My Shanghai Diary By Chantelle Flood, Davis College

Welcome back to my Shanghai diary. Here is a taster of what we got up to since my last entry. We visited the Shanghai Museum which is a world famous museum of ancient Chinese art. The building itself is shaped with a square base and a round top reflecting the ancient Chinese philosophy of the universe, that the earth is square and the sky is round. The exterior of the building is most impressive with eight imposing white marble statutes of guardian lions. There are in excess of one million pieces in the collection and amongst that figure, almost 130,000 national treasures. Included in the pieces we viewed were ceramics, calligraphy, bronzes, paintings and jade and ivory works. I really enjoyed this visit. This is a place to experience the brilliant history and enjoy the fabulous artistic creation of China.

A road trip saw us visit the famous cities of Suzhou and Hangzhou. Whilst in Suzhou were visited the famous ‘Tiger Hill’ and the ‘Humble Administrators’ Garden’, followed by a trip to a silk factory. The factory which we visited was built back in 1926 and there we witnessed the complete process of silk making from silkworm raising, silk reeling, silk weaving and silk quilt making. A wonderful experience.

Hangzhou is known as one of China’s most beautiful locations and I could see why when we visited. Hangzhou is famous for West Lake, which truly is stunning. In the tenth century the Shui Xin Bao Ning Temple was built on the natural sandbank in the centre of the isle. During the 17th century a round ridge was built with the silt of the lake and thus a lake within the west lake was built. We took a boat trip out to one of the islands on the lake and went to a location named ‘Three Pools Mirroring the Moon’. This location is one of ten views which can be enjoyed there. It is said to be the perfect location for appreciating a full moon. Whilst strolling around the island we came across the Kaiwang Pavillion, the nine-lion rockery, the Nanshu Pavillion and the three stone pagodas of the pool. I found this one particularly interesting. The three small stone pagodas were built in the 11th century but within the scope of the three pagodas, planting water chestnuts was banned to avoid the silt filling up. In the 15th century the three pagodas were destroyed but rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty in the early 17th century. During mid a+utumn people put a lit candle into the pagodas and cover the holes with rice paper. This tradition is said to link faraway family members together which is indeed quite poignant.

The next day I had my first calligraphy class. It was extremely interesting with the different strokes and movements needed. You must be concentrated and focused when writing because if one stroke goes out of place, the character is different. This really shows how incredible the Chinese are and how precise you need to be. The characters turn out so beautifully and you have a sense of achievement when you get it perfect.

Yesterday we had a farewell party and took one last trip to the famous Nanjang Road, where we spend most of our free time. Some last minute haggling and bargaining kept the atmosphere going. After this is when it strikes you, this wonderful life changing experience for the last two weeks is coming to an end. Overall, this experience has definitely opened my eyes to the world, I experienced a completely different lifestyle for two weeks where we sampled university life in an initially alien culture but one which we have grown to love. You feel like you’re in college and that this is normality. This trip is one of the best things I have ever done and I will remember this for the rest of my life. I am extremely upset leaving Shanghai because it is an incredible city. I will remember the danger of crossing a road when cars don’t pay attention to red lights, the language difficulty when you try to order a meal and the stares and looks you get from Asians as they pause right in front of you to take a photo. In one way I don’t want to leave Shanghai and go back to normality from this dream, but in another way all I can say is I cannot wait to go back to Ireland and have a lovely bowl of mashed potatoes! Without a doubt I will return to Shanghai in the future.

Signing off for the final time from Shanghai,