China, a place of contrasts - I have visited many parts of Asia and seen the most amazing architecture, fabric and furniture and I have eaten some fantastic food. I have also been to Hong Kong a number of times but that is China with a distinctly British flavour, however I have never been to the rest of China.
I recently visited four Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai. It is well known that China’s incredible economic growth has catapulted this ancient civilisation into the second most powerful nation in the world. This also means that it has opened its society and country to the outside world and shared with us again it’s incredible heritage that is second to none and in many cases needs to be seen to be believed. They are also, quite rightly, proud of it. Thousands of years of imperial dynasties created an amazing legacy of Art in its many forms.
We can all identify typical Chinese paintings such as water colours, stylised patterns like dragons and lions, upturned roof styles that look like a lady showing off her petticoats and highly decorated lacquered furniture. When you see these things in reality you realise what an important artistic influence they have had on the world
The other interesting contrast was between the austere political capital of Beijing and the more modern financial centre of Shanghai. Beijing has beautiful traditional Chinese buildings sitting alongside grey monolithic enormous public buildings. Even the architecture within the Forbidden City has an air of power and dominance. Whereas Shanghai has a feeling of energy and vitality with its mixture of European, traditional Chinese and ultra modern architecture put together in an informal manner.
The shanghai skyline that you see below was created in 20 years, a one party state can make things happen in a way not possible here and the ‘can do’ feeling that has been created can be felt. Fortunately they have realised that their heritage is important, so they have plans to protect them all. Thank goodness, as the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army are two of