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February 19, 2006

Guangguang Hankou (strolling around Hankou District of Shanghai)

Today was my second day in Shanghai's old Hankou District, where 30,000 Jews found refuge during World War II. (See: 1/17/04 entry, "acrobatics, silk, Jewish history.")

Tomorrow morning, I leave on a U.S.-bound plane. Terry has been in the States for two weeks, visiting 3-month-old grandson Elliot and others. (In case we haven't posted the fact to our mostly-China weblog, Elliot was born to son Travis and his wife Karen, a few months after Travis's visit to China.) I'm busy at work and with my dissertation, so I wasn't planning to go until a few months later. My father's health is failing, though, and I want to spend a week with him.

In the past, I have stayed at an over-priced Marriott hotel near the Pudong Airport, at a U.S.-style Jingjiang Motel nearby, and at the New Garden Hotel near our synagogue in Shanghai. Staying near the airport is boring; you can walk out the door, but there's nothing to do. So, to try something different, I stayed at a Home Inn (another $25-a-night motel) near Lu Xun Park in the Hankou District. I enjoyed strolling through the park and surrounding neighborhood for several hours this afternoon. There are lots of architecturally interesting buildings from the early twentieth century. In the park, hundres of mostly older people were relaxing - singing, playing musical instruments, playing cards or xiangxi. I ordered a bowl of vegetarian noodles in a snack bar inside the part and had the usual problem - "Oh, sorry, yidiandian (just a little) meat." The woman in charge took pity on me, though, and specially made up a tasty REALLY vegetarian bowl of noodles for me.

Lu Xun (along with Gu Morou) was one of China's two most famous 20th-century authors. Though not a party member, he sympathized with Mao and the communists. (I'm not sure, but I think not having been a party member may have prevented him from being condemned by anyone during the various factional battles since 1949. Dying in 1936 probably helped, too.) As a mature adult, Lu had an incredibly interesting face, so it was fun seeing the hundreds of photos, with bilingual inscriptions. Copies of his books, translated into many languages, were also on display. Like Checkhov, Lu initially went to medical school, but decided he could contribute more to society as a politically engaged writer. He became radicalized during the May Fourth Movement of 1919, which aimed to resist foreign (mainly Japanese) imperialism and to modernize China. He studied in Japan for several years, up to the 1911 Republican revolution, and maintained lifelong friends there. He was quite an internationalist, also collecting woodcuts by German artist Kathe Kollowitz and being the first to translate science fiction into Chinese, two of Jules Verne's novels.

I also located the bus stop where, at about 6:30 tomorrow morning, I need to catch the #4 shuttle bus to the airport. Getting directions was a by-now-typical experience. (To be fair, I've had similar experiences in the U.S.) The hotel clerk conscientiously walked out to the sidewalk with me, pointed me to the left, told me to make three left turns, then a right, then ask - 15 minutes in all. She suggested I take the #47 local bus and get off at the second stop, instead of walking. The route seemed strangely circular, but I checked it out. In fact, there is a shorter, simpler alternate route - go to the RIGHT after exiting the hotel, then one left and one right turn - 5 minutes total. I think I understand why the hotel clerk gave me the instructions she did. I believe she thought about my question only in terms of bus routes, and I noticed that the #47 local bus does in fact follow the route she suggested. Needless to say, I'll take the shorter route.

- Norty

Posted by now at February 19, 2006 05:30 PM