We checked out of the hotel at 9am and headed out on our first official visit of the tour to the State Shanghai Museum
. On the way we crossed over the Wusong river which runs into the Huang Po across which the new Shanghai city was built. The museum, located in the landscaped park of the Peoples Square across from the Government Building on Renmin Avenue is built in the shape of an ancient bronze cooking vessel called a 'ding'
. The building with a round top and a square base, symbolizing the ancient Chinese perception of the world as "round sky, square earth" had 4 floors with 4 galleries on each floor. With an allotment of 90 minutes, that left approx 5 minutes per gallery which could easily have taken 10 times that!
Many of the exhibits were of immense historical significance dating several millenia into the past. The first one we saw was on coins and currency starting with the use of Cowrie shells and progressing through the use of miniature spades with inscriptions to mini swords and units that resembled shaving blades. The coins were many and varied through the ages eventually progressing to the use of paper money.
As we progressed through the galleries we encountered the political struggles of this huge nation through the dynastic ages, the feudal system and eventually ending with the highly regimented Communist regime. However, China has a rich history in the arts, culture and politics evident in their calligraphy, painting, pottery and sculpture.
From there we went for lunch to a restaurant on The Bund
, a colonial structure on the bank of the river to prevent the old city from being flooded when the river burst it's banks. It is a word transplanted from another British colony, India. After lunch we took some photographs of the new city across from the Bund and decided to take a walk along the busy boardwalk where tourists, families and hawkers enjoyed the beautiful sights. There were also several bridal couples using the area to capture some moments as they set out on their marital journey.
We bundled back into our luxury 46 seater with only 21 passengers allowing us to spread out in comfort. The bus had a unique vantage point over the driver where you could get a great view of the road ahead. We commanded that spot for the first day. Thereafter we tried to rotate so that everyone could get a chance to experience the view which we enjoyed on the first leg of our tour to the city of Suzhou
, also called 'The Venice of China'. The 90 minute journey along manicured highways ended with a skyline view of this laid back city which included their iconic 'Gate to the East'
skyscraper which is reminiscent of a pair of winter pants standing proudly on the horizon.
Our first stop in this Garden City was to the 500 year old Lingering Gardens
, an exquisitely designed and landscaped garden featuring rock sculptures, water courses and trees designed to take your breath away. The highlight of the garden was the Penzai garden
at the end of the meandering paths that contained living sculptures, some over a century old. To refresh your memories of the garden, click on 'Show' link beside Garden Design Elements with Description