Day 2: Shanghai
This morning we hung around the hotel, researching and making plans for our short time in Shanghai. First on the list: a return trip to Yang’s Fry Dumplings, a tiny, blink-and-you-miss-it restaurant with dumplings so good they’d be worth the trip to China all on their own.
Three orders of dumplings later, we set off to find the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center, a place Matt read about online. We arrived at the correct address to find a group of apartment buildings and no sign of the museum. A nearby security guard, sensing our obvious confusion, handed us a business card for the art center and pointed us behind the apartments. Without him, we’d have had no chance.
With nearly 5000 pieces produced between 1949-1979, the Propaganda Poster Art Center houses the largest collection of propaganda posters in the world. These posters were how Chairman Mao and the Communist Party of China “informed and restored the collective mind of the Chinese people”, and each poster is both a piece of art and an insight into the events of the time. Poster themes included the anti-American sentiment during wartime, the push for science and technology development, the good relations (and subsequent poor relations) with the Soviet Union, the “One Child-One Family” law, and in a majority, the unequaled presence of Chairman Mao. Helpful English translations were posted, and the director of the center was there to give further background on a few of the pieces. Not listed in any guidebook, the art center was a fascinating look at an important part of Chinese history hidden away in the basement of a non-descript apartment building.
Next, we headed for Taikang Lu, an arts and crafts enclave in the French Concession neighborhood. Largely hidden from the outside, it is accessed via small lanes off the neighboring streets and quickly expands to an elaborate collection of interesting shops, galleries, and restaurants. We spent a couple of hours browsing and navigating the crowds through the tiny, narrow lanes (one store had clothing and other pieces made of 100% Tibetan yak fur; so soft but at $85 for a hat, we passed).
Dinner was at 1221, a restaurant recommended for having some of the best Cantonese food in the city. We enjoyed a fantastic meal of stir-fried shredded beef, Shanghainese noodles, sauteed green beans with garlic and chilies, and banana sticky rice. By the time we left, the place was absolutely packed; we can certainly understand why!
Having had enough public transportation for the day, we called a cab to take us back to the hotel. We are not cab people – we take trains everywhere we can go when we’re in Asia, and are often the only foreigners we see on them – but we had to admit that at a fraction of the time and only slightly higher cost, cabs are definitely a welcome option from time to time. It was a great day – excellent food, fun shopping, and an incredibly interesting visit to a museum way off the beaten track and a place most visitors to Shanghai likely never get to see.