Thursday, July 26, 2007

Of summer in Shanghai

Day 6

Last day in Shanghai, and the Sun Yat-Sen museum still remains unvisited. But at least this time, I know roughly where it is and how it looks like, so the probability of me getting lost is low. I quickly get out of bed, change and go downstairs. James is on duty today and I ask him to help me write out in Chinese the name of the Sun Yat-Sen museum and the exact address. He does, with much neater handwriting, and Mummy and I head on outside.

The Sun Yat-Sen museum is as crowded as the Soong Ching Ling museum---in museum speak, it means less crowded than the Shanghai Museum but more crowded than the CCP and Shikumen museums. We see Sun's medical kit, the English books he wrote---one about the French Revolution and another about strategies for the development of China---his letters (my his handwriting is VERY neat, and yes, because my handwriting is rather messy, I tend to go around admiring people with neat handwriting). And Sun Yat-Sen is one of them neat handwriters.

As I look at his photographs, a passage from the book "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" comes to mind: "he was a Goodnight Moon (Brown, 1947). Goodnight Moons had duvet eyes, shadowy eyelids, a smile like a hammock and a silvered, sleepy countenance that most people wore only during the few minutes prior to sleep, but which the Goodnight Moon sported all day and well into the evening. Goodnight Moons could be male or female and were universally adored."(Pessl, 67) Now Sun Yat-Sen has a sleepy countenance. In fact, though he was an active person, in all his photographs, he looks strangely sleepy. I figure he must be a Goodnight Moon as he fits the next requirement of a Goodnight Moon---that of being universally adored. So adored that Taiwan, mainland China and the overseas Chinese regard him as a hero, Father of the Chinese Revolution etc.

Sun at age 17 and age 52, respectively. A Goodnight Moon?

Mummy as usual finishes looking faster than I am, mainly because I make it a point to read and close read every single thing write up in museums. A peculiar habit of mine, but I like to study the way people write history, and lots of times, the way the captions are written tell as much as what is being written. You just need to read closely. That no mention is made here of Sun's first wife, is also telling. I finish viewing the exhibits in the museum, and head on out to look for my mum.

I find her talking to a security guard outside. My mum is the best networker I have ever come across. In fact, she should write her own version of "How to win friends and influence people". I have yet to meet a person that doesn't really like her. Ever Miss Popularity, she won (or was a runner up) in a beauty pageant in university. Everyone seems to take a liking to her, at least that is how I view it. I say hi to the security guard and he tells us that the building next to the museum (both are within the same compound) is Sun's actually house. So we go and have a look. Again, we have to put on the plastic protective coverings over our shoes as we venture into his house.

Or Soong Ching Ling's house to be exact. Turns out that this was her house (the couple stayed in here in Shanghai), which she gave to the Chinese government to use as a Sun Yat-Sen museum when Sun had died. In return, the Chinese government gave her another house, which, upon her death, has also been turned into a museum. Basically, the way the museum for famous people thingy goes is like this: Original house is preserved just the way it was the day that person died. Next to original house is the exhibition hall where all the historical documents are kept. Both are within the same compound which is called a "gu ju". I'm not sure what gu ju actually means, but I figure I'd just call it museum. In the CCP museum's case, the original meeting site is preserved, and next to it is the exhibition hall, and once again, both original site and exhibition hall are in the same compound. Mr Lu Xun's one differs from this format, which resulted in me getting a bit lost.

But back to the Sun Yat-Sen/Soong Ching Ling house. The house is fitted out like a colonial bungalow---teak flooring, white walls, European furniture. There is even a veranda, complete with wicker chairs and a coffee table, and a lawn at the back of the hosue. Pictures of afternoons sipping lemonade and playing croquette come to my mind. I remember the photograh in the museum that I saw---of the couple sitting in their wicker chairs, with lots of people around them---and wonder if that event took place on this very lawn. There seem to be a lot of books in the house. "Are all these Sun's actual books?" I ask a guard. "Shi jia de" (these are fake), she says.

I guess unlike the Soong Ching Ling house which she moved into after the Second Sino-Japanese War, and kinda never left it, this house might have been abandoned during the war as Soong Ching Ling left for Hongkong to flee the Japanese, so the authorities weren't really able to leave everything just the way it was. They did try their best though, with Soong Ching Ling having been involved in the arrangements of turning the former house into a memorial site(pictures of her actively planning and supervising the work are hung up on the walls).

In the end, we finish viewing the museum in good time and we head back to the hotel for lunch. I want to eat the mango pudding at Gui Hua Lo, while Mummy wants to eat at the Yi Cafe. In the end, thanks to the resourcefulness of the manageress Jennifer, we both get to have our cake and eat it. We dine at the Yi Cafe, but Jennifer brings the mango pudding from Gui Hua Lo up here for me to eat. Come to think of it, while this is the 3rd time I have ordered the mango pudding, it's the first time I've actually got to really savour it and finish it. The first time I was already full, so I didn't finish it. The 2nd time, again I already too full, so the waitress packed it back for us, but she poured the milk on top of it. And everyone knows I am allergic to milk (for the time being). This 3rd time though, I eat the mango pudding first, and so I really get to enjoy it and finish it.

And then I start on the roast beef, which is really good---juicy and tender. As is the sashimi, and sushi. I consider going to the Super Brand Mall for some last minute shopping, but there isn't much time, so I change and get ready for my flight back home.

Mummy finishes her meal and meets me and Dad at the lobby. The car and the driver have arrived to take us to the airport, and I say goodbye to Charlie and James. I ask the driver where the Buick comes from and he says China. I am surprised. I thought Buicks were from America. Maybe this particular one was made in China.

It has started to rain and just like I guess, our plane is delayed for an hour. I have a headache (I tell you it's airplane phobia). Mummy and I do some duty-free shopping---this time it's a Ferragamo ring for mummy---and wait. I think back on my trip to Shanghai. Of how I enjoyed myself, of the people I met, of the place in general. And I think about him.

It's time to board and the pilot warns us of turbulence. Oh dear. Next to me is a Japanese man who seems very neat and prim and proper. He has a book, written in Japanese, with him, wears a blazer and corduroy pants. He eschews the inflight food for cup noodles, which I find odd (yes, I have nothing better to do than to examine those around me). And he spends his time playing computer games. He looks really bored. Mummy watches the same comedy twice (or thrice if you count in the fact that she watched that aforementioned movie on the flight to Shanghai) , while I, too nervous to watch any drama or serious shows, also watch that comedy. But only once. And then I listen to music to soothe my nerves, changing channels whenever I hear the words "fall", "gravity", "sink" or "crash". As usual, we buy something on board. This time it is an Aigner watch. We really have nothing better to do.

We land safely. PRAISE JESUS. And I stagger out of the plane, just so happy to be alive. I'm pale, and tired but sooooooooooooo happy that I'm home. A little duty-free shopping is again in order. This time it's for liquor. And then a cab takes us back.

By the time we leave the airport, it's past midnight.

Back home, Granny is there to meet us. I am so so happy. I missed her a lot. So much so that I ask her sleep in my room. At 2am, my sister calls, and we chat a little.

And at 3am, I finally sleep.

I really had a great time (this coming from someone who admits to not liking travelling much) and I truly thank God for it. He took really good care of me, as usual, throughout the whole trip, and I came back, with my parents, all of us safe and sound, having had lots of fun.

Photographs from:

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