Our first day in China was typical of this amazing, enigmatic country.
We arrived at the vast open expanse that is Tian’an Men Square; from this modern square with Mao’s Mausoleum at its focal point, it was then just a short walk back in time 500 years to the Forbidden City.
Formally known as the Palace Museum (Gugong), it was completed in 1420 and a lasting monument to dynastic China, from which 24 emperors ruled for nearly 500 years. The architecture alone makes this well worth a full afternoon’s visit, however, the symbolism and insight into imperial life and customs brings it truly to life.
Yin and yang principles are the key to Chinese design.
As odd numbers represent yang (the masculine element associated with the emperor), the numbers three, five, seven, and the ultimate odd number, nine, recur throughout the palace complex. It is said that the Forbidden City has 9,999 rooms and each door for imperial use contains 81 brass studs, as 9 x9 is especially fortunate!
The city of Shanghai with its very modern side; metro, MagLev train (magnetically levitated train that can reach up to 430kph, although we only experienced 301 kph), the industrial and residential area of Pudong and the business waterfront that is the Bund.
This is a fascinating contrast to the Yu Gardens and Old Shanghai area, the Shanghai Jade Buddha Temple, and the nearby city of Suzhou with its Tang Dynasty defenses, gardens and Grand Canal that still links all the way to Beijing.
The Three days we spent in China were truly inspiring; thousands of years of history and language combined with natural landscapes and forgotten places.
Getting around can still take time, especially if you don’t speak Chinese. Top tips would be to plan your trip well in advance rather working out your schedule as you go, book a driver in each location and make sure you take a phrasebook, as most of the drivers and many of the hotel /shop staff will speak Chinese to you.
The circuit’s pleasing form when seen from the air – it’s designed to look like the Chinese symbol for ‘shang’, meaning upwards – is equally pleasing to the drivers on terra firma. There’s a unique start to the lap as the drivers fly into the ever-tightening Turns 1 and 2, before they dart left through 3 and 4. The super-high g force Turns 7 and 8 are loved by the drivers, while the circuit also features one of the longest straights on the calendar, the 1.2km stretch that separates Turns 13-14.
Shanghai has expanded itself into one of the world’s most dynamic and lively cities since the start of the millennium, making it an awesome F1 tourist stop.
The sprawling Pudong district is chock full of hip bars and amazing restaurants. Then when it’s time to go racing, just hop on the Shanghai Metro’s Line 11 and get off at the Shanghai Circuit stop 60 minutes later.