World famous ballerina takes to the stage in Shanghai

Svetlana Zakharova in 
Gabrielle Chanel. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Svetlana Zakharova, one of the most celebrated ballerinas in the world, is in Shanghai. She is joining hands with the star dancers of Russia’s esteemed Bolshoi Theatre and presenting four performances at the Shanghai Grand Theatre from May 15 to 19.

On May 16, the Bolshoi prima ballerina and her colleagues will present Modanse, which consists of two parts: a one-act dance drama Come Un Respiro, choreographed by Mauro Bigonzetti, and Gabrielle Chanel, a dance drama about the life story of the fashion icon. Zakharova wears the trademark outfits of Chanel and presents her journey from a cabaret performer to the legendary fashion designer, highlighting her close ties to Russian ballet and her love story with Arthur Edward “Boy” Capel.

Shanghai Museum hosts Prado’s Mona Lisa

Ages of Splendor: A History of Spain in the Museo del Prado, running in Shanghai’s Museum of Art Pudong from Apr 23 to Sept 1, marks the largest presentation of the Prado Museum’s collection in China. [Photo provided to China Daily]

One of the most famous paintings of all time, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa has a fine copy in the collection of Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain.

It was believed to be done by the pupils of the Renaissance master during his lifetime, with details and changes that mirrored those of the original at the Louvre in Paris, France.

The Prado’s Mona Lisa is among 70 paintings on exhibition in Shanghai’s Museum of Art Pudong from Apr 23 to Sept 1.

As birthplace of Communist Party of China, Shanghai utilizes its red sources in patriotic education

Tourists visit the Memorial Hall of the First National Congress of the CPC in Shanghai. Photo: VCG

Tourists visit the Memorial Hall of the First National Congress of the CPC in Shanghai. Photo: VCG

Standing at the gate of a Shanghai-style Shikumen house, a typical Shanghai building with a courtyard and stone-framed gates, Chen Cheng and his friends wait for the memorial staff. Two days prior, they made an appointment by phone to visit the newly opened Memorial Hall of the Former Site of the Special Task Division of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Located deep in a quiet lane in downtown Shanghai, the memorial hall showcases how early Party members secretly discharged their duties to safeguard the country and its people under the threat of then Kuomintang reactionaries.

The memorial hall, a part of the Memorial Hall of the Second National Congress of the CPC, uses a special appointment system, which only allows visitors to call the memorial hall in advance, and then wait at the gate, until a staff member ushers them in.

This appointment and visiting process minimize disturbance to nearby residents, said Qian Wei, a deputy secretary of the Party branch at the Memorial Hall of the Second CPC National Congress. 

“More notably, it offers an intelligence-like immersive experience that enables visitors to feel the atmosphere of underground work in those hard years,” Qian told the Global Times.

Having opened to the public on Sunday, the memorial hall is an important part of Shanghai’s ongoing red culture inheritance and promotion project, Qian said.

As the birthplace of the CPC, Shanghai has been making unremitting efforts to protect and utilize its rich patriotic red sources. 

“The red gene nurtured by Shanghai’s profound revolutionary historical tradition always flows in the blood of the city,” Ma Wan, a deputy director of the academic research department at the Party history research office, the CPC Shanghai Committee, told the Global Times.

Visitors browse creative cultural products at the Memorial Hall of the First CPC National Congress in Shanghai. Photo: Chen Xia/GT

Visitors browse creative cultural products at the Memorial Hall of the First CPC National Congress in Shanghai. Photo: Chen Xia/GT

Essential role

In 1921, CPC forerunners held the Party’s first National Congress in Shanghai and Jiaxing, in East China’s Zhejiang Province, turning a new page in Chinese history. For decades, generations of Party members continued fighting for the liberation and well-being of the Chinese people in Shanghai, widely sowing “red seeds” across the city.

Nowadays, there are more than 600 red-themed memorial venues and historical sites in Shanghai, the People’s Daily reported on Sunday. Among them, the Memorial Hall of the First National Congress of the CPC is a city landmark that attracts millions of visitors each year.

And the number of visitors keeps surging. A total of 592,615 people visited the memorial hall in the first quarter of 2024, a 51.78 percent increase year-on-year, the Global Times learned from the memorial hall on Tuesday.

To better disseminate red culture and popularize patriotic education, Shanghai started the red culture inheritance and promotion project in 2021, as part of the city’s 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25). In early 2022, it released a red resource list containing 612 historic sites, including 497 former sites of key Party and government bodies and 115 related memorial venues, which are all well preserved.

Shanghai plays an essential role in the development of the CPC. It is the Party’s birthplace; the place where the original aspiration and the great founding spirit of the Party were conceived, Ma noted.

Diverse presentations

To enrich visitors’ experiences, Shanghai has been diversifying the presentations of its red resources, while trying to promote red culture in more interesting and vivid ways.

On March 8, on this year’s International Women’s Day, visitors to the Memorial Hall of the Second CPC National Congress watched an immersive play at the site of the Shanghai Citizen Female College, which is now a part of the memorial. Dressed in the period’s clothing, the memorial hall staff members at the college performed an inspiring story of the female students in the early 20th century studying hard and devoting themselves to the revolution’s cause.

Telling the Party’s history through immersive plays is a new approach by the memorial hall, said Qian. “This is a more friendly and acceptable way of red culture promotion,” he said.

Red-themed venues make online efforts as well. The Memorial Hall of the First CPC National Congress, for instance, released a 22-minute short film in October 2023.

The film tells the story of some underground Party members in Shanghai risking their lives to fight against the enemies in the 1930s. To make the film attractive to audiences, the production team made many efforts to polish its narration and presentation, said the film’s producer Xue Feng, who is also the director of the memorial hall.

“The film has a fast narrative pace, plot twists, and popular spy-drama elements. We made it suspenseful and compelling,” Xue told the Global Times at a preview screening of the film in October 2023.

Citywide, the Shanghai municipal government released Hongtu (or “red journey”) in June 2021, reportedly China’s first online platform for red culture resources and information. 

Hundreds of red tourism routes, exhibitions, videos, lectures and courses related to revolutionary history can be found on the platform. According to Shanghai-based Jiefang Daily, there are more than 5.79 million real-name registered users on the platform and 410 million views in eight months after it was launched.

Performers act in an immersive play at the Memorial Hall of the Second CPC National Congress. Photo: Courtesy of the memorial hall

Performers act in an immersive play at the Memorial Hall of the Second CPC National Congress. Photo: Courtesy of the memorial hall

Inspiring young people

Red-themed venues are seeing an increasing number of young visitors. During the Qingming Festival holidays earlier this month, visitors under the age of 30 accounted for more than half of the spectators at many popular red-themed museums and memorials, China Central Television reported on April 7.

In recent years, Shanghai has taken further steps in exploring how to inspire young people’s interest in red culture. Red-themed creative cultural products are a main aspect of its efforts, as many red venues in the city have released their own products catering to Gen Zers.

The Memorial Hall of the First CPC National Congress has designed many popular sellers that perfectly combine creativity, practicability, and red culture education function, such as a calligraphy tracing book with the Constitution of the CPC as its contents, as a gift especially for teenagers.

The memorial hall’s products have both received awards at industry competitions and won praise from customers. “Education is the shared social responsibility of red tourism venues, and creative cultural products can be a characteristic highlight in our red culture education,” Ruan Jun, a deputy director of the memorial hall, told the Global Times.

Apart from attractive products, some red venues in Shanghai actively cooperate with local universities and secondary schools in cohosting youth-friendly red-themed events.

Qian shared that the Memorial Hall of the Second CPC National ­Congress is reaching nearby middle schools to jointly design an interactive game, which will enable teenage students to naturally learn the history and spirit of the Party through a fun experience.

“It may be a role-playing murder mystery game,” he said. “Young people like this.”

Shows opens Shanghai Fashion Week

A model presents creations from Le Fame in Shanghai during the 2024 A/W Shanghai Fashion Week on Mar 25, 2024. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Local fashion brand Le Fame kicked off the 2024 A/W Shanghai Fashion Week on Monday with an opening show in Xintiandi. Celebrities such as Yang Ying (often known by her stage name Angelababy) and Yang Chaoyang attended the show.

Designed in the art deco style and featuring the essence of Shanghai culture, including velvet, Chinese satin, pearl, and ostrich, the opening show displayed the elegance of Shanghai women.

Other events of the fashion week, including the MODE Shanghai Fashion Trade Show and the release of designer-incubation platform LABELHOOD, were also held on Monday, covering major landmarks in Shanghai such as the Rockbund Art Museum, IM Shanghai, and the West Bund Art Center.

Liu Kexin contributed to this story.

Compassion and care make the impossible possible in China

Editor’s noteWe have asked expats living in China to share their stories about the cities they work and live in. Janaka Jayawickrama is from Sri Lanka and he is now professor of social anthropology at Shanghai University.

Janaka Jayawickrama from Sri Lanka is now professor of social anthropology at Shanghai University. [Photo provided to]

Moving from the United Kingdom after 20 years to China is an exciting decision our family had to make. However, we did not know what to expect. We kept our minds open.

We are a family of three. My wife is a designer, my son is an artist, and I am an academic.

We were thrilled when I received the opportunity to join the College of Liberal Arts of Shanghai University. We wanted to learn from new experiences, culture and society.

My campus story is also a collective story of my wife, my son and I.

If I had to pick three words to describe this story, they would be: compassion, care, and collaboration.

Based on my experiences of traveling across many continents over the past 30 years, moving to a new country always comes with challenges.

Language, social structures and expectations are the most difficult ones. When we first arrived in China in November 2022, everything seemed difficult. We did not understand the language. We were not familiar with social structures. We did not know what to expect and what was expected of us.

It soon became clear that what we thought was difficult could be overcome with compassion and the care we received from everyone.

My colleagues at all levels of the Shanghai University were compassionate and caring towards me and my family.

Difficulties of language, social structures and expectations became less difficult as through compassion and care.

I remember a young student once took time to explain to me how to use a new application on the phone. A colleague also took time to accompany me to the bank to open an account. A security guard also once helped me to access the QR code to enter into the campus. An old woman once spoke to us even though we did not understand the language. These are all examples of comfort and the warmth we have experienced in Shanghai.

Shanghai, Beijing, other cities improve foreigners’ payment service

Mobile payment Photo:VCG

Mobile payment Photo:VCG

Major Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai have stepped up efforts to improve means of payment for foreign travelers, a move to promote inbound tourism and high-level opening-up. 

Shanghai, frequently picked up by overseas visitors as their first stop to China for business, study or sightseeing, will optimize payment service linked with bank cards, promote the use of cash and facilitate mobile payment to meet the diverse preferences of foreigners, Hua Yuan, vice mayor of Shanghai, told a press conference on Thursday.

“We have improved the cross-border payment functions of UnionPay, Alipay and WeChat Pay to facilitate mobile payments on the side of Chinese merchants. UnionPay can support users of more than 180 overseas wallets to make payments, and Alipay can support e-wallets from 10 countries and regions to make payments in China, Hua said.

In terms of bank cards, the city has newly opened more than 37,000 foreign card point-of-sale (POS) terminals, covering sites of commerce, culture and tourism, and airports. 

The total number of foreign bank card POS swipes, and the per customer transaction value in Shanghai are both leading other cities in the Chinese mainland, said Hua.

Shanghai also has a large number of yuan cash withdrawal or exchange outlets, including more than 8,000 automatic teller machines (ATMs), over 3,500 Chinese bank outlets, and 183 foreign currency exchange outlets.

Hua said that Shanghai will promote the full coverage of foreign card withdrawals of yuan cash from ATMs stationed in the city.

On Tuesday, the Beijing municipal government released an action plan to optimize its payment services. 

The capital city will continue to improve the user-friendly level and convenience of payments such as mobile payments, bank cards and cash. As of the end of December, the city will have basically solved the payment difficulties of elderly people, foreigners coming to Beijing and other groups.

“In Shanghai, everything can be paid for by using a QR code – this is very different from my home. It’s super convenient,” an Australian tourist who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Thursday.

“It makes Shanghai feel much more international and connected. It also helps in keeping track of how much you spend – which is great for a shopaholic like me,” the tourist said.

Alejandra Clemente Romagnoli, a tourist from Mexico who has visited Shanghai, told the Global Times that she usually uses Alipay or WeChat Pay, and the accounts are associated with her Chinese bank cards. 

“It is very easy to use mobile payments. Just take your cellphone and go out. In Mexico, I had to carry cash and a bank card,” she said.

The two cities’ moves came after China released on March 7 a guideline to better meet the payment needs of foreigners, which experts said is conducive to boosting domestic consumption while demonstrating the country’s commitment to high-level opening-up.

“By installing new foreign card POS machines and promoting the facilitation of payments, these cities have provided a more convenient and efficient payment environment for foreign tourists,” Wang Peng, an associate research fellow at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday.

“These measures have also promoted consumption and expanded domestic demand, further boosting China’s economic growth,” Wang said.

Wang added that a convenient and efficient payment environment can reduce the transaction costs of enterprises and improve the efficiency of capital utilization, enhancing competitiveness.

By promoting payment facilitation, China can enhance its attractiveness in the international investment market and attract more foreign investment, he said.