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A Tale Of Two Waterfront Cities: This Is Shanghai At The Cunard Building

The Cunard Building has long been a prominent part of Liverpool’s history and makes up part of the iconic and unmistakeable waterfront skyline. In the next instalment of the China Dream project, This Is Shanghai is an exciting explorative exhibition where Chinese artists will transport the public to Shanghai’s Bund.

The exhibition will allow people to recognise the connections and similarities between two of the worlds greatest twinned cities, Shanghai and Liverpool.

Twin Cities Liverpool and China

The Bund of Shanghai and the Liverpool waterfront could be twins, in fact, the Bund waterfront was modelled on Mersey waterfront and almost exactly mirrors the sprawling expanse of elegant Victorian architecture and unforgettable welcoming skyline.

The Bund Shanghai
The Bund Shanghai

The two great cities weren’t officially twinned until 1999, but for nearly 200 years Shangai and Liverpool have had a close relationship.

Their strong connection was developed during times when shipping and trading was at its peak in the 1800’s. Many a Chinese seaman and likewise Liverpudlian and Irish sailors found their way across the seas, settling on foreign shores and bringing their cultures with them.

Thanks to the amalgamation of two entirely different cultures and traditions, Liverpool now has the largest and oldest Chinese community in Europe.

Liverpool Waterfront
Liverpool Waterfront

Shanghai’s Bund is operated today as Liverpool’s waterfront was 100’s of years ago. There is a constant and steady stream of import and export flowing down the Huangpu River past the grand and sweeping Victorian architecture of the Bund, as there would have been in the 1800’s along the Mersey when Liverpool was the major port for the UK.

However, it isn’t only physical similarities that exist between the two great cities. There’s also an unspoken determination of both the people of Liverpool and Shanghai to thrive and prosper.

Both cities have been likened to the capitals of their respective countries and Liverpool was often referred to as the second city of the empire when sea fairing trade and travel was at its peak.

Shanghai city skyline

Today Shanghai is still determined to become the largest and most powerful city in the world and if it’s economic and physical growth is anything to go by this could indeed become a reality.

Part of the China Dream

The China Dream project has put the spotlight on modern Chinese culture as well as ancient Chinese traditions, customs and artefacts.

A vibrant 9-month festival began in February with Chinese New Year celebrations that painted the city of Liverpool with colour through art and public performances.

Liverpool’s China town played host to a three-day festival that centred around the Chinese arch, a gift from twin city Shanghai in 2010 and the largest arch of its kind outside of China.

Liverpool was then honoured by becoming the first city in the UK to display the Terracotta Warriors and China’s First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang.

The collection of an army of terracotta warriors lay buried underground for over 2000 years, protecting their leader in the afterlife up until 1974 when an archaeological expedition came upon the burial site by chance.

Terracotta Warriors
Army of Terracotta Warriors

Now, these remarkable historical figures are on display in the World Museum of Liverpool until late October along with other excavated artefacts from the last 1000 years of China’s rich history.

The next instalment of the China Dream project is about to begin and will shine a light on artistic work created by Chinese artists who live and work in the bustling twin city of Liverpool, Shanghai.

Artists Portraying the China Dream

Over the next few months, the next instalment of the China Dream will play out at various venues all across the cities waterfront and inside The Cunard Building.

These visual artistic creations range from performance pieces and photography to unique sound based bike rides and immersive multimedia experiences.

Here are the some of the Chinese artists whose work will make up the next portion of the China Dream project, This Is Shanghai.

By Liang Yue – Liverpool 2018

Liang’s work depicts the daily lives of her subject, whether that is people in the city or plants in nature.

Artwork from Cunard Building This Is Shanghai
Liang Yue – ‘Morse Code 11’ from the series ‘Several Dusks’

Her contribution to the China Dream project will be displayed inside the Cunard Building and will depict the startling similarities between Bund and Mersey side.

Liang’s work will show why it is that so many Chinese people found Liverpool a home away from home.

By Lu Pingyuan – Ltd Edition Gift

In recognition of the 2018 China Dream project, 2,018 lucky individuals will be picked at random and will receive a piece of limited edition artwork created by Lu Pingyuan.

Lu Pingyuan artist of 2,018 ltd edition artowrks This Is Shanghai
Lu Pingyuan – Van Gogh Ltd

Lu has a unique way of expressing artistic notions and creates stories about his concepts. Existing artwork of Lu’s in Liverpool includes a body of text on the side of the Epic Hotel and a doorway in the Baltic Triangle that is said to lead to Manchester but is titled Do Not Open It.

By Xu Zhen – Optimizing

From July – September the serene space of Mann Island Atrium will become home to a miniature Stonehenge and several skilled martial artists.

Xu Zhen - performance piece Mann Island Atrium This Is Shanghai
Xu Zhen – Optimizing

Xu’s work takes one of the UK’s most historic landmarks and combines it with the ancient martial arts training system of the ‘Plum Blossom Poles’, where young trainees will learn their skills of focus and balance on top of elevated platforms.

By Yu Ji – Sharing the Losing

Playing on the unmistakable similarities between The Bund and Merseyside waterfront, Yu Ji has composed a media experience that immerses participants into two worlds at once.

The Bund in Summer - soundtrack for Yu Ji's This Is Shanghai work
Yu Ji – Sharing the Loosing

The artistic experience involves picking up a bike and a set of headphones then pedalling along the Mersey and World Heritage Waterfront.

Whilst taking in the similar sights such as the Victorian architecture and winding river of Liverpool, sounds will play taken from the bustling waterfront activity on The Bund.

The soundtrack is then accompanied by a artists life story about how her home city compares to life in Liverpool.

By Zhang Peili – The Only Access

Known widely as the Father of Video art in China, Zhang Peili has created a symbolic gateway around the main entrance to the Cunard Building.

Zhang Peili - The Only Access at This Is Shanghai Cunard Building
Zhang Peili – Gust of Wind

Visitors will step of the World Heritage Waterfront of Liverpool and into the exotic and mysterious world of Shanghai.

Peili’s work often blends filmed reality with physical surroundings, immersing people inside his work. Instead of stepping into a symbol of Liverpool’s maritime past, The Cunard Building, visitors to This Is Shanghai will leave the Liverpool waterfront behind and discover similarities that exist on the other side of the planet.

By Zhou Xiaohu – The Same Warmth and Cold Throughout the Globe

The wonderful art of Chinese calligraphy will be projected onto the ancient walls of The Cunard Building in Zhou Xiaohu’s exhibition.

Zhou Xiaohu at This Is Shanghai - exhibition in Cunard Building
Example of Chinese Calligraphy and floral artwork

Delicate objects such as toy birds, plastic flowers and manmade plant life will hang from the ceiling and form Chinese symbols made from the shadows of each object.

Together the shadowy projections will become traditional Chinese poems and famous proverbs. An elegant and clever artwork made from modern materials spelling out ancient Chinese literature.

Part Two of The China Dream Project

It’s been ten years since the 2008 Capital of Culture Award and the city of Liverpool is alive with commemorative events marking the 10 year anniversary.

The China Dream project celebrates the centuries-old connection between Liverpool and China showcasing the unique heritage and traditions of the Chinese and how two different cultures separated by thousands of miles can have so many similarities.

Cunard Building events in LIverpool

Pay a visit to The Cunard Building this summer to take part in the China Dream project, immerse yourself in the Chinese culture that has influenced the city of Liverpool for centuries and has now been lovingly recreated all along the Liverpool waterfront.

Explore our twin city, Shanghai, from the comfort of Liverpool’s very own historic waterfront.

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