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Shanghai Museum of History

Updated: May 5, 2023

Shanghai's history is pretty cool. It's the history of civilization. It's the history of western colonialism. Its the history of international trade between Asia and the rest of the world.

6000 years of historical relevance. That blows me away. 6000 years. It rivals that of Babylon and Egypt in its scope and relevance. The museum had an extensive collection of artifacts dating back to the hunter gather phase of humanity leading up to the periods of the first written languages.

The museum was broken into three areas; primitive, medieval, and modern. It also came with interactive headgear. While wearing it you only had to look at a display and the video and sound would kick in. Ivy helped me with the spoken commands in Chinese, but I was able to get the gist of using it fairly quickly. Bonus: they had English speaking versions for foreigners like me.

The primitive was sort of head-knodding fascination level. They had a lot of pottery, arrowheads, and ancient plows. They take great pride in their four great inventions; paper, gun powder, the compass, and the printing press. Funny thing. Did you learn about the Chinese inventing the printing press with moveable type long before Gutenberg? I thought not. The moveable, reusable, clay-type printing technique was invented in the Song dynasty (960–1279).

The medieval section was super cool only because of the art from the various dynasties. Artists here tended to write either poetry or detailed explanations of what they were painting right on their artwork. The beauty of their written language only adds to the art itself. This was my favorite. It highlighted a difference of mindset between Ivy and myself. She wanted to know why I liked the lonely man on the bridge. When I saw it I thought he was happy to be out enjoying the beautiful nature all around him in peace.

Shanghai lies in an important location in several ways. It's on the Pacific coast with two major rivers (Yangtze and Huangpu) converging on a single area allowing for goods to be conveniently moved from more areas to a central location for international trade. This leads us into the modern history that begins with The Opium Wars. The quick and dirty version is this... China had something that the Britain and France wanted (tea and silk). The Chinese didn't want what they were selling. What were they trying to sell in China? Opium from India. Ultimately this is what led to the fall of The Qing dynasty. The foreigners wanted to sell opium to the masses in China. The Qing government tried to stop them. The Europeans won both wars in the mid nineteenth century. The Chinese, much like the Native American in the states, would have preferred the Europeans to just leave them alone and stay away.

The treaty that followed set up Shanghai as the most important international port for trade in and out of a China. This treaty starts the 100 years of China getting dominated by foreign powers. Here they think of it as the 100 years of embarrassment. Not kidding about this. It's started with the Europeans and ended with the Japanese. It's no shocker that the Chinese don't trust anyone from a western connnected foreign government.

We spent nearly five hours in the museum. Easy to forget to eat when you're being fascinated learning stuff about the area you're visiting. As we were passing a Starbucks I asked Ivy if she was interested in a coffee and a snack. Yeah. She didn't take long to answer.

Tomorrow? We learn about the Bund. This was our view out of our hotel room towards the Bund. The iconic Shanghai radio tower and the second tallest building in the world. Not bad.

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