Sunday, August 14, 2011

XUHUI: You Already, Sun Yat Sen, You Already!

The district of Xuhui now also occupies the once separate district of Luwan, making it one of Puxi’s largest areas. Its claim to fame though, is the French Concession. Sorry, the what? Let me explain. There was a time in Shanghai’s past when “concessions” were given to eight foreign powers. Of those eight, the area given to the French remains to be the most preserved to date, which makes it an interesting tourist spot replete with history that comes with its old buildings. There also are two former residences here that draw many tourists  in: Sun Yat Sen’s and Soong Ching Ling’s.

If you don’t know those two, you better go to the former’s residence at that road previously known as Rue de Moliere for a quick history lesson. Let’s go back then, and track my steps. First, I got off at Shaanxi South Road Station. There are two stations bearing the same name, take the one on Line 10 (Purple). I ordered Tonkatsu at Yoshinoya. It was swimming in curry sauce. Marriage of Indian and Japanese cuisine? It tasted weird, but I was hungry so I didn’t mind. After that I walked east along Nanchang Road. Now this road is just full of shops for anything you could wear, mostly shoes and clothes. Once you reach the corner of Nanchang and Sinan (previously known as Rue de Moliere), turn right. You won’t miss Sun Yat Sen’s former residence because of its gate and guards. Just look left.

Entrance fee is CNY20. You could also rent audio guides in English but they are really expensive! Snap a photo next to the SYS monument in front of the museum. That house is not the former residence yet, but a museum. I don’t think it was part of the old house. Anyway, SYS is so Rizal in so many ways. I like how multilingual he is. I read one of the essays he wrote in English which was on display. Guy makes a lot of sense and his grammar is good. There were some letters on display in Russian as well. They were addressed to him so I guess he also read Russian. You already, Sun Yat Sen. You already! I want to see him and Rizal in a multilingual debate. One on one!

You learn a lot not just about the life of this prominent figure in Chinese history, but also about Shanghai’s history. Interesting. Once you finish your museum tour, which won’t take long if you are not that interested in the minute details, head to the exit and see the garden. There is nothing extraordinary about it but it seems really peaceful. It is located behind the residence itself. When you enter the former residence your admission ticket would be validated and you would be asked to wear plastic for your shoes. I think those were originally hairnets. The place was arranged by SYS’ wife, one of the Soong sisters, before handing it to the government as a protected site. There isn’t much to see. It is just a house after all, but you get to see a glimpse of how those two lived their daily lives, and I could tell that it was a simple one.

I no longer visited Soong Ching Ling’s residence, which was a bit far from her husband’s. Besides, I could only tolerate one museum per day. What followed was a walk along the French Concession, in an area they call Sinan Mansions. The old buildings were converted into restaurants and a residential area inspired by their architecture was built next to it. This is why there are a lot of security personnel roaming around. A signboard would also tell you that taking pictures is prohibited. Really now? The thing about Shanghai is that they always tell you this, but you see a lot of people, most of them locals, with their camera phones at hand. Do as the locals do, but being discreet about it is still a good advice. The buildings all look kind of  similar. What would count as a good view though is that area inside that resembles a European alley complete with lamp posts and well-designed pathways.

The old French concession is on the northern side of Fuxing Park. There is one section of the street that is preserved. The road has tiles instead of concrete and the buildings all look European. What immediately comes to mind upon seeing this is Intramuros, or that street in Intramuros next to the church and museum. The part on the other side is not that cool because the old houses have been converted into shops and the place looks so unorganized. Better take your souvenir photos at the one earlier mentioned.

Fuxing Park is another good alternative for killing time. It is a large park and a lot of activities are happening there. You see old people dancing, men playing Football, kids on skateboards, more old people playing some board games along a pond with bathing ducks. Typical East Asian garden/park with some interesting sculptures here and there. Be careful if you still have some place to go to, you might not realize that you’ve already spent more than an hour in the place. Parks do that to you, especially after a long walk.

You could end the day at Longhua to visit their temple and pagoda. Those are still located in the Xuhui district but a bit farther than the tourist spots already mentioned. It is somewhere in the southwest. You would have to walk a little but the view is worth it. A good way to end the day.

XUHUI: You Already, Sun Yat Sen, You Already!

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