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August 25, 2009

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Wisdom of the ancients

WHEN people see the iconic China Pavilion draped in red cloth and formed in the ancient Chinese dougong architectural style at the Shanghai World Expo site, most will be curious about what will be exhibited inside the huge and fancy structure.

The pavilion is at first glance a very obviously Chinese structure. When the Chinese red veil is lifted, it will reveal a complex structure that celebrates a diverse range of traditional Chinese elements, including architecture, calligraphy, gardening and urban planning.

However, the inside will be full of modern elements. Visitors will be able to ride in a cable car, watch a movie directed by young Chinese director Lu Chuan and view a multimedia display of a top national treasure painting.

The exhibition will tell a Chinese story about a "city" and a "search." The theme will be the "Search of the East" - looking for the wisdom that the ancient Chinese used to tackle urban problems, the design team for the inner exhibition of the pavilion revealed when it unveiled the exhibition plan in Shanghai last Thursday.

The three-story China Pavilion will have a "Footprint of the East" main section on the top story, a "Journey of Wisdom" area on the second story and a "Blossoming City" area on the ground.

The main exhibition area will be its upper section. Visitors will first be taken to the 8,500-square-meter section on top of the pavilion by lifts.

They will watch a film directed by Lu, a 10-minute movie displaying the evolution of Chinese cities, especially in the past 30 years. It will be shown in a 600-seat theater.

"The movie will be edited to create some scenery that could not be seen in reality, just like a magic world," director Lu says. He is famous for his 2004 award-winning film "Kekexili: Mountain Patrol."

Visitors will then be led to another highlight - a massive projection of the painting "Along the River During the Qingming Festival," considered a national treasure.

The painting, depicting life in Bianjing (today's Kaifeng, Henan Province), the largest city in the world more than 1,000 years ago, will be projected on a 100-meter-long wall. Multimedia technologies will be used to make the more than 1,500 characters in the painting walk and move.

Great inventions

The original painting is on display at the Palace Museum in Beijing although the designers say it could be exhibited at some point during the Expo.

Cable cars will be used in the "Journey of Wisdom" section. China's four great inventions - the compass, paper, printing and gunpowder - along with stone bridges, Jiangnan (region south of the Yangtze River) gardens and wooden constructions will be exhibited in this part of the journey.

The 3,400-square-meter ground section will be simply decorated for visitors to relax. The walls will be painted white and illuminations will showcase the scenery of future cities.

Water will be a big feature in the pavilion. Brooks and waterfalls will link the three exhibitions.

Water was chosen to represent the wisdom in Chinese culture. Most of the important cities are located along rivers, says Yao Kai-yang, creative director of the Taiwan YAOX Edutainment Co and creative director of the pavilion.

The exhibition will showcase how to use Chinese wisdom to tackle current and future urban problems, according to Pan Gongkai, president of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts and chief designer of the exhibition.

The urban population in China has increased to 45.79 percent in 2008 from 10 percent in 1949, while Chinese society has remained stable and in harmony. It proved that China has the wisdom worth sharing with other countries on the subject of urban development, Pan says.

It will take 45 minutes to finish a visit to the pavilion. The organizer expects 50,000 people to visit every day.

Main construction and the facade has been completed.

The exhibition areas will be finished in March next year.


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