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100-feet long, 50 tons, 4 camphor trees from Myanmar, 20 artists toiling 4 years: the Great Wall at the Wangjia Root Carving Museum in Songjiang, Shanghai.
Shanghai Daily reported (subscription required) on the unveiling of this massive work while I was in Shanghai, so I made a weekend outing to the showroom. Songjiang is a southern district of Shanghai, tourists might have visited the observatory and resort at Sheshen, 5 km away, with its historic attractions and resorts, the Le Méridien She Shan Shanghai and Hotel Sofitel Shanghai Sheshan Oriental. The nearest metro stations are Sheshan and Dongjing on Line 9, from there have a map to show a taxi because this place is little-known. Google Maps has the correct location.
While a dedicated showroom to receive tourists is under construction, first visit the company showroom for smaller pieces upstairs amid a large facade of construction supply stores. They are not expecting tourists so find a salesperson to show you around. Do not expect anyone to speak more than limited English.
After circling the large showroom I asked about the Great Wall, surprised that the salesman had not boasted about it. He said it is over in a large work shed across the parking lot, so off we went. Do not go there first or you will be greeted by a ferocious guard dog, a timid dog, and some clucking chickens. A caretaker was applying a water solution to the large pieces to keep them from drying out.
In addition to the Great Wall there are massive pieces for the ‘four great classical novels’ of China: Water Margin, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Journey to the West and Dream of the Red Chamber. Water Margin is in private hands not open to the public. The other three are waiting a buyer for what the salesman claims have been valued from US$16-80 million. The master carvers are based in Yunnan Province some 1,500 miles away and the pieces brought to Shanghai with great care and difficulty.
Seeing these intricate works of art in such dumpy storage is surreal. Though a long hike from central Shanghai, paired with an outing to Sheshan this is a gem.