Normally, it’s a bummer when you land in a city after days of travel to find it raining. Shanghai’s different. There’s a reflective, sleek beauty to the enormous buildings on The Bund. The water swirls an inky black path on the Pudong river, and the neon appears to be melting as droplets slide down windows.
Rain here means colorful umbrellas on Tian Zi Fang’s tiny old alleys. It means stepping aside for the elderly cyclists, pedaling through puddles on rickety ancient cruisers along Nanjing Road. It means staying for one more cocktail despite the late hour in the bar and a fashion parade of silk everywhere, from scarves to blouses, splotched darker with rorschach spots.
Everyone’s a leopard in Shanghai in the rain.
Ironically … or perhaps in an effort to stay fully thematic … I went to the Yuz Museum of Contemporary Art during the late afternoon on my first wet day to visit the Rain Room exhibition.
In the blackness, lit by a single, uber-bright spotlight, Chinese teenagers giggled and posed. The rain fell in sheets, but so long as everyone stayed still or moved slowly, the sheets of water shifted to ensure you stayed totally dry.
Suddenly, I heard yelling. There was a malfunction, and a man was totally soaked. He ran for the door of the exhibition and everyone cheered his drenched departure, laughing together. I couldn’t understand the shouts in Chinese towards his glistening shirt back, but I happily took an iPhone from a 15-year-old girl, smiling. I shot a few and handed it back.
You don’t need to speak the same language to know the restorative power of falling rain, whether it’s an art exhibition or just an attempt to not let the weather spoil your few days in a strange town.