One for the bloggers: The Tibet and Xinjiang Pavilions.

“All Expo, all of the time!” That’s the staff cheer at Shanghai Scrap HQ this week, and there’s no reason to stop now. Upcoming, later in the week: “Expo 2010 has a little bit of everything, but it sure doesn’t have one of these,” “A reporter’s guide to the US pavilion,” and “A well-traveled foreigner’s guide to visiting the Expo.” But, for now, we’d like to show some appreciation to the China blogging community by offering up some red meat. I am, of course, referring to the Xinjiang and Tibet pavilions, housed beneath the China pavilion, along with the other provincial pavilions (for information on those, I strongly encourage you to check out this afternoon’s recent string of tweeted photos from the Beijing pavilion by the Daily Telegraph’s Malcolm Moorehere, here, here, and here).

Long-time readers know that Shanghai Scrap is a reported blog. Bluntly, we don’t do opinion often, or well. With that in mind, we’re just going to present the facts and let you all decide.

Finding the Xinjiang pavilion isn’t hard. Just look for the overhead signs.

Go around the corner and …

There it is.

Enter through a narrow corridor lined on one side with photos of happy minorities in their colorful native costumes (hard to get an angle for a pic).

From there, you enter a room surrounded on three sides by a screen showing images of Xinjiang scenery (the fourth wall is glass, facing a blank wall and the restrooms). Frankly, some of it ain’t bad, and by the low standards of the provincial pavilions, it’s stunning. Some of the best on offer beneath the China pavilion.

From there you exit through a corridor stuffed with giant plaster fruit (immediately bringing to mind this scene from Woody Allen’s Sleeper). A few minutes spent here revealed that the giant pear is a popular prop for photos.

The giant plaster fruit leads to the final pavilion feature: several flat screens connected to cameras that take pictures of visitor faces and display them in heads attached to bodies in traditional Xinjiang minority costumes.

Thus ends our visit to the Xinjiang pavilion. Next stop, Tibet – not so far from the Xinjiang pavilion. And, as provincial pavilions go, it’s one of the better looking ones from the outside.

Step inside and you’ll find, on the right, a facsimile of the Tibetan railway and, inside of it, a film about Tibet. I didn’t watch the film.

Across from the theater, visitors can try out a prayer wheel.

From there, visitors step into what I can only characterize as a … Tibetan sitting room? There’s no label for this; believe me, I looked.

Two details worth noticing. First, the beverages on the table: bottled water and something canned called Tibet Barley [readers?].

And second, the very patriotic framed images on the walls. That’s President Hu with some happy Tibetans on the right; Mao, Deng, Jiang on the left.

And that, my friends, is pretty much it. Neither more, nor less, extravagant than any of the other provincial pavilions.

One note: there seems to be a controversy brewing as to whether or not it’s worth a three hour wait to visit these and other provincial pavilions. Me, I’m going to disagree with those who say that the exhibits aren’t worth the wait. In fact, I think – from the point of view of a foreigner visiting the Expo – these are far more interesting than anything you’ll find in, say, the German pavilion (been there). Extremely illuminating stuff.

Comment thread open. Behave yourselves.


  1. I love how the old codgers look completely perplexed by the giant fruit. Common reaction i’m sure.

  2. Tibet Barley Wine: I’ve never seen it in cans, but wouldn’t bet against it being the same thing:

    I have a family friend who is into Tibetan Barley Wine. A hundred or two years ago a vinery (correct term?) was supposedly founded by French missionaries living in Tibet who missed wine from France. They used local ingredients to create a wine (ABV 14% or so, not Beijiu silly stuff) with barley as a principal ingredient, a wine which enjoys a modest domestic trade today. I’d guess that’s what it is.

    Not a bad drink; the taste is nothing like a wine made from grapes – much more fragrant and obvious in taste, a bit overpowering the first few times, but the after-taste is pretty good. It comes in white and red varieties (recommend red over white for a more rounded less acidic taste). Sold all over China in wine shops (bottles often have English describing the history of the drink) but not carried by most supermarkets.

  3. Trying to decide if you were making fun of the China bloggers or the Chinese authorities or both.

  4. Interesting…thanks so much for putting this up, Adam. From what I gather looking at your photos, the Xinjiang pavilion makes no reference to Islam, either the religion or the architecture. Is that correct?

    In the Tibet pavilion there is a prayer wheel, but is there anything to indicate that Islam plays a major role in the lives of almost half the Xinjiang residents? I’m curious.

  5. Josh –

    You’re certainly correct about the religion. There’s no reference. I’m no expert in Islamic architecture, but with what little I do know, I feel comfortable saying there was none. The only intimation of Islamic heritage, if it can be characterized as such, is the Arabic script on the front of the pavilion.

  6. @Josh & Adam,

    did you guys see Saudi pavillion boasting about their Wahabbist Islam, or USA pavillion about megachurches? Why would you expect such things from Chinese?

  7. leo – In fact, several of the Islamic countries allude to their Islamic heritage, both directly, and – most importantly – in the architectural forms built into their pavilions. Specifically, the Saudi pavilion includes films that show mosques and other aspects of daily Muslim life; like other Islamic countries, it includes Islamic design elements throughout the pavilion (though not, in the Saudi case, in the overall architectural form). Speaking for myself, I really don’t have an opinion either way as to whether or not the Xinjiang pavilion should allude to the region’s Muslim culture. However, I hardly think that displaying such heritage amounts to “boasting.”

  8. @Adam,

    There are 20 plus ethnic groups and all major religions (and also atheism and secular life styles!) in Xinjiang and Xinjiang offers a much richer life and content than merely “Islam”. Put a single religion before the rest is, of course!, a boasting.

  9. Leo I think you are using the term ‘boasting’ incorrectly. To boast is to brag. I think you mean “exaggerating.” I might agree with you if you mean that. Xinjiang is more than Islam. Adam I think you are kind of taking the piss out of the China bloggers with this one aren’t you? What the hell do these pavilions leave them to complain about???

  10. “A signing ceremony was held on April 6th to designate the Tibet highland barley beer as special beer sponsor for 2010 Shanghai World Expo, which falls in May.

    “Highland Barley Brewery Co., Ltd as the key construction project supported by local government has formed an industry chain of green drinks in Tibet, which helps increase the income of farmers and herdsmen and promote the development of local economy, society and environment.

    “The Tibet highland barley beer with high quality water and barley as raw material is produced by advance brewing process. It’s famous for the smooth, pure taste and popular on the European and American markets.”

    Source: China Tibet Information Center

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