Shanghai Museum

State-run museums include the Shanghai Art Museum and Duolun Museum of Modern Art. New museums that specialize in Chinese contemporary art include the MoCA Shanghai, funded by Hong Kong jewelry designer Samuel Kung; the Pompidou Center’s Shanghai satellite branch (scheduled to open in 2009); and the Zendai (backed by real estate developer Dai Zhikang and scheduled to open in 2010). The Science and Technology Museum is a good place to take the kids.

Shanghai Disneyland and Theme Parks in the Shanghai Area: Ground was broken on Shanghai Disneyland in April 2011 on a former farm and factory ground southwest of the city. The theme park will cost $3.7 million and take more than 10 years to be fully realized. It will be part of an “international tourism resort” zone located near the main international airport in Pudong. Disney has a 43 percent stake in the endeavor. A consortium of government-backed local companies owns the majority 57 percent. the first phase of Shanghai Disneyland is scheduled to open in Shanghai in 2016

In November 2009, the Chinese government approved Disney’s request to build a theme park in Shanghai. Disney had been trying for years to get approval for the park.There is a Disneyland in Hong Kong (See Hong Kong) . Videndi is building Universal Studios amusement parks in Shanghai and Beijing.The Pasadena-based Hettema Group is designing a Hello Kitty park set to open southwest of Shanghai in 2014. [Source: Kelvin Chan, AP, July 27, 2011]

Shanghai Museum

Shanghai Museum (overlooking the People's Square) is located in a spectacular new $70 million building that looks like an ancient Chinese urn with handles. Made of sand-colored granite and designed by local architects, its features China’s finest collection of art wonderfully displayed on 10 floors of exhibition space. The only museums with comparable collections are the Palace Museum in Taiwan and the Forbidden Palace in Beijing.

The Shanghai Museum boasts a first-rate collection of ancient bronzes, porcelains and paintings from the various dynasties. Among the 120,000 historical objects are works of calligraphy, seals, jade. furniture, currencies off-beat items such as ceramic barnyard animals, marionettes, shadow puppets, and an ax decorated with precious stones. Some of the Shanghai museum's best pieces were seized by the Communists after 1949 from private collections.

Painting in the Shanghai Museum

The collection of minority costumes on the top floor is very interesting. Also worth checking out are the sculpture gallery and exhibition hall on the ground floor. At the entrance to the second floor ceramics exhibit is a sign that reads "Pottery belongs to all mankind, but porcelain is China's creation." The calligraphy and painting are kept in a magnificent space on the third floor with wooden floors and traditional Chinese roofing. The scroll painting are displayed on special tables that tilt towards the viewer.

The new building opened in 1996. The museum used to be housed in a depressing old building on South Henan Road that once belonged to the gangster Du Yuesheng. In 1992, the museum directors sold the building for $25 million and raised money from donors for the new structure while the collection had no home for four years. Many of the donors were from old Shanghai families. Those that gave $1 million or more have exhibition spaces named after them.

The museum is open everyday from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Admission is Free. Labels are in both English and Chinese. In the early 2000s the museum hosted an exhibit of 72 “national treasures”---works so are and valuable they are hardly ever shown. Entrance to the exhibit cost $750. Web Sites: Shanghai Museum ; China Museums

Shanghai Art Museum(behind the Grand Theater on 325 Nanjing Xi Road) features contemporary exhibits. It is housed in the old British Racing Club building.

Shanghai Arts and Crafts Institute (Fenyang Road) is a kind of tourist trap where 19 categories of crafts, including silk embroidery, jade carving and dough sculpture, are demonstrated by famous craftsman including masters of national and international fame.

Museum of Chinese Ancient Sex Culture (formally located on Nanjing Road) was the first sex museum in China. Among the 1700 objects are items that date back to the Bronze Age, a special love-making chair, erotic Buddhas, bedroom furniture, scrolls and tea cups with explicit pictures, a 200-year-old chastity belt, a 20-centimeter, 5000-year-old black jade phallus, a 3500-year-old stone phallus, and images of sex position traditionally placed in a bride's dowry trunk. It closed after 20 months.

Memorial Hall to Victims in the Nanjing Massacre reopened in December 2007 to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre with a 10-fold increase in floor space to 9,000 square meters. The plot of land the museum stands on is 7.4 hectares, three times larger than before. There are now 3,500 photographs, many of them quite horrible and graphic. The whole museum plays up the brutality of the Japanese more than previous exhibits.

The museum contains a bilateral “friendship” center that explains some nice things the Japanese have done for the Chinese and built a 3.2 hectare “peace square” with a goddess statue. Even so the Japanese government has requested that China tone down the contents of the memorial hall on the grounds they “inspire anti-Japanese feeling and animosity” among Chinese citizens. The Chinese want the museum to be given UNESCO World Heritage status like Auschwitz and Hiroshima Peace Park. The expansion of the museum’s grounds is believed to have been taken to qualify for World Heritage status. Web Site: Wikipedia

Urban Planning Exhibition Center


Urban Planning Exhibition Center (near People’s Square) boasts a 1:500 scale model of Shanghai that covers 6,400 square feet and is said to be the world’s largest model. Housed in a ballroom-size room, it is surrounded by a walkways and can be viewed from a balcony above. Periodically the lights are switched off and thousands of building are lit up. Washington Post architecture critic Philip Kennicott wrote: “It is surreal, and beautiful, a bit absurd, and it seems to offer, in one comprehensive glance, a sense of the city in its massive, skyscraping, outward spreading totality. Here, perhaps one can absorb what its means to build some 10,000 high-rise buildings in a quarter century.” The model forecasts what th city will be like when all of the construction is complete in 2020. It altered every few months to keep abreast of changes. Web Site: Frommers

Bund Sightseeing Tunnel

Bund Sightseeing Tunnel(entrance behind the Convention Center on the River) is arguably the most interesting and trouble free way to cross the Huangpu River(taxis often get stuck in traffic when using the regular tunnel). Visitors travel in pod-like cars past multicolored lights that pulse, streak, flash and spiral, blow-up dolls while music plays and a voice over use term like “hell and paradise” and “nascent magma.” The ride costs about $5.70 and takes riders under the Huangpo River from near the Peace Hotel on the Bund to the Pudong district. Web Sites: Trip Advisor ; China Snippets

Maglev Train


Shanghai is the home of the world’s first commercial magnetic levitation (maglev) train. Opened in early 2004 and built by German engineers at a cost of US$1.2 billion, it reaches speeds of 260mph (415kph) and covers the 19 miles distance between Pudong International Airport to the 88-story Jin Mao Tower in downtown Shanghai in less than eight minutes.

The maglev is regarded a prestige project intended to boost the standing of Shanghai and China as whole, not necessarily to make money. The stations look like futuristic lace tubes. The streamlined trains, which look like crosses between space-age fighters and conventional trains, hoover millimeters above a single gray track that is several stories above the ground and imbedded with powerful magnets that produce a faint humming when the trains pull in the stations.

Passengers are told by a loudspeaker voice when they enter the train that they will be “flying without wings.” As the train accelerates there are few indication that the train is traveling extremely fast other than the buildings blurring by. You don’t even feel any vibrations until the train tops 400lph. The Chinese are so proud of the train they have even opened a little museum that explains how it works at downtown departure terminal.

The trains depart every 15 to 20 minutes from 8:30am to 5:30pm, which means it often isn’t running when many flights arrive and depart. Tickets are US$6 each way. Foreign tourist are thrilled by the ride, saying it is better than Disneyland. Business travelers and local people are less excited. They often just take a taxi from airport, saying that is more convenient than taking the maglev downtown and working out a taxi or public transportation from there to their hotels or home. They also complain about the long walk to the airport maglev terminal, the inconvenient times of operation and say the route isn’t very well marked. Prices have been slashed by a third to encourage more people to take it but still many people opt for other forms of transport. When the maglev opened it ran at 20 percent capacity. After ticket prices were lowered it ran at 27 percent capacity. A new highway linking the airport to downtown Shanghai is being built.

The Maglev train line will be extended eight kilometers to the World Expo site by 2010. The Shanghai government has proposed spending $4.5 billion to expand the maglev train to Hangzhou. The project has outraged local citizens, for its cost, waste, relocations, the danger presented by such powerful electromagnetism and plans to route it through an area already filled with train lines and highways. The Shanghai-Hangzhou corridor already has a new super-fast bullet train similar to Japan’s Shinkansen.

People have already been evicted and relocated and in many cases given compensation well below market value and settled in suburbs that are half finished to make way for the World Exposition and various infrastructure projects, In January 2008---after angry demonstrations by local residents were held despite official bans---the Shanghai government acknowledged there were problems with the project and promised to take into consideration public concerns. Web Sites: Shanghai Maglev official site ; Wikipedia

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Japanese Pavilion

The Shanghai Expo 2010

The Shanghai 2010 World Exposition is an event with pavilions from al over the world that thrusts Shanghai into the spotlight, and, in the view of some, attempts to revive the tradition of the great world’s fair like those in New York in 1964, in Paris in 1889 and London in 1851. Featuring a giant five-ton octopus, an alpine meadow and an apple-shaped “green city,” it will far and away be the most expensive World expo ever. Billions of dollars have been spent and tens of thousands of dollars have been put to work building it and running it. In a country where most people are still too poor to hop on a jet and travel the globe, Expo 2010 hopes to revive the old spirit of world fair’s being a showcase for the latest and newest stuff and a means of bringing the world to one place---in this case Shanghai.

Many inside and outside China see Expo 2010 as an opportunity for Shanghai to show off and stand out as China “s premier city. Organizers expect 70 million people to visit the event---with 95 percent of them Chinese---making it h largest congregation of people ever for a single event. It will run for six months from May 1st 2010 to October 31st.

The expo slogan is “Better City, Better Life.” Yao Ming and Jackie Chan were selected as goodwill ambassadors for the event. The pianist Lang Lang was chosen to help promote the event. Haibao, the blue Gumby-like mascot and another “goodwill ambassador” is featured on everything from the tickets to key chains. Website: en.expo2010

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Romanian Pavilion

Up to 450,000 visitors can be admitted at one time, five times as many as at Disneyland in California. Among Expo’s green features are zero-emission electric vehicles, funnels that collect rain water and arrays of solar collectors. Most of the structure are made from materials that can recycled when the event is over and buildings are torn down. Eats include Belgian chocolate, fiery Sichuan cuisine and Japanese sushi and octopus balls. Altogether there are 200 food outlets, capable of feeding 40,000 people at one time. Admission tickets for Expo are $28 for peak days and $22 for off-peak days.

Expo 2010 has not been without its controversies. A big deal was made about Denmark sending Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue to the World Expo, with some comparing the move with sending the Statue of Liberty there. It is the first time the statue has left Copenhagen’s harbor to be taken abroad. The theme song is said to have been plagiarized from the 1997 hit Sono Mama no Kimi de Ite by Japanese singer Mayo Okamoto.

As was true at the Beijing Olympics metal detectors have been set up in subway stations, volunteers have been recruited to be on the lookout for troublemakers and manners campaigns were launched to discourage people from hanging their laundry outside, jaywaking, spitting on the streets and wearing their pajamas in public. A couple week before the May 1st opening, 6,000 people were detained in an Expo crime sweep. Among those taken in were people involved in gambling, prostitution, selling pornography and illegal street hawking. All but 1,300 were later released after being “educated.”

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Swiss Pavilion

The Expo site covers 5.28 square kilometers (1,300 acres or 990 football fields) and is twice the size of Monaco or the World’s Fair in New York in 1964 and five times the size of the Aichi Expo in Japan in 2005. Situated on both sides of the Huangpu River, it occupies a prime piece of riverfront land that was occupied by unsightly factories that were cleared away along with the flyover bridge to the Bund. Protest organized by some of the 17,000 people who had their homes cleared away were quickly suppressed.

More than 40,000 workers, most of them migrants, were involved when the construction phase of Expo was at its peak. To get the the project done in time workers were given bonuses for coming back early for the New Year holiday or skipping it completely. On the weeks leading to the opening heavy rains produced large swathe of mud, muck and water and many showcase pavilions didn’t look as if they were going be ready in time.

The theme of Expo 2010 is urban technologies and heritage preservation under the title “urban best practices.” In Pudong, on the east side of the river, giant white funnels provide shade, channel sunlight to underground walkways and collect rainwater for recycling. Most of the national pavilions and big facilities are located here. Most of the corporate and local pavilions are on the other side of the river in Puxi. There is no vehicle parking at the site. Visitors arrive via subways and buses and have to go through security checks before they are let in.

An effort has been made to avoid mistakes made during the Beijing Olympics---namely producing a lot of trophy structures like the “Bird’s Nest” that wowed the world when the event was held but now sits largely unused. After Expo is over most of the buildings will be quickly torn down and the Expo site will be converted to host exhibitions and conference, a business section Shanghai wants to develop. Among the structures that will remain after the conversion are a new stadium and a clamshell-shaped cultural center. The official cost of Expo has been listed at $4 billion but when all the infrastructure costs are added in some estimate the true cost is $58 billion. But planners say that most of the money has been well spent on things like new train lines and airport facilities that will benefit people for a long time.

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British Pavilion

Expo Pavilions: More than 180 countries and some Chinese provinces and companies are taking part, with most having their own pavilions. Some countries are spending quite lavishly on the event. Japan spent $133 million to build its large purple, cocoon-like structure. Saudi Arabia reportedly spent more to re-create the Arabian desert complete with palm trees. Other notable structures include the seashell-shaped Israeli pavilion the basket-shaped Spanish pavilion.

The United Arab Emirates pavilion features a luminescent sand dune. The Swiss pavilion is topped by a four minute chairlift ride over a rooftop alpine meadow. The Romanian pavilion resembles a green apple. The British pavilion has of 60,000 acrylic rods that sway in the winds and has been compared to an oversized dandelion puff.

To make sure no country was left out China provided $100 million to subsidize exhibits by developing countries and built a pavilion for African countries to set up exhibits. The United States almost didn’t make it due to political and bureaucratic obstacles but at last minute came up with $63 million for a Hollywood-produced “4-D” spectacle on initiative.

The Chinese Pavilion is the largest. Standing almost 70 meters tall and mostly imperial red in color, it resembles a traditional city gate but some say it looks more like a giant mai jong table. In any case, it towers over smaller pavilions for Hong Kong and Macao. The former looks like a ice cube; the latter a crouching rabbit. Taiwan has a pavilion nearby.

Image Sources: 1) CNTO (China National Tourist Organization; 2) Nolls China Web site; 3) Perrochon photo site; 4); 5) developers, architecture firms, tourist and government offices linked with the place shown; 6); 7) University of Washington, Purdue University, Ohio State University; 8) UNESCO; 9) Wikipedia. Expo Pictures, official Shanghai Expo website

Text Sources: CNTO, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

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