Saturday, February 8, 2014
Writing (and lighting) the way
The Lunar New Year (aka the Spring Festival 春节) is coming to the end. The tourists are leaving the city (several million visited Shànghăi 上海 this past week), while the residents are returning in droves. The cacophony of exploding fireworks is dying down (our neighborhood sounded like Baghdad under attack from American bombers and missiles during the first and third nights of the holiday), and after having five days off including last weekend, I've been back at work since Wednesday (though my daughter doesn't go back to school until the day after tomorrow, much to her mother's relief). As it was my turn to be duty officer during the first part of the Spring Festival, we were required to stay within the city limits, which restricted where we could go. All in all, it was a quiet, often dull holiday period (a plus in regards to the duty phone), not much different from the ones we spent in Taiwan in years past. Next year I hope to take advantage of the time to escape from Greater China and do something more productive with the paid time off.
But that will be then, and this is now. Today, on a cold, overcast Saturday afternoon (at least the rain had finally stopped), we rode the Metro to the city's Hóngkŏu district 虹口区 to reacquaint ourselves with one of China's most celebrated writers, Lŭ Xùn 鲁迅 (see here for our first encounter). The novelist's former residence, where he lived from 1933 until his death in 1936, can now be visited for a small admission fee.
The house is small but looked surprisingly comfortable and provides a neat insight into what it must've been like to live in a Japanese-style home during that period (Hongkou was the site of Shanghai's pre-war Japanese settlement). Photography wasn't allowed inside.
Lu Xun's Former Residence 鲁讯故居 lies just off of Shānyīn Road 山阴路, a street which retains the look the city probably had before China's economy starting taking off in the early 1990's.
The supposedly romantic Tiān'ài (Sweet Love) Road 甜爱路 also has a number of fine period pieces lining the street opposite Lu Xun Park 鲁讯公园.
No sweet lovin' to be had on Tian'ai Road, but there was the Lu Xun Memorial Hall 鲁讯纪念馆, free to get in (and out of the chill) and providing more details about this writer I had never heard of before coming to China than I thought I needed to know. Pamela had never heard of him, either: the KMT 國民黨 wasn't very enamored of a decidedly left-wing novelist who had been celebrated by the Communists, and had banned his books in Taiwan up until the late 1980's.
The photos above depict the period in the late 19th/early 20th centuries when Lu Xun was studying medicine in Japan. It included a photo of a blindfolded Chinese about to be executed by a Japanese soldier for spying for the Russians during the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War (second from left on the bottom row in the picture above). According to Wikipedia:
Lu Xun was shocked by the complete apathy of the Chinese onlookers (in the photograph); he decided it was more important to cure his compatriots' spiritual ills rather than their physical diseases.
In front of the memorial hall and behind the blue fence lay the park, which unfortunately was closed for "reconstruction". That and the weather didn't stop a determined group of senior citizens from doing their taichi exercises.
An interestingly-named teahouse standing just outside of the park gates
While the park itself is shuttered for the time being, a small retro amusement park was still open for business. Amber and Pamela took a spin on the dangerous-looking roller coaster. I was told I was too tall to ride.
Had it not been for the weather (I could've sworn I saw a couple of snowflakes), we would've rented a boat to take out onto the small lake. The cold didn't stop some people from dancing, playing badminton or even practicing opera singing (of the Western variety); Chinese parks make for interesting tableaux at times. In the background on the right is the Hongkou Football Stadium 虹口足球场, home of the local Shanghai Greenland Shēnhuā soccer team 上海陆地申花.
Soccer season doesn't begin until next month, so the stadium is closed for now. Peeking through the gates, it appears the pitch is being used as a driving range for golfers until Chinese Super League 中国足球协会超级联赛 play kicks off.
By this point, my wife was feeling tired from having to walk around in the winter chill, so she elected to return home. My daughter, however, was having none of that and eagerly accepted my suggestion to head over to the Yù Garden 豫园 area to see the Lantern Festival 元宵节 decorations. The festival falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month (which happens to coincide with Valentine's Day this year), and is the last event to be held in celebration of the Lunar New Year.
Everything, of course, was bright and beautiful, and Amber really enjoyed the scene, pointing out the horse theme (it is the Year of the Horse 午马, after all) and enthusiastically identifying such figures as the phoenix.
Even the Garden of Eden was given the lantern treatment. Although it was busy, the bazaar around Yu Garden was surprisingly not as crowded as I'd expected (relatively speaking, of course).
Finishing off the day at the nearest branch to our home of Curry House CoCo Ichibanya カレーハウスCoCo壱番屋, a Japanese curried rice restaurant chain that has become one of my daughter's favorites (it has a kid's meal, a definite plus in her book).