Saturday, December 27, 2008

Shanghai Surprises

The weather gods were merciful, permitting short windows of opportunity for take-offs and landings despite frigid temperatures and glazed runways. Remarkably, we made all our tight connections from Boston to Shanghai just moments ahead of the worst ice storm in recent history. The full moon hung against an indigo sky above a frothy sea of rose tipped clouds at dawn as we reached 35,000 ft.,a special sight I'll never forget.

I am up in the wee hours of the morning wrestling the otherworldliness of jetlag, sleeplessly sleepwalking, slowly readjusting to the twelve hour reversal of night and day.
Back in the silent snow-covered woods, where few trees escaped the ravages of the fierce winter storm that ripped icy branches and power lines down for many days, I think of the futuristic forest of eye-boggling architecture I found myself in for almost two weeks.

From this rural dirt road to bustling city boulevards lined with buildings which seemed to defy gravity with unexpected bulges and curves, and even invoked mild vertigo in the viewer from certain angles. At night the city takes on a new life, outlined in purple and blue neon, alternating bands of color climbing skyward and descending to begin again.It is New York, L.A. and Las Vegas all rolled into one sophisticated over-the-top hybrid.
As whisper quiet Mag Lev trains flash by at 430 kph at top speed, local Fashionistas take it all in stride in knee-high stiletto heeled boots.

More traditional glimpses of old Shanghai can still be found in Nan Shi, the tangle of tiny lanes lined with dusty bicycles and overhung with drying laundry located behind the old colonial fa├žade known as the Bund.
Here incense wafts from Taoist and Buddhist temples, their courtyards surrounded by candle lit alcoves dedicated to Kwan Yin, Goddess of Mercy, the Buddha and Taoist Generals and sages. It was here I felt I had finally “arrived” in China. Marveling at the triple-tiered upturned roofs, enchanted by the drums and flutes played by a robed procession of chanting priests and laity, I opened my senses to this experience and was richly rewarded. Finding passageways to Ming period classical gardens with ornate rockeries,stunted Luohan pines and jade colored pools teeming with fiery orange carp added to the spell. This was the China of 19th C.Romanticism. Days later, sitting in the chilly fog by a still garden pond in Suzhou, ancient silk city visited by Marco Polo, I enjoyed fresh chewy noodles in scalding salty broth, garnished with emerald green bok choy and savory cilantro. Simple, soulful, perfect. These pleasant memories are the Christmas presents I unwrapped this year.

Our art project at the Zendai Museum was joyfully presented and enthusiastically received by passers-by in the trendy Thumb Plaza in Pudong. Original music that master guitarist, John Sheldon, created for this piece bridged the language barrier with ease and had everyone bopping to the rhythms of East meets West. Pictures and sounds of Eye to Eye are soon to be featured on our blog if you’d care to share the experience.

For a trip through a classic Ming garden visit
I hope your holidays were happy ones!

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