Golden Week ’23: Part 1

What is the “Golden Week”? In China, this is usually the National Day holidays which is typically a 7-day holiday. The named was coined years ago because this is when retail sales are up and the push for more spending happens during this long break. This is also the peak season for the travel industry whether domestic or outbound. And this year, the Golden Week falls around the same time as another major Chinese holiday which is the Mid-Autumn Festival. On top of that, this is the first longest holiday ever since COVID restrictions were lifted in January.

After having lived in China for over 20 years, I’ve avoided traveling during this period domestically or internationally. The costs are horrendous and the local tourist spots are swamped with travelers. So, with the 8-day holiday from work, I spent 5 of those days exploring the city and doing urban sketches, which is in this part 1 of a 2-part post.

Come and explore Shanghai with me…

Before I go on, I had a sketching partner or should I say my “sketching buddy” or “sketching sidekick” which was great to have, making ourselves accountable to actually going out at that “ungodly hour” during our holidays.

Our first stop was to go to the People’s Park, more specifically, the area where the matchmakers are. My friend, Tõnis, calls this “Matchmarkers’ Heaven” because this is where men or women who are looking for partners come and converge or third party folks helping a friend or family member find a partner. You will see signs and signs of candidate bride/grooms with all their qualifications and assets laid out on cardboard signs.

Breakfast + sketching + watching people

When I did my warm-up, the place was just starting to get busy with folks setting up their spots. It’s funny because I was listening to this conversation between a man looking for a wife and the man with the signage. I think I have heard his life story by the time I finished my warm-up sketch.

And after breakfast, we got back to the park and it was already bustling with people. Lots of people passed by curious since I was painting amidst the row of folks with their signages.

Then we walked about 30 minutes to the Sinan Mansions where our group the Urban Sketchers Shanghai was having a sketching session as part of the Mid-Autumn Festival event there sponsored by a local art supplies brand.


The next outing was very early in the morning, because we managed to coordinate our times this time. We opted to sketch around the Suzhou Creek, specifically the Zhejiang Road Bridge. Lots of joggers and early tourists passing by as I was doing my first sketch.

Then we decided to try to go on the bridge and sketch from there. As it was still early, there was less traffic. Plus, we got to enjoy the great weather as we sat on the bridge sketching, with the sun on us.


Our sketching for this morning took us to an old Queen Anne style house on Beijing Road. I’ve been wanting to sketch this house but never got the chance and then there’s no good place to sit to sketch the exterior. This time, Tõnis and I went inside to explore a bit of the inside and sketch. (I realize after we left that I forgot to take a photo of the exterior!)

Built in 1910, remnants of its past life can still be seen although a lot are damaged or covered up or obliterated. The house has now been subdivided into 24 families living in this 3-storey building.


We decided to check out what is now known as “The Pearl” in Hongkou District. This was formerly known as the Shanghai Nishi Hongaji, which was a “sister” of the temple in Kyoto. Historically, this was a Japanese buddhist temple built in 1931 by the Japanese architect Shigehisa Okano. The walls on the street side is marked by lotus elements from the big beautiful one on the curved top to the 21 different round motifs.

I got to do 2 sketches from here; 1 of the side and one of the entrance with the curved roof.


Our final chance to sketch together before Tõnis heads off elsewhere. We decided to check out again Laoximen area which fortunately was in my neighbourhood.

This is probably my favourite from all the sketches because of the “style”

After sketching those 5 mornings, I feel like I have seen some improvements with my watercolour and how to add more intuitive marks into the sketches.

Of course, after those morning outings, I’d come home and do some more art journaling after, of course, the house chores. I will share more in the next post.

Hope you enjoyed going around Shanghai with me via this post.

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