E-Travel Log #10: Shanghai - The Modern China

Attention Teachers: Please see teacher notes below. Note: This is the final E-Travel Log.

Dear Students:

Nong hao! (Shanghainese for ‘Hello.’) In this travel log, we’re going to finish up our tour of China by flying to the city of Shanghai. There, we’ll check out some city scenes and visit an arts elementary school called Shangyin. We’ll also tell you about the phoenix and other animals that are popular in China; teach you how to count to ten in Shanghainese; and list some more answers to your questions. Enjoy!


From Lijiang, where we ended our last travel log, we’re going to hop on a small jet and fly east towards the Pacific Ocean to Shanghai. Our flight path takes us right over China’s largest river: The Yangtze.

Compared to many of China’s major cities, which are thousands of years old, Shanghai is a baby. It started as a small fishing village about three hundred years ago. Because it had the advantage of having several ports, it grew to be one of China’s largest cities (currently its population is 14,000,000). In the 1800’s, long after the Silk Road ended, it became China’s most important trading area. After the first Opium War, Shanghai became a free zone for foreign trade. French, American and British people came to live in Shanghai and established territories that were not ruled by Chinese laws. During World War II, many Jewish people fled to Shanghai because it didn’t require entry visas. So, over time, Shanghai became quite cosmopolitan. Since the end of the Cultural Revolution, it has been developing at top speed. Now it is controlled by China and is a very modern city. Of course, it has lots of McDonalds and Starbucks – and it features China’s tallest building – the 88-story Jin Mao Building (far right in the photo above).

How old is your city? Do you know its history?


While in Shanghai, we visited the Shangyin WYSE Elementary School, a private school that was founded only a couple of years ago. The school’s specialty is art. Besides four important subjects – Chinese, Math, Physical Education and English – the students only take art or music-related classes. The school has 60 rooms for practicing musical instruments, two drawing rooms, one dancing room and one performance room. All students take drawing, dancing, singing, performance, martial arts and calligraphy lessons. Each also has to master at least one kind of instrument, either a traditional Chinese instrument or a western one. The school believes that an arts-integrated curriculum boosts children’s imagination and creativity, even if the students don’t grow to be professional artists.

Some Chinese musical instruments are thousands of years old, and they make beautiful sounds. The girl at the right is playing a traditional Chinese instrument called a gu zheng. (You might notice the gu as in gushi; in both cases, it means ancient.) Below is more artwork by students at Shangyin (though the dragon artwork is by students at other Chinese schools). You can meet more students from Shangyin here. There, the students will show you more of their art; demonstrate the ancient and modern instruments they learn to play; and teach you some of their favorite games. You may also view artwork by Shangyin students and students from several other schools in China here.


In the last report, we talked about peacocks. While some people in China say the peacock is the king of all birds, others say the phoenix is number one since, besides being beautiful, it also has magical powers. Here’s a traditional Chinese story that explains how the phoenix became beautiful:

A long, long time ago, the phoenix was a small and plain-looking bird. Although she was nothing like what we think of her today, she worked very hard. Every day she woke up before all the other birds and spent the whole day gathering as many nuts and small fruits as she could find. The other birds liked to play. They laughed at the phoenix since she never played and sometimes would pick up the food they dropped. They laughed at her because it seemed to them that she was a little silly – only hoarding food all day long.

One year there was a big draught in the forest. All the other birds couldn’t find food. They became so hungry, they couldn’t even fly. The little phoenix took all the other birds to her small cave and, with the food she had been collecting over the years, they all survived the draught.

The birds were very grateful and decided to give the phoenix something. They each plucked a feather and made a beautiful, shiny cloak. On the day of the phoenix’s birthday, all the birds flew from all over the forest and presented the cloak to her. They also elected her to be the queen of all birds.


Some people in China say that the idea for the phoenix (a made up bird) came from the peacock. But others say it was the turkey that inspired the invention of the queen of birds. In the old days in China, people thought turkeys were brave and that their feathers brought good luck and protection. So, they decorated their clothes with turkey feathers and eventually invented a magical bird that looked like a turkey to express their hopes for a good life.

Scholars say that dragons, on the other hand, are probably based on either large snakes or crocodiles, only the imagined creature came out much longer. Some dragons are, according to myth, the length of a football field.


Here is a list of REAL animals that Chinese people like very much – and what they stand for.

Turtles – longevity.
Cranes – rides of Taoist gods.
Horses – speed and grace.
Goats – good luck.
Pigs – happiness (since they mostly only sleep and eat).
Roosters – strength and diligence (because they wake up so early).
Lions – protection (because they scare away evil spirits).


We started this report with a Shanghainese greeting. Shanghainese is a dialect of Chinese Mandarin. In some ways it is similar to Chinese Mandarin and in some ways it is not. Look at the words for one through ten for both languages below. Shanghainese is on the left and Mandarin on the right. Can you tell which number words are related and which are not?



Here are more answers to your questions. These questions were answered by third grade students at Shanghai Shangyin WYSE Elementary School.

1. Is it true that few families have TV’s, computers or cars in China? No, it isn’t true. In big cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and many others, almost all families have TV’s and computers, and many families have cars. In rural areas, however, fewer families have computers and cars, but still a lot of them have TV’s.

2. Are most families in China poor? No. There are some poor people in China, but many, many people are not poor. The families of children from our school are not poor.

3. At what age can the children work to earn money for the family? We don’t have to work to earn money until we graduate from universities, but we think it’s not allowed for children to work until they are 16 in our city.

4. Is it true that each family can only have on child? The government has a policy called ‘One Child Policy’ so that the population in China can be controlled. All Han people have to follow this law but minority people can have more than one child in each family.

5. What kinds of sports do you play? We play basketball, volleyball, badminton, ping-pong and soccer. We also swim and run.

6. How many children are in one class and are the children respectful towards the teacher? There are 27 students in our class and we are respectful to the teacher.

7. Have you ever seen a panda bear? Yes, almost all of us have seen panda bears in the zoo.

8. What is your favorite food? Do you have McDonalds? We love to eat chocolate, ice cream, chips and hamburgers. There are many McDonalds in Shanghai and we love to eat their burgers.

9. Do you have to do chores at home? What do you do? Yes, most of us have maids at home but we still help out by washing dishes, sweeping and mopping the floor, washing vegetables, going grocery shopping, washing our clothes, making instant noodles and selling old newspapers and magazines.

10. Do you get a lot of homework? Not very much, about half an hour to an hour a day.


That’s all for this travel log – and for the China School Project for this school year. We hope you had fun traveling with us, learning about China – and making friends with students here! Maybe we’ll travel with you again next year. Till then, learn lots! Zai jian!

Paul and Lilia
China Project Coordinators

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E-Travel Log #10: Shanghai - The Modern China

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