Shanghai Social Diary: Treasures of China’s Heritage, Part 1

On a nine-day trip to China with the Global Heritage Fund, I explored some truly incredible, off-the-beaten-path historical sites, among them the Xuankongsi Hanging Temple that clings to the side of a mountain in northeast China.

Treasures of China’s Heritage: Touring with the Global Heritage Fund
(First of a Seven-part Series)

For many, a trip to China is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, usually limited to the must-see places such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, and the other major cities. But if you have the opportunity to make return visits to this vast and varied country, I highly recommend stepping off the tourist trail and venturing into the provinces.

I first visited China in 1987 and quickly fell in love with its intoxicating beauty, rich culture, and welcoming people. I immediately vowed to return—and not simply as a tourist. Since 2008, I’ve lived in China off and on and have seen many places that are still largely undeveloped and therefore undiscovered by outsiders.

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Shanghai Social Diary: Chongming, the Eco Island of Shanghai

On a visit to the ecological island of Chongming, near Shanghai, my group visited Dao Zhong Dao, a stunning concept hotel and restaurant.


After a late arrival on a flight from the U.S. to Shanghai, I awoke the next morning to an enticing email invitation to Chongming Island. My friend, French architect Jean-Pierre Heim, wanted me to join a group visiting his hotel project there.

The alluvial island, also called Eco-Island, formed from silt and rock, is in the Yangtze River Delta and had long been on my must-see list.

But Heim’s group was leaving in only two hours! I abandoned my plan to spend a few days recovering from jet lag and was soon out the door.

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Shanghai Social Diary: A Day in the Ancient Water Town of Zhujiajiao

Zhujiajiao, one of the best-preserved Chinese water towns, is often called the “Venice of Shanghai.”

Back from another extended stay in endlessly fascinating and ever-changing Shanghai, I’m posting another installment of some of the social, cultural, culinary, and travel highlights.


Zhujiajiao, founded more than 1,700 years ago, was an important trading center during the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties.

Its impressive canal system was originally built for irrigation and travel. Today it is a town of 60,000 with gondolas, arched bridges, centuries-old architecture, and picturesque lanes that give it an enduring charm.

On my first visit, a bicycle trip, our guide told us not even to try to pronounce the name, which sounds like “jew ja je-ow.” I’ve returned a few times, most recently for a day of photographing capped off by a private viewing of Oscar-winning Chinese composer Tan Dun‘s musical production Water Heavens.

Located just 30 miles from central Shanghai, Zhujiajiao is one of the many ancient water towns that dot the landscape of the Yangtze Delta.

Tranquil Zhujiajiao is a mere 50-minute ride but a world away from Shanghai, with its cobblestone lanes, traditional homes, temples, and tree-lined canals.

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Shanghai Social Diary: Qi Bao, the Ancient Water Town

By Jeanne Lawrence

SHANGHAI — The dozens of idyllic water towns near Shanghai are among China’s most unusual attractions. These towns, sometimes referred to as the Venices of the East because of their canals and bridges, are a perfect escape from the big-city bustle.

If you have just a few hours, you can easily make a trip to the closest one, Qi Bao Ancient City. Qi Bao has a 1,000-year-old history and is ten miles and 15 minutes by taxi and accessible by subway also.

When I read that the Shanghai Community Center (a wonderful resource that offers more than 100 classes and tours) had a guided tour, I signed up and I was so glad I did!

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Shanghai Social Diary: San Francisco Asian Art Museum Trip ~ Part II

“Pleasure boats” glide on West Lake in Hangzhou, instead of loud motorboats.


After spending six days in Shanghai, San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum delegation continued their fact-finding trip to Hangzhou (pronounced Hong-Joe), one of China’s most historic and—beautiful cities.

Hangzhou was the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). Famed for its natural scenery, the city and its West Lake (Xī Hú) have been immortalized by countless poets and artists. Marco Polo is reported to have dubbed it “the most enchanting city in the world.”

Today it’s also the capital of Zhejiang province and home to 6 million people. With its hi-tech companies such as e-commerce, it is often compared to California’s Silicon Valley.

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South Africa Social Diary: World Cup Finals in South Africa

25 million U.S. viewers watched FIFA World Cup Finals on TV in July. I was one of the lucky 84,000 in Johannesburg’s Soccer Stadium, watching it in person.

Coca-Cola Company was our host for the perfectly orchestrated football weekend. Their officials greeted us when we arrived in Johannesburg (“Jo’burg,” to the natives.)


JOHANNESBURG — “We’ve done it!” exulted the South Africa Sunday Times on July 12, the day after the World Cup Finals.

“Africa will never be the same,” opined President Jacob Zuma.

You can’t imagine the euphoria. Africa’s first shot at hosting this year’s World Cup and the competitors from 32 nations was a spectacular success, making South Africans proud and turning the tables on the skeptics.

Now South African is thinking even bigger— bidding on the Olympics.

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San Francisco Social Diary: Recharging at Rancho La Puerta

Most of the facilities and lodgings are sprinkled amidst world-class gardens at Rancho la Puerta.

Most of the facilities and lodgings at Rancho La Puerta are sprinkled amidst world-class gardens.

Tecate, Baja California, Mexico—Desperate for sun, a group of friends from New York and San Francisco and I fled to Tecate, Mexico and the legendary destination spa Rancho La Puerta (San Diego region), where we found perfect 70- and 80-degree days.

At a destination spa like Rancho, the price includes lodging, activities, meals, classes, programs, and scheduled transportation—everything but spa services.

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Bahamas Social Diary: Ward Hunt & Amy Maxwell Wed in the Bahamas

Bouquets as vivid as the Bahamas.

It was like a scene from Fantasy Island in the Bahamas: jetloads of revelers arrived at the exclusive and private Lyford Cay Club for the weekend wedding celebration of John Ward Hunt, Jr. of Dallas and Amy Marie Maxwell of Kilgore, Texas.

Ward is the son of Dallas-based interior designer Laura Bayoud Hunt and businessman John Ward Hunt, Sr. Amy’s parents are Brenda and Bill Maxwell of Kilgore, home of those infamous east Texas oil fields.

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Austria Social Diary: A San Franciscan in Salzburg, Part II

World-wide people watching.


The Amadeus Weekend continued on Saturday night. Riccardo Muti conducted Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra with performances by Rene Pape, Diana Damrau, Genia Kuhmeier, Christian Gerhaler, Irena Bespalovaite, and Wiener Sangerknaben.

A post concert ‘uber’ grand dinner at Casa Austria was held at the home of the Archduke Karl and Archduchess Francesca von Habsburg, another highlight.

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