Quilts and Other Stuff from Frances

Search for Steamed Buns….

Saturday morning dawned cloudy and rainy, with occasional thunder!! We decided to worry about the weather later and instead headed down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Just as a side note, we are both getting VERY tired of eating buffet breakfasts…..six weeks of them in one summer is just too much!!!

At breakfast I started watching a little girl with her Parents and Grandparents. As most of you know, our beautiful Daughter-In-Law is Asian and this little girl reminded me so much of the photos that I had seen of Amber as a child. As I watched her interact with the others, I became more and more convinced that she was a “little Amber”.  I am sure that her parent’s were wondering why these “round-eyes” were staring at her!!

When it was time to leave, the rain had not stopped, so we grabbed our umbrellas and caught a taxi to the Shanghai Museum, a beautiful building…


We got in one line, although we weren’t sure that we didn’t need to buy tickets somewhere else first, but since no one in the line were holding tickets, we decided to try it anyway. After a short wait, we walked thru the metal detector, past the entryway guard and we were in the museum, still not having paid!!! We are not sure why there was no charge, but we did not complain.

The interior of the building is as nice as the outside, with an open atrium and galleries all around the outside edges….


Most of the visitors were heading to the left and up the escalator so we went the other direction….right and into the Bronze gallery.

Many of the pieces in this gallery were very old and intricate, but I was once again drawn to the shapes of the objects…..


There were MANY objects that were fashioned into animals of some sort….


This water basin had various animals in the bottom of it, but I was more interested in the little girl telling her Mother what animals she saw…..


This Yak piece was interesting, especially with the Tigers climbing up the sides of the pot…..


….and I thought of our son, Brian, when we came across these bronze drums….


The next gallery was calligraphy.  The introduction to the gallery gave the following explanation…. “Chinese written characters are pictographic symbols of spoken words.  Calligraphy is the art of writing characters in an expressive manner employing the use of a brush.” 

The pieces were beautiful, although completely lost on us…..


The next gallery took us to Chinese painting.  Most of it was done on silk and many pieces had Calligraphy incorporated as well.   I really liked this large painting of bamboo….


There were a couple of interesting things about this gallery.  The first was that the display cases were all darkened and would light up as you approached the painting.  It was a bit disconcerting at first, but we soon learned to look for the sensor and to be sure to stand there.

The second was that I realized that people around us knew who these artists were, much as we would say “Oh look…there’s a Monet”.

Most of the pieces were done in one color of ink, mostly black and many carried the seal of the painter (see the red stamps)……


However, there were several gorgeous pieces that had additional colors added….


Next was the Jade gallery and once again there was room after room of jade pieces.  The most amazing ones to me were the pieces that displayed fine and delicate carvings.


The woodcarving room was Michael’s favorite and many exquisite carved and Lacquered pieces were shown.  This pieced was a mirror stand and we would have loved to put it into our suitcase!!!


When I looked at this next room, my eye immediately went to the stand at the back.  Cant you see quilt’s hanging there…..


Michael is desperate for one of these “brobdingnagian” chairs but I cant see him sitting in them to watch TV at night.  The chair in the middle is actually a folding chair…..


This red lacquered table and chairs was intricately carved.  Michael’s comment was that you wouldn’t want to sit for long on those chairs as the carvings would “etch” into your skin!!!


OK, enough wood work. Let’s get to something important….like textiles!!!!

I thoroughly enjoyed the Ethnic Costume and Textile gallery, starting with the dragon that welcomed us in…..


….these wonderful “tie-dye batik”pieces…..DSC06297

…..this funky hat with a “fishing pole” attached……


….and this example of “extreme” beading…..


I loved the colors in this dress…….


…and was very glad that I couldn’t smell this outfit since it was made of Salmon Skin!!!!


On to the ceramics gallery but by this time we were officially “museumed-out”.  A quick run thru gave a few more images…..DSC06322

Most of the pieces were traditional blue and white,so we found this brown and white painted piece to be very attractive…..


We left the museum and caught a taxi to the place that I was dying to go…..Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant.  The only problem was that, when we arrived, the line looked like this…..DSC06424

There were several hundred people in line so we reluctantly decided to give it a miss.

Just down the street was the City God Temple so we followed the signs and walked there in the rain.  We stopped at one booth and asked where to buy tickets.  The person pointed down a corridor so we started walking that way.  The guard at the end of the walkway said that we needed tickets and pointed back up the corridor…..but where?????

Then we saw this tiny window and sure enough, that was the ticket counter….


Even though it was pouingr rain, the central courtyard was crowded with worshipers……


Around this center courtyard were buildings that each contained a Buddha of some sort and a shrine……DSC06340

The worshipers go into each of the halls and bow and pray to each of the gods….



There was a lot of construction going on so you couldn’t really see the main Buddha, however here is one of his attendants.  I swear that he is holding a fire extinguisher!!!….


I have always loved the architecture of the temple buildings, especially the roof lines…..


Leaving the temple, we caught a taxi to the Dongtai Road Antique Market.  In this photo, Michael is showing his approval, Chinese style….


Now we had been warned that the definition of “antique” was flexible and could mean something was one year old or 100 years old.  The market was composed  of several long streets with small “junk” shops out on the street…


…and more serious shops in the buildings.  They were very interesting and you could buy lots of fun things.  This store had old typewriters, cameras and movie cameras…..


We walked down one long hall and found the most interesting things…..


In some places it was so dark that we couldn’t really see what was there until the camera flashed…….


We had, once again, managed to arrive just after lunch and many of the shopkeepers were taking their afternoon rest……DSC06383

….and yes, this man is working in his underwear only……


We ended up purchasing one small item and then headed back to the hotel to ask them for another place to get steamed buns (we knew them as Soup Dumplings).  The concierge told us that Nanxiang was the best and when we told him that the line length had deterred us the first time, he said “oh no.  Don’t stand in the line.  Go upstairs and there is no waiting”!!!

So we hopped back into a taxi and returned to the Restaurant with the long line.  We climbed the stairs and found that there were still a lot of people waiting but the hostess came up to me and asked if we would be happy with a “Set Menu” rather than ordering for ourselves.  Since we wouldn’t have known what to order anyway, we said yes and she immediately sat us at a table.

The steamed buns are an interesting phenomenon.  A mixture of meat and aspic is wrapped in a dumpling skin.  When the buns are steamed, the aspic dissolves, with the resulting soup being trapped inside the bun.  Here is a video of some of the buns being made.


I loved this photo with the little girl looking fascinatedly in the window….


OK…enough about making the buns, lets get on with the eating.

The buns arrived at the table in a bamboo steamer basket….


You would pick up a bun with your chopsticks and dip it in a small bowl of vinegar….


Then comes the tricky part.  You bite off just a small bit of the dumpling to allow the steam to be released from the bun…..


In this photo, you can see the meatball inside the dumpling and also see the broth coming out…..


Once it has cooled a bit it is easily eaten.

We were also served a Giant soup dumpling that contains only soup.  You do not eat the dumpling wrapper with this one, but instead sip the soup thru a straw….


We were also served two other types of dumplings.  The first was a fried dumpling with shrimp inside….


…and the second was filled with an egg substance…..


Next came a mushroom and vegetable  soup….


The final course were two sweet dumplings to finish up.  One was a sweetened rice while the final one was filled with ground almonds….


As we left the restaurant, we passed the window that everyone was standing in line for…..the “outer sell” window……


We returned to the hotel and enjoyed the rest of the evening…..day two in Shanghai….another success!!!!

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