak Rabin, during his visit to the museum. 
The Shanghai Jewish Chronicle. In its day, the Jewish Quarter was a thriving community. 
A passport donated by the former Shanghai resident. Some of the Jews stayed in Shanghai, others made aliyah to Israel, went back to Europe or emigrated to the US. 
One of the exhibition rooms.
The museum’s front entrance. When we entered the museum, the caretaker tried to convince in, Chinese fashion, to pay for a tour guide. I politely declined and told him we were Jewish. He then proceeded to tell everyone who was in the vicinity, i.e. the tour guides, security, and the ayi (a respectful term for a cleaning lady). 
I still don’t know what this sign means. I have asked my German friends, but it doesn’t have any significance. Perhaps it’s Yiddish or Hebrew? Thanks to the pictures at the museum, Deanna and I were able to discover it was the entrance to one of the ghettos that the Jews lived in, while China was under Japanese occupation. 
The ground level of the Pearl TV Tower. 
My home away from home!
After our whirlwind tour of the TV tower, we passed a delectable looking chocolate shop. As I can’t manage to pass up any opportunity to eat authentic Western food, I forced Deanna to stop. We each tried a chocolate and then shared lavender tea latte with a TV tower-shaped chocolate that you stirred into your tea. 
Xiaolong bao
Deanna’s bed
Western toilet, toilet paper, and seat covers! 
Yes, hand soap! 

 

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