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The Present and the Past - Faces of Shanghai

Updated: May 19

In September 2018, I arrived in Shanghai. I had watched numerous videos and photos of the city beforehand, trying to imagine what it would be like to live in such a developed, 26-million-strong metropolis (even if only for a few months).

Of course, in the first few days, I went on exploration tours with my friends. I can't really put into words what I felt because it was incomprehensible. The towering skyscrapers, the crowds on the metro, the lanes of traffic, and the overpasses presented an awe-inspiring sight. What was most fascinating to see was how the old and new Shanghai coexisted.

One such area we visited in the early days was near the Jing'an Temple. The Jing'an Temple (Temple of Peace) is located in the heart of Shanghai. It has been a popular site for ceremonies honoring ancestors throughout history. In the 1930s, it was considered Shanghai's wealthiest Buddhist temple. It is constantly visited by many tourists, and upon entering the temple, they light incense and bow and pray towards the four cardinal directions. It was the first time I had visited a Buddhist temple, and there are several prayer rooms where offerings of fruits, flowers, and gifts are made to Buddha.

After my arrival, I was hesitant to eat Chinese food, unsure of what was worth trying and what should be avoided... but luckily, my care package from home lasted for a good few days. I remember sitting in front of the temple waiting for the girls, snacking on honey cookies brought from Nyíregyháza... :D

After visiting the Jing'an Temple, we went with the girls to find a small restaurant for lunch. As we were walking to the restaurant, all we could see was a boy walking on the roof without a safety rope, removing posters from the building. Well, that was something new to see... :D

Our next destination was supposed to be the Bund, but we got off the metro at the wrong stop and found ourselves at People's Square. We decided to take a stroll in the park there, as it was filled with people that day... but why? We had heard earlier that there is a place where Chinese parents look for partners for their children. At first, this seemed unimaginable to me, how does it "work", but when I saw it with my own eyes, I reluctantly understood that it's indeed real. Since Chinese youth work and study a lot, they have very little time for their personal lives. Naturally, parents want them to marry into a good family and start their own little families. So, they come to this square and post details about their children on sheets: physical characteristics (appearance, height), education level, occupation, sometimes even their income, and what kind of partner they are seeking. To prevent these sheets from being placed on the ground, parents put out umbrellas and attach the sheets to them, so that part of the park was covered with umbrellas: Chinese Tinder in real life...

Shanghai People's Square

In almost every park, there is a section where Chinese people gather (mostly men, but there are also women) and play a Chinese game called mahjong. Everyone watches the game with great excitement. What I really liked in China is how they make use of parks. It's no wonder, as the city is becoming increasingly urbanized, with fewer green spaces, but that's precisely why they try to ensure there are as many parks as possible, and the residents truly appreciate this: the elderly play games, make music, sing, exercise, fly kites, while the younger ones draw, play tag. I'll talk more about the parks in detail in another post :)

On a Saturday, we set out for sightseeing, and what was already a lot of people turned into even more people. As we walked to the Bund, there were times when we could only move at a snail's pace because of the crowds. It felt like being at a festival, where we often have to navigate through such crowds... :D However, they were well-prepared, as on such crowded days, the traffic is managed by police officers. But we definitely vowed then that next time we wouldn't tour as tourists on a Saturday :D

The Bund... this was the place I had been eagerly anticipating seeing with my own eyes. After arriving, the next evening we found ourselves here. If I say "wowww," I haven't said anything yet... I'll never forget the moment when the TV tower suddenly appeared, and I was searching for my dropped jaw... This became one of my favorite places, and we returned often because the view was simply breathtaking. Since then, a photo of it has adorned my room wall, but I don't think I need to explain why... #simplyinlove

The Yu Garden, or "Garden of Happiness," was built during the Ming Dynasty in 1559. One afternoon after school, we went there, and needless to say, there were thousands of people. It's one of those parts of Shanghai where we can experience old China and see authentic buildings. It was a bit of a maze for us from the start, and because of the crowds, we moved slowly. We stopped to take photos a few times, so by the time we reached the entrance to the garden, it turned out to be closed :D So, visiting the garden was out of the question for that afternoon...

There are restaurants, shops selling handmade products, and various small workshops here: for example, you could even see jewelry makers at work.

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