From Seoul we flew into Shanghai, which makes China the first country we’ve visited twice on our two year trip. The first time we explored the north in and around Beijing, and we knew then that we’d be back to see more of this vast, welcoming country.
Arriving in style, the Shanghai Maglev!
Shanghai has a magnetic levitation train line connecting the airport to the downtown financial district, and as soon as I found out I knew we had to try it! Unlike conventional trains that use wheels and tracks, maglev trains use powerful electromagnets to float, or levitate, over a rail. Because there are no moving parts or contact, there’s less noise and energy lost due to friction which means they can travel faster, but they do need more energy to run and they’re a lot more expensive to build.
While the Maglev doesn’t run at its record-breaking speed of 501 km/h (311 mph), the journey took just over 8 minutes and hit a top speed of 301km/h – not quite as fast as the Shinkansen in Japan or the express trains in the rest of China, but it was noticeably smoother and quieter. At ¥40 a ticket (about £4), it was easily worth the experience!
There’s a long history of European influence in Shanghai, the legacy of which can be seen in the riverfront architecture of The Bund. We found a number of self-guided walking tours that describe the various buildings and picked a day that turned out to be clear but very hot indeed!
The Bund stretches for 1 mile from the Suzhou Creek in the north to Yan’an Road in the south. About ¾ of the way up, Nanjing Road goes inland to the west, and used to be the site of the British concession. Sadly the concession buildings and settlement are no longer there, though we did stop in a nearby alleyway for a spot of lunch.
Somewhat ironically, the old financial institution buildings and the Bund Bull face the growing might of the Shanghai Financial District of Pudong just across the Huangpu river.
The Propaganda Poster Art Center
The enticingly named Propaganda Poster Art Center is the life-work of Yang Pei Ming, a private collector, housed in 4 adjoining basement apartments of an otherwise nondescript Chinese high-rise block.
The mundaneness of the surroundings only heightens the feeling of discovery and clandestineness as we looked through nearly 100 years of Chinese public poster art from early 1900s, and through the rise of Chairman Mao.
Understandably we weren’t allowed to take photos as the museum supports itself by selling prints and postcards of many of the works (as well as the small entrance fee), and although the overall order seemed a little disjointed in places, there were translations and explanations for most of the posters which set them in their historic context of Chinese and world events.
While most of the art was inward, enthusiastic Communist messaging, there were some examples that rally the East against the Western aggressors during the Second World War and the Vietnam War. I love to see history from the other side to that which I have been taught, and this collection of poster art is fascinating for both its historical significance as for its artistic style and development.