|The journey from Osaka to Shanghai took two days. Throughout yesterday we maintained a course of 271 degrees across the southern Yellow Sea and by mid morning had passed south of Cheju-Do Island off the southern tip of Korea.
By late evening we entered the approach traffic lanes to the Chang Jiang and took a westerly course to the pilot station for transit up the river to Shanghai.
The city has been called the "Paris of the East and "Queen of the Orient".
Mao Zedang [1893-1976] was founder of the people's republic of China and in 1958 said "I have witnessed the tremendous energy of the masses. On this foundation it is possible to accomplish any task whatsoever". His words could have been meant for the city of Shanghai.
Shanghai means "up the river". The river in question is the Huangpu and the city radiates from its banks. Along the waterfront the wide Bund [Nai Tan Road] is a place where multi million dollar deals are common. In 1949 Shanghai was a place of mystery, sin and power and in the new century that tradition keeps the ruling party members in Beijing on their toes. Noel Coward once commented that the bar in the Shanghai Club was long enough to show the earths curvature. In 1930 he wrote "Private Lives", while staying at the Peace hotel [then the Cathay hotel]. The Shanghai club is now a popular bar and the once infamous great world entertainment centre is modern Shanghai's youth centre.
The city began as a fishing village and by 1700 international trade had begun with opium coming from India. The first opium war broke out in 1840 leaving Britain in control of Hong Kong and the Shanghai "concessions".
During the next century owners thrived whilst local people grew poorer.
Foreigners amassed fortunes whilst conditions for citizens were primitive. Revolution was the result. Our visit to Shanghai was nostalgic and I remember the occasion when a BOC colleague and I were ejected from the Peace hotel for asking for a string quartet to play the Beatle song "yellow submarine."
The ship docked at Waigaogiao terminal on the river Yangtze about 1.5 hours drive from Shanghai. Our guide was called Hui Yee Bun [JJ for short]?? He was about 45 and dressed in a black suit, white shirt, blue tie and spoke with a gentle voice in impeccable English. JJ told me he was a member of "the party" and although he wanted to become a micro biologist, the party wanted him to read foreign languages. He therefore graduated in foreign languages. He is a full time guide working for the state taking foreign visitors around the city. He said he had four objectives:-
1. To show foreign visitors [devils with long noses, blue eyes and coloured hair] the sites of Shanghai.
2. To ensure visitors left with a favourable impression of China, its people and its products.
3. Ensure visitors are kept safe and secure
4. Glean from visitors their opinion of China and its people.
JJ was a gentle soul who seemed slightly disillusioned with political progress. He told us because Chinese were Buddhist they were patient in the belief things would get better but if after fifteen years six families were still sharing the same facilities on one floor of a tenement block they would begin to fight. He also drew the comparison with the west and said children in China were becoming disrespectful to their parents.
JJ's dark brown watery eyes portrayed a feeling of sadness but also an inner strength which may support a counter revolution if promises were not kept. We first visited the children's palace inspired by the widow of Dr Sun Yat-Sen. Here we saw young talented children studying ballet, violin and singing. Some of us joined the classes and talked at length to the children and teachers. We later bought some of the delightful embroidery the members of the art class had produced. Needless to say Lesley stayed with the children long after the rest of us were assembling to leave for our next stop.
The visit to the Bund did not fail to inspire and was even more vibrant than when I was last there. The old favourites were still watching over the river, Peace hotel, Bank of China, the Customs Building and the Pudang Development Bank.]
Many more skyscrapers had been built in what I thought was a modern style, which had captured the spirit of the orient. The Hyster building was an excellent example of this. The oriental pearl tower [third tallest broadcasting tower in the world] gave magnificent views over the city as a biting wind and mist settled across the river down below.
We had lunch at the famous and charming Jin Jiang hotel where over forty world leaders had stayed in the last 15 years. Lunch included various starters followed by beef with mange tout spicy sweet sour chicken dim sum etc.. this was consumed in the magnificently decorated Shanghai Moon restaurant on the eleventh floor. Chop sticks have now become order of the day. We later visited the jade Buddha temple famed for its exquisite and priceless white jade Buddha brought from Burma in the late 19th century.
During our visit to the temple we tasted several different teas, which had alleged healing properties. Ted by this time had fallen fast asleep and this was attributed to him drinking number 7 tea derived form the root of the lotus flower.
JJ spoke with gentle conviction about his belief in Buddhism and how "everything was nothing and nothing was everything" He told us that all conflict could be resolved by dialogue and that if we were patient things always got better in time.
As JJ spoke in his gentle voice the whole room became silent. I swear I saw a tear in his old brown eyes and heard an elusive note of irony in his voice.
As dusk began to fall we visited the Yu Yuan garden and old town. This is a classic Ming dynasty garden and features more than 30 halls and pavilions. The official Pan Yunduan built the garden in 1559 to honour his parents who unfortunately died during its construction.
The garden abuts the old British concessions district [Old Shanghai"] with its narrow bustling streets, street vendors and beggars. The atmosphere was both exciting and slightly intimidating and made for tremendous photo opportunities.
It was an honour and a privilege to have met JJ and to visit what must be one of the most exciting cities in the world.
We set sail for Hong Kong tonight.