AS a birthplace of China’s modern industry, Putuo District has a swathe of museums, art exhibitions and historic sites for tourists and residents to visit during the approaching Chinese New Year.
Many of the old industrial factories and warehouses, which line the Suzhou Creek, have been converted into museums.
The Suzhou Creek Industrial Civilization Museum, for instance, restores the former glories of the riverside region where the early national industry was concentrated. In its heydays, there were more than 1,900 companies in what was known as the Huxi industrial district.
The museum on 2689 Guangfu Road W. was converted from the former site of the Shanghai Glasses Factory in the Changfeng Ecological Business District. The museum has both indoor and outdoor displays showcasing artifacts and historical archives.
Some large machines dating back to early last century are being exhibited outside the museum. Fufengli, a former workers neighborhood in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), has been restored to showcase the working and living environment of China’s earliest working class.
The Fufengli Residential Ward door, at the entrance to the exhibition hall, was recreated according to the residential dormitory for the workers, built by the first Chinese flour mill. The two wood boards hanging on the door are originals.
The first floor of the indoor exhibition hall features recreated scenes from the industrial period, with large oil paintings and multimedia clips.
The second floor traces the development of the industrial civilization along the creek. The four sections give a chronological path marking the achievements of Shanghai, from port opening to the present through 200 items with text and graphic files.
Inside the glass house on the grassland behind the museum is a century-old hydrogen compressor purchased by Wu Yunchu (1891-1953), the famous modern industrialist, chemist and the father of monosodium glutamate. The compressor was manufactured by Worthington Pump and Machinery Corporation from the United States. Wu bought the ammonia synthesis production unit in 1932 for the company he founded.
Also displayed outdoors is a British-made cotton cleaner head, made in 1920 that once belonged to a textile factory by Suzhou Creek. It was manufactured by The Platt Brothers & Co. The giant cotton cleaner, more than 10 meters long, was used to process raw materials.
One of the highlights of the exhibit is the coin-making machine provided by the Shanghai Banknote Printing and Minting Co. It was manufactured in 1978 and was used to produce one, two and five-cent coins until 2000.
There are also sculptures outside the pavilion that reflect the industrial civilization, such as the railroad track made of railroad ties and chains. These masterpieces are award-winning works by teachers and students from nationwide fine arts academies.
More industrial-themed museums are free to visit during the Spring Festival along the creek, such as the Shanghai Brand and Matchbox Label Museum, which was built on the location of the Shanghai Match Factory on Guangfu Rd W., as well as Shanghai Textile Museum on Aomen Road on the former site of the Shanghai Shenxin Textile Factory No. 9.
The textile museum’s exhibitions include old spinning wheels, early machinery and recreated scenes from factories. It covers the history of textiles and the textile industry in Shanghai.
M50 art hub
As Shanghai’s major art district and tourist destination, the famous M50 along the creek is filled with contemporary art and many workshops, studios and galleries. It was once home to struggling artists seeking cheap rent in old warehouses.
Opened in 2001, M50 is a fashion landmark of urban culture in Shanghai. More than 130 galleries and organizations have made it their home. They come from 18 countries from across Europe, the US and even Venezuela. It covers fine art, fashion design, architecture, furniture, film and animation, jewelry and art education.
M50 has sought partnerships and hosted lectures, art investment seminars and special exhibitions in recent years. The Creative M50 competition, for instance, invites professors from 22 universities, including China Central Academy of Fine Arts and China Academy of Art. Young artists whose work has been in the spotlight at this competition are making appearances in China and abroad. M50 has also hosted Shanghai Fashion Week, car shows and charity parties.
Every spring and fall, M50 hosts joint openings, when 20 to 30 renowned galleries unveil new exhibitions. The joint openings also provide an opportunity for collectors and art lovers to communicate.
During the festival, the Vanguard Gallery will hold an abstract exhibition titled Res Extensa, through to the end of March, while the J:Galler has launched an exhibition named The Imaginations of a Museum through to March 9.
An ink painting exhibition is being held in the Wuyue Kongjian studio, which aims to exploit the beauty in daily life.
Another popular destination in Putuo is the Yuan Dynasty Sluice Site Museum at 619 Yanchang Road W., which features the well-preserved historic sluice for the Suzhou Creek, dating back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).
The historic site was discovered in 2001 when a construction team was digging at the intersection of Zhidan Road and Yanchang Road W.
Archeologists discovered an ancient watergate.
The structure applied to the slate building standards of the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The well preserved site people see today is also an example for experts to study construction methods used 700 years ago.
The museum has left the watergate in its original form. About 2,000 of the 10,000 timber posts are exposed so visitors can see the details.
Visitors can also walk above the watergate and see other remains including brick walls, a limestone slab pavement at the bottom of the watergate and miscellaneous limestone remnants.
The museum also has some transparent walkways so people can see directly beneath their feet. Some valuable cultural relics dug up include celadon bowls, coins, porcelain and iron nails.
Many cultural activities will be held in Putuo during the Spring Festival to promote the area’s traditional cultures among residents and local expats.
Over 200 activities have been arranged among the museums, libraries and communities. A shadow puppet lecture and exhibition will be held on February 26 in the historic Zhenru Town to celebrate the Lantern Festival.
Chinese traditional operas will be staged on February 28 at the district’s culture center to showcase the nation’s traditional cultures.
The Putuo District Children’s Library are encouraging children to read more traditional Chinese books, such as “The Analects,” a classic work by Confucius’ disciples that recorded 499 sayings of legendary Chinese philosopher to pay respect to their Master, and “The Mozi,” the remarks of the founder of Mohism, arguing for brother love and saying all men were equal before heaven.
A reciting competition on these traditional classics will be held among the young readers on March 9. They are also invited to write down their own ambitions as well as their hopes for the country’s future on a remark wall in the library.
The history museum of the Caoyang community, the nation’s first workers’ residential block built in 1951, invited calligraphers to write the Chinese character fu (福), meaning good fortune, and present to labor models living in the community.
Taopu community encouraged residents to donate old wool sweaters and invite some senior residents to convert them into handicrafts. Some of them will be used to wrap trees to help them resist the cold weather. Local companies will be invited to purchase the handicrafts and the earnings will be used to buy staples for the poor families.
The city’s century-old Jade Buddha Temple will hold an evening gala on the New Year Eve. The temple will donate a million yuan (US$158,770) to the Shanghai Charity Foundation.
A traditional bell-tolling ceremony will be held at midnight in the temple, where Abbot Juexing and other senior monks will strike the bell 108 times to wish a peaceful and prosperous new year.
One highlight is the first grand Spring Festival couplets show in East China Normal University, which saw 100 calligraphers come together to give artistic expression to rhyming words.
The couplets were written by winners of a competition that was held last month. The organizers received more than 5,000 couplets and 100 were judged as the best, including entries from nine students from four schools.
Some of the couplets were given to 10 Magnolia award-winning foreigners, 10 labor models and 10 representatives of migrant workers for their contribution to the city.
Noyan Rona from Turkey, a Magnolia award winner and an honorary citizen of Shanghai where he has lived for 35 years, said he was overwhelmed to receive the Spring Festival couplet.
Karina Morales-Herrera, Consul General of Ecuador in Shanghai, also attended the event with her husband and son.
“We love the event because we love Chinese culture,” she said. “We enjoyed the happiness of the celebration. Everything is in red.”
Zhenru mutton, which is said to date back 200 years, is a festive feast during the Spring Festival.
The skills to make the mutton in Putuo’s Zhenru Town were listed as part of the city’s “intangible cultural heritage” in June 2007.
People in Zhenru have a routine they follow when eating in a mutton restaurant. A meal consists of one plate of mutton, a few cups of liquor and a bowl of mutton soup noodles.
The cooking styles in Zhenru and the city’s Chongming Island, which is also famous for its mutton dishes, are quite similar. It takes several days to prepare the goat dishes.
Making real Zhenru mutton is complicated and requires more than 10 special procedures, including choosing the lamb, cooking it and removing the bones. Only lamb aged from eight months to two years is suitable and the meat must be seasoned with dozens of ingredients before it is cooked.
The Zhenru mutton gained its reputation as early as the Emperor Qianlong period (1736-1795). In its heyday, the Zhenru ancient town had more than 30 mutton restaurants.
The most famous restaurant in town is the Zhenru Mutton Restaurant, which has several branches. Its sliced boiled mutton is paired with either sweet fermented flour sauce or hot sauce.
According to the Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lamb meat is warm and has the effect of strengthening the body and blood, so it is a tasteful and helpful seasonal treat in winter.
The famous Zhenru mutton has two styles, either braised or boiled. Braised lamb, which originated in the early 1900s, requires newly slaughtered goats. The chef cuts the lamb into small blocks, along with the skin and bones, and wraps the meat tightly with grass strings.
Ingredients include water, sugar, rice wine, soy sauce, onions and ginger.
The most popular boiled mutton is cooked in a special iron pot. The mutton is boiled in white soup for hours to make it easy to chew. The soup is used repeatedly to ensure the original flavor.
Putuo is always crowded with enthusiastic shoppers during festivals and holidays. And it is an ideal time for many major shopping malls to cut prices on items and give customers a discount.
The Global Harbor mall has become a popular shopping landmark since it opened in 2013. The mall near Metro lines 3, 4 and 13 is important for its business, tourism and cultural functions.
Global Harbor intends to host various events, including, music, dance and jazz performances, as well as exhibitions.
In the southern plaza of the mall, a cutting-edge vertical wind tunnel has been installed where customers can experience one of the most popular extreme sports in the world. Experts believe flying in the wind tunnel for two minutes is the equivalent calorie burn off of running 20 kilometers.
Several eateries in the mall are offering discounted set meals for families to enjoy the Chinese New Year Eve. A swathe of fashion brands are also launching discount campaigns during the festival.
The IMAGO Mall has opened a Spring Festival Bazaar, as well as traditional celebrations such as sugar drawing, fish pick-up and wish making for its customers.
To celebrate Valentine’s Day, which is two days ahead of the Spring Festival this year, the IMAGO Mall wants couples to take selfie photos and showcase on their WeChat account to win gifts. A matchmaking event will also be held at the Global Harbor on February 14.
The Shaanxi Road branch of the Orient Shopping Center has invited traditional handcrafts men and calligraphers to make and present traditional artworks. Customers can also try to make their own gifts with the guidance of the masters.
A chocolate workshop will be opened for customers to create a Valentine’s gift. Couples are encouraged to send a postcard to each other with their hopes and wishes.