Greg and Lina’s Excellent Adventure Part II: China

Shanghai:

Well China is quite the place. We arrived in Shanghai and I was taken for a ride. This guy conned me into a cab ride that cost about $50 when I should have paid only about $20. There are also thousands of street salesmen who come up to westerners wanting to know if you would like to buy a watch or a bag. I’ve never seen so many “Rolex” watches in all my life. Welcome to the big city.

And a big city it is. Immense! Modern skyscrapers make up this city of about 20 million people (nearly as many as in all of Taiwan). I guess the Chinese government decided about 25 years ago they wanted to make Shanghai the most modern city and they pretty much did it and there is still a lot they are still doing. Everyone you meet seems to be very proud of Shanghai. One gentlemen at the conference, from another province, informed me that “Shanghai is much more modern than Taipei” when he heard I was in Taipei the week before.

… and the subways… We went on the subway at rush hour one evening with our new found friends Tom and Mellanie from California (formerly of Richmond Heights) and were utterly amazed at the masses of people. There are no orderly rules as to right of way or “personal space”. You just have to go and cram into the subway as best you can. Being smaller does have its advantages here.
I mostly was stuck in the conference. Lina was able to go on several tours got to know Shanghai much better then I.

What most amazed me though was the appeal of the cosmos. Here you do not see temples or many forms of worship. Mao cleared out the great majority of them. Instead, they have been replaced with the god of prosperity and materialism. In some respects, Shanghai is the most capitalistic environment I’ve ever seen. People are really chasing the “American Dream” and at the moment seem to be getting it. It’s all about progress, and yet are they just replacing, or mixing, the ideal of the state with the ideal of the individual. Both leave you lonely and ultimately fulfilled without a relationship with the creator of the universe.

I wonder how this will affect the progress of the church. There are few outward expressions of religion on the streets of Shanghai. We only saw one old church. When we brought up Christianity, Jesus or the Bible there really was not much response at all.

Xi’an:
The last few days we spent in Xi’an, the ancient capital of China. We arrived Saturday night after a long delay at the Shanghai airport due to bad weather in Xi’an. Sunday we toured the city with “John”, a graduate student from Northwest Polytechnic University. Even though it was cold we had a great time seeing the Terracotta Warriors (thousands of ceramic warriors prepared for Emperor Qin, the first emperor to unify all of China). It was truly impressive. Too bad Emperor Qin couldn’t take all those guys with him into the next life. We also had some great food and toured the Museum of Shanxi province. Later that evening we visited the Tang Paradise with Prof Hui Mei and his wife Feng-Li Peng. They were great fun. The Tang Paradise is a replica of the Tang dynasty palace. We also saw a “Chinese Opera” or perhaps ballet that was quite colorful as well as a “Water movie”. The water movie was pretty amazing as they actually projected a movie in water spouts on this lake at night.

Xi’an is a city of only a few million. It was more industrial and was overcast or foggy most of the time, but it did have more of a feel of real China I think compared to Shanghai. Things were not quite as advanced as Shanghai, but this city as well has much construction going on.

The last day I visited the university and gave a talk. It was well received and there were many questions from the students … so I must have made some sense. I was impressed with the English of many of the Chinese, it seems much better than most other East Asians I meet.
In Xi’an there wasn’t a hint of the church as far as we could see. I wonder how it’s doing. Our hosts didn’t really have much to say or didn’t want to say anything on the matter.

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