Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Nanjing and Mr Bean

Off to Nanjing on a fast train, flashing through the flat semi-industrial landscape of northern Zhejiang and southern Jiangsu provinces. A massive new, slightly-out-of-town railway station greeted us, the size and feel of Heathrow T5. We grabbed a sandwich at Costa Coffee which had a big sign boasting “Slow roasted in Lambeth”. Another cafĂ© said “Coffee Tea Brief Meal”.
Sadly the sunshine of Hangzhou had been replaced by the usual smog and as we checked into a shabby Sheraton with strange lifts, Nanjing was not looking its best.
It’s an important city, the capital of China at different times, most recently between 1912-37. But sadly it's best known for the tragedy at the hands (and swords, bayonets & machine-guns) of the Japanese army in the winter of 1937/8 when upwards of a quarter of a million Chinese were systematically slaughtered. Seventy-five years on and emotions still run high. Suffice it to say, Japanese businessmen keep a low profile - although somewhat amazingly there's a large Mazda car plant here.
In the afternoon we had meetings at Nanjing Museum (China's second largest, currently nearing the end of a massive renovation project), South East University (about an architecture exhibition), and Nanjing Arts University (which has a brand new and seriously impressive museum attached).
Evening spent in the company of a company called 1912 which runs upmarket retail, restaurant & heritage districts in several cities in China. This one’s round the back of Sun Yat Sen’s former residence and is a strange mix of that Republican style I mentioned yesterday together with a smattering of neon. A distracting evening to be honest: after dinner in a private room with a large TV showing a football match, we moved on to a wine bar thar was screening a Mr Bean film. British culture eh?

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