Haibao hangover: What's left of the Shanghai Expo?

Culture | by Miller Wey
Posted: November 23rd, 2011 | Updated: October 10th, 2012 | Comments
2010 Expo Shanghai Nepal Pavilion China Pavilion

It's been over a year since the gates closed on the 2010 Shanghai Expo, and the entertainers and staff from around the world have largely returned home. Metro Line 13, the Shanghai Expo Metro Line, has closed and rumor has it Haibao's been smuggling goods in Africa with another agent known only as "Mojo Rising." But what happened to all those Expo pavilions? Setting off on an expedition to the former Expo sites on both sides of the Huangpu River, Miller Wey was determined to find out. >>>

The China Pavilion returns

A temple dedicated to Chinese progress, the Chinese Pavilion saw massive crowds from around the country buying advanced tickets and standing in ridiculously long lines to get a glimpse of its splendor (and the oh-so-coveted China Pavilion Expo passport stamp) until it closed in October, 2010. The next year, the Shanghai Picasso Exhibit, I found that except for the small portion of the first floor being used for the exhibition, the bulk of the building was closed. More after the jump... According to workers at the pavilion and news reports, the rest won't reopen again until 2012. The China Art Palace, as it's reportedly to be called, will be an art gallery. Featuring works from around the world, officials hope it will rival major galleries in New York and Paris.

I'm on a Moon Boat

Saudi Expo Pavilion While numerous reports have popped up about plans for reopening several different pavilions, it's the Saudis who actually came through. Now christened the Moon Boat, the former Saudi Arabia Pavilion has reopened in all its Expo glory. Did you miss out on standing in the eight-hour-long queues? No doubt to keep the Expo experience genuine, the fenced-in queuing areas around the pavilion still remain, but thankfully the long lines do not. Buy your ticket in a separate building next to the now-mothballed Nepal Pavilion. Inside, it's like the Expo never left—but, luckily, the crowds did. The RMB 60-100 price tag (depending on the day) is more than a bit steep, but the trip may be interesting for some (especially the elderly and children, who get in for less). Worth seeing at least once, a slow-moving walkway shuttles guests over the massive, curved screen that is formed by the pavilion's bowl-like structure. The views from the top of the building take in the Huangpu and the remaining Expo sights, including the China Pavilion.

The Expo strikes back... for now

shanghai expo museum The most extensive Expo leftovers lie in the not-so-succinctly-named Commemoration Exhibition of Expo 2010 Shanghai. Like the Expo iself, this commemorative exhibition isn't built to last. Besides KFC however, it's probably the best place to relive the Expo until 2015, when a permanent Expo Museum is slated to open. The first floor is dedicated to the planning and execution of the Expo, though most explanations are in Chinese only. There are collections of Expo pavilion buttons, volunteer uniforms and a recreation of the Expo's "command center" complete with wax dummies but if they don't get your goat, then a large model of the Expo site is interesting, even if just to hammer home the sheer scale of the event. The second and third floors, however, are of more interest, though again there's very little signage with English translations. The second floor entrance leads to a long hall, lined on one side by a long scroll painting. Featuring a colorful scene of the Huangpu River during the Expo, it is full of excited tourists, obligatory Haibaos and the iconic Expo pavilions. Opposite the painting, a long digital re-creation of the classical Chinese painting "Along the River During Qingming Festival" transplanted from the China Pavilion shows a traditional riverside village full of people going to market, drinking, boating and fishing. The long, wall-sized re-creation moves through day and into night with its populace moving around in their digital village. The rest of the second floor consists of displays commemorating China's provincial pavilions. Cultural and historical items, including full-sized Tibetan prayer wheels, are on display along with images of events and exhibits from the pavilions. spanish pavilion big animatronic baby What remains of the other national pavilions is displayed on the third floor. Taking a cue from the pavilions themselves, the floor opens with "The World's Civilization"—a motorized exhibit (again, transplanted from the China pavilion) showing the rise of civilization and a re-creation of one of man's early ancestors from the Joint African Pavilion—and closes with "The Future of Humanity," which includes the giant animatronic infant from the Spanish Pavilion (a schedule of when the baby is turned on is posted nearby). The rest of the floor is sectioned off into Expo zones, with items ranging from a facsimile of the Theory of Relativity from the Israel Pavilion and a large, traditional statue from the Thai Pavilion. Many of the signs coming from the original pavilions are—thankfully—in English in this portion of the museum. Also on this floor, a 3D theater borrowing a facade from the China Pavilion's cinema shows an eight-minute piece on the Expo, including performances and (gasp) empty pavilions in action. Just outside the theater, a "treasure room" from the German Pavilion has been recommissioned as a 3D digital reliquary of priceless cultural artifacts that understandably weren't left behind. Gilt-framed flatscreen TVs show slow-panning images of these artifacts that, with a little imagination and forgetting how 3D technology works, look like they're just on the other side of the glass. To complete the Expo madness, stand in whatever line has formed back on the first floor, most likely near the exit where a long table is lined with Expo passport stamps from national pavilions. I asked about the USA Pavilion stamp (which had already been taken out of commission by the time I made it to the actual Expo), but they said it was there just last week. You'll have to trust to luck for the next rotation of stamps.

Future plans and traveling pavilions

In addition to the upcoming China Art Palace, a few of the Puxi-side (west side of the Huangpu River) corporate and theme pavilions are expected to reopen as part of an effort to beef up Shanghai's culture cred. This includes the China Contemporary Art Museum as well as a few new structures dotted around town, all of which are planned to be finished by 2015. While many national pavilions were disassembled, sold off or shipped back to their home countries, several have remained in China. The Czech Pavilion and Slovak Pavilion Hebei Province. A new square featuring the reconstruction of Charles Bridge from the pavilion and a European-style chapel is also in the works. Similarly, the Swedish Pavilion appears to be part of a Wuxi. The Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and what's left of the UK Pavilion (most was disassembled and sold off or given away to Chinese schools) will be left in place. Part of the wider plan to recommission the Expo Grounds (due to be finished on 2015), they'll reopen as part of a mixed-use complex of offices and museum space.
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