Monday, January 12, 2009


During the winter break between semesters (about seven weeks), Elva and I are touring China, Vietnam and Cambodia. Our first stop was Shanghai. To us this is like a mystery city. It has such an exotic name and appears in Western literature as a far away place in history where the ordinary rules of society do not apply: opium dens, Charlie Chan, coolies, queues and gang pressing of thousands of Chinese to build the Central Pacific railroad. It is still possible to see old films of turn-of-the-century Shanghai with old cars, trolleys, and other modern features that the British introduced into China. But of course today Shanghai stands on its own two feet and has little that it needs from the West. The thing that met our eyes after stepping off the airplane was a modern airport as nice as any we have ever been seen anywhere in the world. Once in the city, we were overwhelmed with the skyscrapers. No only are they tall, they are beautifully designed with some of the most innovative architecture I’ve seen anywhere. We went first to the Oriental Pearl Tower,

which as I understand it was inspired by a Chinese poem about pearls dropping one by one. From the observation deck on the uppermost “pearl” we could see over the whole city and the river below. Unfortunately it was smoggy and the tall buildings loomed out of the dirty brown air like specters.

The next day was better—clear and cold. This made for better pictures, but we were very uncomfortable. Shanghai is the largest city in China, currently estimated at about 18 million, so there were hundreds of buildings that soared into the sky and had some architectural features that

were worth photographing, but eventually we had to give our cameras a rest. The more prominent buildings, in addition to being tall, all had something unique in the way they were designed that was intended to set them apart. For many of them it was the way the top of the building was designed. They were pointed, or had unique antennae or towers, or had spacecraft-like saucers on top. You

can see what I mean from the photos accompanying this blog. We also visited some old neighborhoods with the traditional Chinese architecture. In most cases, however, when photographing the old-style roof line, in the background you could see a modern building peeking

out above it. This is one on the paradoxes of China—the old and the new together. In addition to the skyscrapers, we were next most intrigued with the Shanghai Museum. It was a beautiful building as architecturally unique as all the rest although not a high rise. It was the ceramics gallery that went to our hearts. We have some appreciate for ceramics because of our son Jared who during high school created beautiful pottery in our basement and fired it in our back yard. So we know what it takes. In this museum we followed the development of pottery from its first development in

prehistory down through the various dynasties to the porcelain China is famous for today. Viewing it was much like photographing the tall buildings: each time you turned the corner there was another

vase more beautiful than the one before. There was no way you could pick a favorite. Nevertheless, we have picked a few for you to consider. Please feel free to make a comment and tell us which one you favor. So this is our take on Shanghai: amazing skyscrapers and a first-class museum.


Amber(怡文) said...

Brother and Sister Orton,

Greetings from Charles and Amber Scharkowski. We love the blog/website and the updates. We were just back home in DC and my mom showed us the site and the good things happening there. We wanted to pass along that we are moving to Dongguan, in the Guangdong province. I just accepted an offer there. Love the pictures...especially the Marriott Tomorrow's Square hotel that looks like the Washington Monument on steroids. What you are doing is so wonderful amd we admire you a lot! We are here in Salt Lake now and a Sister Missionary from Mainland China was just assigned to our Chinese Ward. The significance of that is quite amazing. Anyhow, we love looking at the site and look forward to our new life for a season in China.

Charles, Amber, & Virginia.

Anonymous said...

I really like the 3rd one - the color, the style and it has personality :-). Thanks for sharing a bit of your adventures.

Ace...also Waleena...two people, actually said...

Thanks for taking the time to post the beautiful pictures and your well-chosen words. We know that you must be awfully busy with work and a completely new kind of life. We look in on your blog often and are thrilled any time we see something new.

The architectural photographs are really wonderful. The buildings are well chosen and the pictures are well taken.

Thanks again for sharing your adventures and your thoughts with us.


Tawn and Jacqueline