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January 28, 2010

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The Dao of luxurious nightlife

ANCIENT Chinese Taoist philosophy tells humans to always be aware of their relationship with the cosmos and to seek harmony with nature. Monks are supposed to lead reclusive, simple lives, often deep in the mountains.

The ideal is minimalist, subdued.

Tao, or Dao as it is pronounced in Chinese, means path. Seekers turn away from the excesses of modern society and seek moderation, balance and harmony.

Many designers have borrowed "minimalist" ideas from Taoism and woven them into design concepts - a modest (but obvious) luxury and harmonious elegance - as in Shanghai's latest nightlife addition, the Dao Lounge.

The quiet lounge, which had a soft opening two weeks ago, is on the second floor of a commercial building on Nanjing Road W., near People's Square.

Unlike stereotypical extravagant nightlife venues, Dao Lounge is a balanced fusion of ratcheted-down Las Vegas flare and ancient Chinese simplicity.

"Each person has his or her own Dao, which leads him or her to succeed," says Evelyn Chen, Chinese-American owner of Dao Lounge. "Dao is a positive attitude, a sense of taste and a fun life philosophy. We hope guests can experience all these at the lounge, which can inspire them in their own Dao."

The somewhat puzzling entrance is lighted in red and leads to a dim and tasteful interior with touches of red and candlelight. The large Buddha statue in the middle of the main room presides over a calm space for convivial drinks and intimate chats.

Under the red lamp in the room is an inviting sofa. The music is light and chilled. Subtle and intriguing signs and metaphors for the five elements - fire, water, gold, earth and wood - are incorporated harmoniously with the modern decor.

The red lamp, a delicately framed mirror, the modernist metal bar area, darkened private rooms and obscure wood carvings create a mysterious aura and suggest a hidden path.

It's a relaxing environment where guests needn't concern themselves with how other people see them. It seems to express the Taoist saying - to act through inaction.

More than a nightlife venue, Dao Lounge also offers all-day dining with a menu of Asian fusion food and imported wines. Developed from Japanese cuisine, the lounge menu features its specialty Dao hand rolls, each with an elegant name.

Address: 2/F, 288 Nanjing Rd W.


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