Exquisite silk wallpaper and joining the crowds at the Shanghai Expo!
I’ve just one more day left in Shanghai as I fly back to the UK tonight. It has been a brief few days here, catching up with the workshop that produces our main Classical Chinese furniture range – discussing some new pieces and checking out some of the items that are either already finished or are part way through being produced for our next shipment.
I also met up with the supplier that produces our silk wallpaper. We have been working on quite a large project for several months and the seventeen panels for this particular customer have just been completed, so I was able to inspect these before they are sent over to the UK. The overall design was fairly classical, with bamboo and blossom, birds and butterflies, but the customer also had some specific requests for certain elements. These included pheasants, a rabbit and a rat! I had seen photos of the finished wallpaper before, but you can only appreciate the quality of the paintings and workmanship that goes into it by seeing it for real. The fine detail – up to individual feathers on the birds and even hair on the rabbit and rat, are exquisite. I’m looking forward to seeing the panels installed in the near future and hope to be able to share some photos of the finished product on our website later.
Yesterday was spent finalising details for the Chinese antique furniture that we will ship from Beijing in a month or so, and then later I visited the Shanghai Expo together with Michael and Anita from the Shanghai workshop. The Expo is a huge event running for several months until the end of October. It is effectively a chance for the world’s nations to show what they offer in terms of architecture, culture, business and investment opportunities, with hundreds of pavilions built to hold the exhibits of each country. These ranged from the smallest – Macau, Lichenstein and Luxembourg all had a presence, right up to the huge, imposing Chinese pavilion. Most of the pavilions are temporary structures, to be pulled down after the Expo is finished, but I understand that the Chinese one will stay in place, becoming a permanent exhibition to Chinese culture and development.
I was prepared for the size and scale of the Expo but I wasn’t prepared for the sheer numbers of people. The event seems to have received little publicity in the UK, but has been heavily pushed in China, so there are hundreds of thousands of people visiting from all over the country. I was told that on any given day there are up to 400,000 people visiting! This meant that the queues to get into the vast majority of pavilions were in some cases over five hours long – one friend of Michael’s had apparently waited 8 hours to get into the German pavilion! I’m not sure whether this says more about the endurance and patience of the Chinese or the visitors’ optimism and herd mentality, as from what I could tell the interiors of most pavillions were interesting rather than awe inspiring.
We had managed to get hold of some ‘VIP’ tickets for the Chinese pavilion, which meant we had to wait only about an hour and a half to get in rather than six hours. The crowds were unbelievable but it was just about worth the wait – if only to experience the whole atmosphere with such large numbers. The exhibit itself was split into three sections, telling the story of how Chinese homes and life had changed over the centuries, the development of town planning and a final section looking at the future. There were mock ups of Chinese homes through the 70s, 80s, 90s and present day and it was interesting to note that western style furniture was the norm in the earlier decades, with more traditional Chinese furniture making an appearance only in the present day section in the form of a couple of horseshoe armchairs, albeit given a modern twist.
I’m just about to check out from my hotel before going off to the Shanghai market to pick up one or two last minute accessories to ship over with our next container. Then it will be a final dinner with everybody from the workshop (I can recommend snake after the other night – very much like chicken), before heading for the airport. It’s been a very productive ten days or so but it will be good to get home. We will be working on all the antique pieces that I’ve lined up from this trip over the next few weeks so we should have these available to view on the main website soon.
Signing off from Shanghai!