Old Shanghai and the Yuyuan Gardens
Next morning we went to the old part of Shanghai and the area around Fangbang Zhong Lu. It is horribly commercialised. The Chinese here seem to be turning their own historical legacy into a kind of Disneyland. The old shops weren’t too bad although you do get pestered by people running up to you and trying to sell you stuff – mostly fake Rolexes. It’s all “Hey! Hey! Looka! Looka!”. We’d had a bit of this in Hong Kong, particularly by the Star Ferry and on Nathan Road, so we weren’t that taken aback.
Far worse is the bazaar area by the famous old Huxin Ting teahouse, close to the entrance to the Yuyuan Gardens. The whole area is a tourist trap, even if nearly all the tourists are Chinese armed with Japanese digital cameras. There’s even a Starbucks and MacDonalds. Most of the buildings are new but in the traditional style. It’s like something from Epcot.
The teahouse itself is genuine enough, the building dates back to 1784. Huxin Ting means “mid-lake pavilion” and it does indeed sit in the middle of a lake. You get to it over a zig-zag bridge called Jiu Qu Qiao, the Bridge of Nine Turnings, supposed to stop evil spirits. Apparently evil spirits are not so good at turning corners. Might explain why you never see any at the centre of Hampton Court Maze.
The Huxin Ting teahouse is claimed to be the inspiration for Blue Willow pattern china. Hmm. Don’t see it myself. What do you reckon?
The Yuyuan Gardens were filled with American tourists on coach trips. I did manage to find a few peaceful bits where I could fire off a few snaps without being jostled.
I like the Dragon Wall. The dragon is only allowed to have 4 claws because 5-clawed dragons are reserved for the Emperor in Beijing.