If you were to look up any images from Expo 2010, China’s pavilion would no doubt flood your screen. Any spare room would be occupied by HAIBO, the mascot for the expo. Both of these images are incredibly understated by a Google image search. Haibo, a Gumby shaped character that looks like he could double as a mascot for Crest toothpaste, is everywhere in number. The China pavilion, however, is everywhere in size. It’s an incredibly surreal design, like an upside down pyramid, and makes for a breathtaking view. Your breath is not truly taken away until you realize the shear immensity of it, however. It is visible from almost everywhere at the Expo, but it’s not just visible; it’s looming. Leave it to China to embody so much of themselves in a single building.
Once you got to the inside, you were invited to explore most of China’s provinces. Since I am a guest of this great country I will say that the inside of the China’s pavilion was better than the inside of the African joint pavilion. I will leave it at that. Since we are a group of science majors, there was one exhibit that shone like star in the night. Or like a spotlight in a dark exhibit hall. The Liaoning Province had on display their county’s best fossils. China is famous for its feathered dinosaurs, and all the rock stars were there in their feathered glory. Microraptor, Anchiornis, Confuciusornis, and Sinosauropteryx were all on display. Now before you judge me for geeking out, hear me out. Normally if I wanted to see just one of these specimens, I would have to travel half-way across China, get permission from at least two museum directors and who knows how much government red-tape. But instead we were able to stumble upon six or so of the world’s best preserved fossils, not to mention seeing our oldest known ancestor. Only in China….’s pavilion. -Nate
The pavilion for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is located between the general Asia building holding enthusiastic entries from such small countries as Mongolia and Timor and the larger Iran pavilion, which is painted a warm tan color and reverberates with live music every hour. I am surprised that the DPRK has its own space, since I have heard so many reports of their economic woes and none of these buildings seem to have come cheap. But since, like its larger neighbor, this is a country I am unlikely to visit soon, I was excited to gain some insight into its people and the way they want to be portrayed in the world.
So much for that. The DPRK’s entry at the Shanghai World Expo was a startling example of vapidity; it told nothing of the story of the nation, nor seemed to highlight much of anything of national pride. Even the big-brother-style full wall paintings of Kim-Jong-Il that I half-expected would have made some statement about the focus of the nation’s energy, about their freedoms and way of governing, about who was in control of this opportunity for propaganda. For surely the national exhibits at the Expo were exactly that – selling the national brand. From the African nations exhorting the Chinese to “Invest in Africa” to China itself in hosting the Expo, all the other nations seemed to realize this was a dramatic chance to play on people’s perceptions. Which is where the DPRK squandered a tremendous opportunity. Their space, a single room with the building’s original high ceiling, contained a tiny pagoda surrounded by some fake trees, a little stream with a bridge, a little faux cavern containing some cave paintings and four vases with little explanatory info, and several photos on the walls showing natural scenes. The only thing in the room that really demanded attention was the triumphant, marching, militaristic music blaring from invisible speakers. There were a very few items for sale at the exit including little three inch frogs made from snail shells.
I entered ready to be intimidated, or surprised, or to have my biased, American media-influenced opinions challenged by what I saw. But mostly it made me feel kind of sad, the way you might feel when you look at a science fair project that was obviously done at the last minute, by a poor kid with no help from his absentee family. And maybe that’s kind of what it was. – Ash
And now for the great U.S. and A. We traveled all the way across the Expo, sustaining ourselves with ice cream and water. We power walked past all matter of pavilions with the pride of knowing that we were going to see how we were represented at the biggest World’s Fair in history. It was 6:00 in the evening, and the line was nonexistent. This was because it was closed. I briefly thought about walking over to the Canadian pavilion to tell them to turn down their music so I could enjoy my ice cream in peace, but I decided not to. My feet were tired from walking and my jaw was tired from staring in awe and I would need some time to process all that we had seen. Maybe USA will be open next time we come through Shanghai. -Nate