Caleb Kostreva is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A public policy and civic leadership; social science (global studies emphasis) major at Howard Payne University, he is studying abroad in Shanghai this term.
In this week's post, Caleb takes us to the area around the Bund for a look at a Chinese display of patriotism and into the famous Yu Garden.
When people think of China, especially ancient China, one of the first images to appear in their mind is of the gardens that are so common here. One such garden, the Yu Garden, lies adjacent to another one of Shanghai’s most well-known locations and the other topic of this week’s post – the Bund.
*History geek moment* The Bund is characterized by its European architecture because it was built by Europeans (imagine that). But why? After the Opium Wars in the twentieth century, Shanghai, along with many other port cities, were forcibly opened to trade with the world. During this Western occupation of Shanghai, Europe had a lot of influence on the structures lining the streets that greeted ships coming into the port. If you look in the picture below, you will notice a number of Chinese flags. This show of flags in this number is not commonplace in China, but is so prevalent on the Bund because it is a show of power, that China reclaimed this area which was for so long occupied by foreigners. Ok, *history geek moment over*.
Photo: The Bund – notice the number of Chinese flags on the buildings
This area of Shanghai is most well-known for its view of the Pudong skyline (pictured in a previous post), but is also known for its restaurants and classy hotels. Another thing the Bund is known for is the number of engaged couples who go there for their wedding pictures. In China, it is very common for engaged couples to dress up in their wedding attire and travel to famous locations nearby, or sometimes further away, to take pictures for their invitations and to keep as memories. The Bund is a must visit location for Shanghai about-to-be-wedded-couples. Except on days with bad weather, it is almost certain to see a number of couples being photographed. One of the days I visited the Bund, I saw upwards of ten couples, their families in tow, posing for pictures!
Photo: A couple posing for a picture
At one end of the Bund, there is a small park, and if you walk through it, you will find yourself in a street market just outside the gate of the Yu Garden, one of the most famous locations in Shanghai. Dating back hundreds of years, this garden attracts tourists from across China and the world. The first thing that struck me about the garden was the amount of detail and intricacy in everything; from the designs and patterns in the paths created by thousands of individual pebbles to the detailed carvings in many of the windows, everything stands out, which seems redundant, yet somehow it works. One could spend hours walking the paths, looking in the buildings at the ancient artifacts, or just sitting watching the Koi goldfish swimming in the ponds, or watching the other people wandering the garden. If you are ever in Shanghai and are looking for a place to visit, the Yu Garden is an excellent place to see!
Photo: The Yu Garden, at least part of it
Next time you think of China, I hope you can not only picture the Great Wall or a Chinese garden, but I hope that you can picture the Bund with its show of Chinese patriotism and couples posing for pictures alongside the pictures of the gardens which so beautifully characterize this beautiful country.
Caleb's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.