The Pearl Tower and Mao Shan

On Friday, the weather was beautiful so we visited the Pearl Tower in the heart of Shanghai. Near the Pearl Tower area there was a roundabout with a circular walkway built around it where people could walk in circles and admire the diverse architecture of the city…which is exactly what Omer, Kyra, Emily and I did for the hour and a half we were given to explore the area. When we weren’t circling the area we stopped in a giant Disney store that was just built and we all got McDonald’s for dinner. McDonald’s is insanely better here than back in the US, and my burger even looked like the picture on the menu. The fries weren’t outrageously salted and the grease I consumed was, I think, minimal. While we were walking around I noticed again a crazy contrast from the United States’ major cities. Shanghai is incredibly clean. Not once did I see a piece of garbage on the street or on the sidewalk in this area. Granted they have tons of workers walking around to make sure the area is kept clean, but this area’s cleanliness definitely made a positive impression of the trip.

When it was finally time to visit the Pearl Tower, we were lucky enough not to have to wait in line. The tower itself is 1,536 ft tall and is the world’s sixth and China’s second tallest TV tower. My ears were even popping as we ascended inside the elevator. Unfortunately the view was a little smoggy, but my favorite part of the TV tower was walking on the glass floor over the city. Talk about nauseating! I was apprehensive at first, but eventually warmed up to the floor enough to take a few pictures 🙂 We visited a museum inside the tower afterwards and that was pretty fun as well. A lot of the museum displays were of old Shanghainese ways of life, what houses and rooms and stores looked like- which was really amazing. Except the mannequins on display looked eerily real…

On Saturday morning we boarded the bus bright and early at 8:00AM for the four hour bus ride to Mao Shan, a holy land of Daoism. When we first arrived at our hotel in Mao Shan, our group was absolutely blown away. The rooms were huge and the bathrooms were gorgeous, it was truly a resort and one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying at! After lunch we visited some temples which were beautiful as usual, but what was particularly striking to me about Mao Shan were the mountains surrounding the area. There was just green rolling hills as far as I could see! After dinner we all sang some karaoke at the hotel which was way more fun than I was expecting. Almost everyone participated and I sang “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne which really channeled my third grade self that listened to the song religiously. Overall, it was a really fun first day in Mao Shan!

The next morning we visited a Daoist temple called Renyou Guan, a nunnery on top of a mountain. When we first arrived we had tea with one of the female priests and she explained the history of the temple. She didn’t mention this, but we were told before coming to Mao Shan that the area is usually associated with dark magic by lay Chinese people. This is mostly because Daoism seeks to find immortality through different forms of meditation, and anything trying to channel great amount of energy would make Daoists extremely powerful. Like my professor said, anything strange (such as their practices) can also be assumed to be dark and mysterious. I, however did not notice anything having to do with dark magic during my weekend at Mao Shan. After the priestess explained the temple history, we were lucky enough to participate in a morning ritual of respecting the three Mao brothers that founded Daoism in the Mao Shan area. This consisted of burning incense for the brothers and listening to the priestesses’ sing scriptures with accompanying instruments. My professor said that because these scriptures and music have been played since the beginning of Daoism, that the songs we heard are probably the closest tunes we’ll ever hear resembling what ancient Daoists and Chinese people heard. After the ritual we did Tai Chi, learned basic Daoist meditation practices (yay!) and learned about acupuncture! It was really an incredible day and our vegetarian lunch that we had with the Daoist’s was the best meal I’ve had so far on this trip. I loved the fresh air on top of the mountains of Mao Shan, and I loved being able to learn more about how Daoism is practiced after learning so much about it last year.

After the four hour bus ride home, Maggie, Elysa, Saba, and I all went out for dinner to Mr. Pancake, a Western pancake house near campus. It was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend! (And I can now comfortably take the bus around town). 🙂