China 2014 Day 7: Jewish Shanghai, Confucian and Buddhist Temples
The day started early again with a Tai Chi class on top of the Fairmont Shanghai. Not a bad way to start the morning!
|Tai Chi lesson first thing in the morning!|
After the first "Kata" section, we then did a 2nd part with a "Tai Chi Weapon" -- an extendable fake sword made of metal and plastic. I noticed that my Warrior Poses from Yoga really helped in this section :) I worked up a good sweat and it was a huge amount of fun and a great start to the day!
Then a quick shower and brekkie and at 9am we met Patrick, our tour guide for the morning. Our plan for the day was to visit the Jewish Shanghai area, and we were super excited to see it all. We got in a taxi and soon arrived in the Jewish Ghetto area. One of the first things we saw was the JDC - the Joint Distribution Center.
|Former home of the JDC - distribution of refugee aid for people in the Jewish Ghetto in Shanghai|
|Walking in the park|
|Former site of the "Stateless Refugees" Ghetto|
|Heart of the former Jewish Ghetto|
|Shanghai Jewish Refugees Musuem, an incredible exhibit|
|The Ohel Moshe Synagogue, Shanghai|
|Donated by the Consulate General of Israel in Shanghai|
|Awesome photos on the wall of moments when the museum connected old friends together, Jewish and Chinese people who were friends in Shanghai as children|
|Cool Judaica donated to the musuem|
|Magen David and Chinese Characters together in this sculpture|
|I would LOVE this in my home. I was hoping they had a smaller reproduction of it :) It was a gift to the museum... so amazing.|
We then watched a very affecting video with some multi-layered smoke and video effects, it was again, very nicely presented! Following this, we checked out the large section of the museum which was dedicated to the life of the Shanghai Jews. I was not actually aware of any Jews in China, let alone such a large number. It was interesting to hear about all the families who moved from Europe to flee persecution. There were many true saints in China like Dr. He Fengshan, sometimes referred to as the "Chinese Schindler". He issued many life-saving Visas to Jewish people in Europe so they could legally flee to China to find asylum from WWII and Nazi Germany. This man was very humble and low-key, and people didn't even know how many Jews he saved until many many years later. Incredible.
|Dr. He Fengshan, sometimes referred to as the "Chinese Schindler". A true saint, the Chinese Consul General in Vienna, Austria, who issued many life-saving Visas to Jews in Europe to move to China|
|Shanghai Jewish Chronicle from 1943|
|Cartoon Art by a Jewish artist|
The Jews in Shanghai did live in this Ghetto (amongst the sites where we walked today), and while not the most ideal of living conditions and while they did have restrictions placed on them, this was not on the level of persecution that Jewish people were suffering from in Europe at the time. There was some talk of camps in China from Nazi officials in Germany, but this never came to pass. No one is sure exactly why this was, but our tour guide explained that there are several theories. Some people believe there was a secret backroom agreement between the Japanese occupiers of Shanghai and Victor Sassoon, the owner of the Cathay Hotel (now, the Fairmont Peace Hotel where we are staying!) and of many many other major properties in the Shanghai Area. He was incredibly well-off and owned many of the ports, and apparently the Japanese wanted access to these shipping ports and owed Victor Sassoon a favour for this access. There are also some theories that the existing relationships between the Jewish people and the Chinese had some effect on this. Some also believe that all the Jews in China were spared further and extreme persecution due to the fact that it was 1942, and the war was getting closer to completion and Japan wanted to distance itself from Nazi Germany. Whatever the reason is, it was really fascinating and unexpected that Shanghai had it's borders so open and welcoming to Jews fleeing from Europe.
There was something I read there saying how China accepted more Jewish refugees than several other major countries COMBINED - countries you would have expected would have worked harder to help out. This was just very awesome. This really gave me a great feeling that the Chinese people and the Jewish people share a special bond and I am glad that we remain very respectful of each other. I have a lot of Chinese friends (growing up in multicultural Canada and also going to the University of Waterloo), and I've always noticed similarities between the two cultures. My buddy Andrew and I growing up always had very similar structures of parenting from our respective parents, and some very similar cultural things too - a lot of emphasis on family, and being home to eat dinner together, community service and being a good citizen, etc. We are good friends for a good reason! As the comic art from a WWII-era Jewish artist living in Shanghai says above, "(We) like the Chinese!" This was really encouraging to see how much Shanghai cared about Jewish Refugees during the War and I hope my fellow Jews around the world always remember this supreme act of kindness.
|Outside the Synagogue|
|Cafe at the Refugee Museum, with old storefront signs from the Jewish Ghetto restored|
|Recreation of Shanghai's old "Cafe Atlantic", which was a popular restaurant in the Jewish Ghetto|
|Walking down alleyways towards the Confucian Temple|
|Good times :)|
|A huge teapot!|
|New and old|
|Another one at the Confucian Temple|
We had a good time listening and learning from the tea ceremony guy, and a chance to try some Herbal Confucius Teas... not bad. My favourite part was this crazy metal frog on his tea board which only had 3 legs and had a coin in its mouth. This is to show that "wealth comes in but cannot exit". The best part about it was when he poured hot water on the frog, it changed colour :) Gimmicky... but AWESOME. He also made us a Jasmine Flowering Tea which was Springs' favourite.
|Trying it out|
|Asking lots of questions!|
Our tour guide for the day was quite impressive in his extreme mediocrity, as he seemed to essentially be taking us to existing tour sites and then dumping us off there and letting the tour guide at the actual location do all the touring for us. We did get some interesting comments from him in the morning about the Jewish Ghetto area before he took us to the Museum, so that was pretty solid. Otherwise, we were more than ready to just get back to our own schedule and touring comfortably on the Metro on our own. He offered to continue along with us towards the Jade Buddha Temple, but we decided we were more than fine continuing ourselves so we politely ditched him about an hour before our tour time was supposed to be up. I think he was keen for lunch anyway so we both went on our merry ways.
Perhaps too over-confident in our navigation abilities, we headed towards the Jade Buddha Temple on the Metro and then proceeded to get sufficiently lost for an hour as we tried to find it. That adventure was not without it's pluses though, as we ran into an old man and asked for his help, to point to the Jade Buddha Temple on a map. He showed us and when we left I said, "Xie Xie!" and he go SO psyched that I spoke some Mandarin... he was beaming a huge smile and was just so excited and he patted me on the back. It was hilarious and awesome. A little while later we got to the temple, and it was immediately more legit than the situation at the Confucian Temple.
|Jade Buddha Temple|
|Monks at the Jade Buddha Temple|
|Old and new|
|Crazy apartment built into a rock formation|
|Fruit at the mall on the way back to the hotel. Awesome Cherimoya and HUGE cherries on the right!|
I got a cool navy blue shoe with a British flag on the back, and Michal found some awesome Canada flag shoes for my Mom! I really liked those too but they were a Women's Size and only went up to size 7, so they wouldn't have fit me. That was a fun little shopping trip. Then, on the way out of the station, there was a CRAZY AWESOME fruit stand with everything imaginable. The Cherries there looked NUTS. The fruit was insanely fresh looking and awesome. I wanted to eat it all. Instead, I "settled" for getting a Coconut/Cherimoya juice!!! WOW that was good. I downed that as we raced back to the hotel. We got back just in time to change, chill for a very short time, and then off to dinner and a show!
|Tasty Yunnanese Food for dinner|
From there we went to the "Era" Chinese Acrobatic show. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What an insane show!!!!!!!!!!!! It was totally freakin' nuts and absurd. The first moment that totally blew me away was a kung-fu style section where the guys on stage flipped through very tall spinning rings on the ground after running full-tilt at them. Crazy. Then there was a super crazy Ferris-Wheel type apparatus with guys walking around inside of it as it spun really quickly... and then instead of walking inside of the (somewhat) protected rings, some of the dudes started walking along the OUTSIDE of the rings... you could see how insanely precarious that was as they were stumbling a bit to maintain their balance and ensuring they didn't plummet all the way from the ceiling onto the floor. That was insane. Then, to take it up another notch, some of those dudes walking on this apparatus as it spun at insane speeds started JUGGLING FIRE?!?!!! What the!??!! Insane.
There was then a short intermission, time enough to get some Mentos Cola and Mentos Mango candies and calm down a bit from the sheer insanity and amazingness of what we just saw.
And then, again! The piece-de-resistance of the 2nd act was not 1, not 2, not 3, but SEVEN guys on motor bikes all driving in one of those metal sphere bike cages. WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How that is even possible and how they all survived that absurdity is truly amazing. It was just nuts. Like Cirque De Soleil, but every single thing is insanely dangerous and there are no safety mats or crash pads anywhere. Just amazing. A really exciting and insane show. I loved the live music too.
Back we went to the hotel and took a quick shot of the Pearl Tower from the street. We then got up to the root and... the lights on the Pearl Tower were off, again! Dang it! We decided there was no point in going all the way over to the other side of the water to go up the Jinmao Tower if all the lights were off already. Darn. I was really looking forward to that. :( But... you can't do literally ALL the things, so it was OK. We got some nice photos up on the roof and we had such a good time in Shanghai that it was going to be sad to be leaving already tomorrow. What a fun time.
|Pearl Tower at night|
|On the roof at night|