'The Amazing Race' Pit Stop Fiver: Of Dragons, Old Noodles and the City of Shanghai
Friday, April 23, 2010
Now that The Amazing Race is back to regular programming, we can resume doing these pit stop fivers. And, after the modern comforts of Singapore, we are headed to the Chinese city of Shanghai. Not that I'm saying the place is far from modern: anybody who watches the news would know that Shanghai has become a symbol of a resurging China.
But the country's always been a mix of the old and the new: a strong sense of tradition colliding, and meshing, with the demands of the modern economy. I've only seen the country through those travel documentaries (and that one visit to Hong Kong a couple of years ago) and it's quite evident they're not just managing with juggling both those aspects. They're doing it quite nicely.
As always, this fiver is built to set you up for the things you should expect in the race, and perhaps give you a handful of tidbits about our host country. My help in this regard, as always, is trusty Wikipedia and the folks over at RFF. And with that, let the storytelling begin.
Who would've thought the Chinese dragon is different? I'll admit to having these mixed up: all dragons to me are these fire-breathing creatures. But that's the European version. The Chinese dragon is considered more nice, and are usually associated with control over weather. The Chinese consider the dragon a symbol of good luck, and is also seen as a sign of the country's rich culture.
The cultural center is the river. Shanghai sits at the mouth of the Yangtze river, the third-longest river in the world. That waterway is important to the country's economy, but it also holds some hints to the origins of the country itself. The ancient Chinese states of Ba and Shu were found in the western part of the river, and going even before that, human artifacts were found in the area where the Three Gorges Dam are now--ones that date up to 27,000 years ago.
The city is sinking, more or less. Since it's in the mouth of the Yangtze river, Shanghai literally sits in soft land. The more modern buildings that define the city's familiar landscape had to be built with a strong foundation so they don't sink. Historians even think that in ancient times, Shanghai was literally on the sea, thanks to its changing coastlines that depend on the Yangtze's activity. Thus, the city's name: Shanghai loosely means "above the water" in English.
Shanghai's as modern as it is traditional. The city is home to the Shanghai Museum, home to one of the biggest collections of Chinese artifacts in the world. But the city is also credited as the birthplace of Chinese cinema, with the first films being produced there in 1913. The first Chinese trains and cars were found in Shanghai. The city is now considered China's economic center, thanks to economic reforms in the 1990s that spurred growth.
And finally--of course!--noodles. One of two Roadblocks this week have something to do with noodles. Sure, nobody can agree as to the place where noodles were first made: the Chinese, Arabs and Italians have all staked a claim, But the Chinese get a one-up on this regard: the oldest noodles in the world were found in the province of Qinghai, in the western part of the country, in 2005. I wonder how that looks like.
We're spending two legs in Shanghai, so expect five more bits about the city next week. I think I'll have to do a lot more digging...
(Image courtesy of the Daily Telegraph)