Really? I used to live there!

2 Feb

We got into a taxi, like we have many times before.

Please take us to the corner of Hefei Lu and the elevated highway.  There’s a church there.

The cab driver looked back at us and stared.  He confirmed the intersection and we started off.  It was obvious he knew where he was going – getting there takes less than 10 minutes but there are several one way streets so going the wrong way can be annoying.  We relaxed and watched street life in Shanghai whirl by.  I noticed that another block on the way there was being slowly flattened by the ever-present cranes.

He glanced back again and said – “I used to live by there.  There’s no church – I swear.”

We confirmed that there was a church there again, but the taxi driver had it in his head.  He kept thinking aloud – “Maybe it’s the old park?  No, I bet it’s the old Culture Palace (文化宫).”

We pulled up outside and he confirmed it.  “Yep, it’s the Culture Palace – you were right.  It is a church now.”

Then he asked “Do you believe in God?”

Taken aback – I said, “Yes.”

When we got out of the taxi – I asked Li what a Culture Palace was.  He said that in the big cities there were specific places for the party faithful to go have fun – there may be places to play cards or pool – gathering places for true blue collar communists.

Entering the church I looked at it closely.  I am convinced that it’s structure was that of a church originally.  My guess is that it was taken over during the revolution and converted into a place to play.  Then sometime in the last 10 or 15 years it was converted back to the church that it should have been.

I got a history lesson from a cab driver in Shanghai.  I think that I may have taught him something too – obviously he didn’t know there was a church there!

Shanghai continues to pull me in even six years later.  I wonder what else I’ll stumble on?

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4 Responses to “Really? I used to live there!”

  1. Every Day Adventures in Asia February 2, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    Remarkable how buildings are “re-purposed”.

    I remember in Yugoslavia during the process of multi-party elections in 1990 going into a mosque that had been made into a ‘cultural community centre.’ As I covered my hair before walking in, the ‘care taker’ (ie closet muezzin) was floored that someone would know and respect the space and its traditions even if open religious worship was not permitted.

    I wonder if it is now back to being a full fledged functioning mosque today?

    • gkm2011 February 2, 2014 at 8:47 pm #

      You never know! An interesting experience – I hope so!

  2. CrazyChineseFamily February 2, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

    This reminds me on my first visit in Xi’an some years back. I visited the St. Francis Cathedral there and was surprised about modern pop music playing at the entrance through loudspeakers, souvenirs and food being sold there as well, Wedding picture shotings etc. with sometimes huge teams and other little things.
    According to my mother in law (she is in the congregation) it has always been just a church so I am still surprised about these difference towards churches in Europe (such as music, food being sold and and and). My guess is just that also Chinese in general have a differnt perspective towards the church as a friend of my wife was asking also that he doesnt know any church at that spot, just an old building selling food…

    • gkm2011 February 2, 2014 at 8:49 pm #

      I think part of it is you only see what you want to see. I remember trying to find an address once and was reading the Pinyin on the street signs. My friend was very impressed I could read the characters – until I told them there was pinyin. They didn’t even realize it!

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