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Friday, December 26, 2014

Boxing Day on the heights of Shanghai - return to Sheshan

Christmas this year has certainly been a time of mixed emotions. Yesterday's present openings went well, with our eight year-old satisfied with the gifts she received. However, we learned later in the morning of a death in the family, the news of which has struck particularly close to home for my wife. As a result, we canceled our planned overnight visit to Xītáng 西塘 for this weekend as no one is in the mood for traveling. 

Life goes on, however, and with the weather having warmed up a little and the skies staying relatively clear, we paid a return visit this afternoon to Shéshān 佘山, the highest "mountain" within the Shànghăi 上海 city limits, protruding from the surrounding countryside to a staggering height of 100 meters (328 feet) elevation dwarfed by the highrises in the city's Pŭdōng 浦东 district.

Amber in a typical Christmas scene:

Compared with our first time on Sheshan, the air quality today was much improved, meaning we could actually make out shapes in the distance from the top of the, mountain:

The last time we were here, the Shanghai Astronomical Museum, housed in a former Jesuit observatory, was closed for renovations. Today, it was open again for business and my daughter and I went inside to have a look:

Of all the gifts she received yesterday, this dragon appears to be her favorite:

Amber takes a look at an armillary, a device used to measure the position of celestial bodies:

Amber was also impressed with the massive old telescope on display inside the old observatory:

On the roof of the observatory:

Next door is the Sheshan Basilica:

Back inside, where the small museum gives an overview of the history of Chinese astronomy, acknowledging the contributions of the Jesuits in this field. At the height of Chinese imperial power, the only things the West could offer that impressed the rulers of the Middle Kingdom were clocks and the knowledge gleaned from celestial observations (others found themselves hooked on opium, but that's another story):

One more look at the surrounding countryside before exiting the astronomical museum:

My daughter and I then popped in for another look at the basilica. Though hardly devout myself, I was still bemused by the reactions of the Chinese visitors who looked thoroughly confused at what the building represented and how they should behave while inside it. Amber, meanwhile, was relieved to see that, other than the usual crucifixion depictions, this church didn't contain any gruesome images of saints being tortured, unlike the cathedrals we visited on our recent trip to Belgium. On the way out, we followed in reverse order the Stations of the Cross as we made our downhill:

Though hardly a "hike" (despite what my wife may think), the trails on Sheshan do make for a nice change of pace from Shanghai's usual concrete and asphalt pathways:

From Catholicism to Buddhism as we passed by the Xiùdàozhě Pagoda 秀道者塔, standing 20 meters (66 feet) high, on our way back to the parking lot. It was reassuring the see the graffiti that had defaced the base of the ancient tower (supposedly dating from the 10th century, though it doesn't appear to be that old), and which had bothered me on our previous visit, has since been whitewashed (much like a lot of events in postwar Chinese history):

This hasn't been the most joyous of holidays, but considering what has happened, Pamela is coping well. The rest of this weekend will no doubt be spent quietly, and I may even go into the office over the weekend in an attempt to catch up on some of the work that has piled up in the last couple of weeks. Hopefully your holidays have been happier ones.



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