Sunday, March 8, 2009

Money exhibit - so fitting

I guess it's only fitting, in a city that so defines the gap between rich and poor, I go to the Shanghai Art Museum and see a currency exhibit.

This museum is in People's Park, which was created in 1949 in place of the racetracks the Brits had built. (The jockey club building is still on one side of the park, near Barbarrossa, and is quite beautiful, I wonder what the track looked like.) The architect built the museum to look like an ancient Chinese vessel.

The museum is not all that large, just 4 floors with about 3 small-ish exhibits per floor, but we spent the whole 2.5 hours we allotted to it on just the top floor. We tried to go back, but just never dragged ourselves out of bed during daylight hours after our second day.

What we did see was incredible, though. We definitely nerded out in the currency exhibit because we kept bringing things back to our Investment and Finance in China class (I know), but it really was interesting. China's post-Mao economic emergence has been so recent that it was crazy to see bonds from the 1800s and old Chinese money issued by all these foreign countries. And that was just the recent stuff - they also had very ancient coins from the silk road, which show the influence of all the trading civilizations (Greek, Arabic, etc.). They also had a video on how they used to mint the old coins using sand plates. They would make a mold with two rows of 5-6 coins, with a trough between them with a tiny trough connecting the middle trough to each coin. They would pour the copper into the trough from one end and the copper would fill into each coin through the little troughs. Then they would open the mold and shake the 'tree' of sorts and coins would fall off. Money growing on trees!!!
The other exhibit I liked was a furniture exhibit - takeaway: I need an antique Chinese day bed in my Arkansas apt.

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