Shanghai: Still Swinging
A city whose appeal continues to evolve.
The restored Jing An Temple is one of Shanghai’s most famous, offering a sanctuary to escape the downtown bustle should you wish to admire paintings, calligraphy and the famous bronze bell in the main exhibition hall.
While today’s Shanghai is a far cry from the romanticised 1920’s film portrayal during its heyday, its charming mingling of Eastern and Western influences continues to be evident. Although the city remains a major hub for global corporate headquarters, traces of a slower, simpler time can still be found around every street corner – if you look hard enough.
Pristine and Peaceful
Cutting-edge super structures coexisting beside time-honoured haunts create an interesting juxtaposition in the Jing An district, a prime example of development at its most rapid, with top-grade office space multiplying at mind-boggling rates. The restored Jing An Temple is one of Shanghai’s most famous, offering a sanctuary to escape the downtown bustle should you wish to admire paintings, calligraphy and the famous bronze bell in the main exhibition hall.
Offering respite of a more luxurious nature is Jing An Shangri-La, West Shanghai in the city’s most fashionable neighbourhood. The 508-room hotel features a glamorous design inspired by Shanghai’s vibrant past, present and future and is the centrepiece of the impressive new 450,000-square-metre Jing An Kerry Centre. Reflecting its chic surroundings, the hotel glistens with more than four million crystals used in its decor.
Among the hotel’s highlights is its impressive art collection, comprising 207 pieces of work by 50 artists from 12 countries across four continents. It includes specially commissioned sculptures, paintings, photography, textile art and decorative objects, each paying homage to Chinese culture. Also of note is the 1,740-square-metre Jing An Grand ballroom with a 10-metre high ceiling – the largest in West Shanghai.
The vibrant art scene is certainly one of Shanghai’s strong points, with its impressive selection of thought-provoking exhibitions. One of the most exciting current exhibitions, Hundred Flowers, at the Beaugeste Gallery until 15 November 2013, showcases the photography of Marc Riboud, who visited China in 1957 in the midst of the Hundred Flowers Campaign. Some of Riboud’s 40 gelatin silver prints have never been exhibited before.
Though by no means a new find, the contemporary art galleries on Moganshan Road are always a good way to spend the day. The city’s oldest and most respected, ShangART is also home to the studios of top talent, such as Zhou Tiehai and Ding Yi. Therefore, a preview of their latest masterpieces in the making is highly likely.
The newer, less commercial alternative for art lovers is Hongfang Creative Industrial Zone, created from renovated factories and houses galleries since 2005. Shanghai Sculpture Space is among the most reputable. It is surrounded by a grassy courtyard showcasing quirky sculptures of bulls and horses made of auto parts and car-size heads of Albert Einstein and former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.
There are endless ways to indulge in Shanghai besides perusing the latest exhibitions. Just like the surrounding architecture, the dichotomy between faded and fresh can be seen even in retail offerings. On one hand, vintage shops continue to be the rage – in particular, Lolo Love Vintage, a treasure-filled cavern of kitsch trinkets and 1920s garb- yet the metropolis remains on the pulse of international fashion with the recent opening of New York label Helmut Lang’s only standalone store in China, which is famed for its edgy, minimalist, monochrome pieces.
If the idea of trawling round boutiques is not your cup of tea, there’s always the option of a good old-fashioned foot rub. Shanghai has plenty of reputable parlours and among the most famous is Green specialising in traditional Chinese acupressure. First timers should be warned that reflexology is a far cry from the sleep-inducing oil-based variety of massage – you’ll find yourself teetering on the brink of pleasure and pain throughout, but leave feeling like you’re walking on air.
A Shanghai visit would be incomplete without feasting on delectable dumplings. International chain Din Tai Fung remains a favourite amongst locals and, while technically Taiwanese, their plump xiao long baos boasting delicate skins bursting with flavourful broth are simply a must.
In terms of global gourmand finds, The 1515 West, Chophouse & Bar has piqued the interest of Shanghai foodies with its carnivorous delights. The hotel worked with Stanbroke Ranch in Queensland, Australia for four months to create its own signature 1515 WEST brand of Australian beef. The cows are raised exclusively for Shangri-La to ensure tenderness and rich flavour in its signature 45-day dry aged T-bone and porterhouse cuts.
The raw seafood bar, cheese and charcuterie room, and dedicated bakery are also highlights, and don’t leave without sampling Alma Jean’s white peach cobbler heaped with a scoop of dreamy bourbon ice cream. To work off the indulgence, finish with an evening stroll along the Bund to behold stately colonial architecture beside the futuristic neon signage of Huangpu River that embodies a city of enthralling contrast.
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I think Jing An Temple is good, and beautiful historical place. I could seen a performance of priest's prayer when I visited the temple, that's a wonderful happining to me!
Shanghai, China have a lot of famous place, so I want to go there again someday, of course will stay Shangri-La!