How much time did you spend in China? I was
there about five months, from July through November of last year.
We spent about six or seven weeks in Beijing and about three or
four weeks in Shanghai, then the rest of the time out in northern
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, in that beautiful landscape you
see in the film - the river valleys and limestone hills. I had been
[to China] many times, but had never been to any of the big eastern
cities and had not been to Guangxi. So, for the film, everywhere I
went was new to me.
What was your route? Well, we went from
Beijing to Shanghai to Guangxi - understand this is like flying
from New York to Atlanta and then out to the Grand Canyon. I mean,
these things are a long way from each other, but much as America
is, they are very easily accessible.
Let's talk about Shanghai first. Tell me where you
went, where you stayed, and what you saw. Try to imagine
standing in the Hollywood Hills, looking out over the entire L.A.
Basin and Orange County and having that whole spread have the
vertical density of Midtown Manhattan. That's what Shanghai looks
like. It is really staggering in size. It's somewhere north of 18
million people, and it is overwhelming in its scope. At the same
time, it is very vibrant. It is strikingly modern in some ways,
especially architecturally, and it's very cosmopolitan, in the
sense that it has developed as the city of trade and commerce, and
it has that energy. Some people say it's a Westernized energy, but
I don't actually agree with that. I think it is a very Chinese
energy, but it is very modern. In a lot of ways, I think calling
things Western just because they are tall and glass is not right.
Shanghai has very dynamic architecture, much more dynamic in some
ways than what you are seeing in American cities. It is more
cosmopolitan than Beijing, in the sense that you feel more of an
international presence in the people. It has kind of quiet,
tree-lined streets in the French Concession area, and the
incredible markets that you associate with China, and big, modern
downtown congestion. It kind of has it all. It has terrific food
and probably the best museum in China, I think - the Shanghai
Tell me about that. The Shanghai Museum was
definitely a highlight. I have probably gone there three or four
times during the different visits I have made to the city. I
think the ceramics collection alone at the Shanghai Museum is worth
the visit to Shanghai. I never would have thought I could have that
kind of a reaction to a ceramics collection, but it is staggering
to see an almost 10,000-year history of ceramics spelled out in
front of you in the place where it happened more dynamically than
anywhere else on earth. Then there are the scroll paintings, the
sort of vertically hung paintings with incredible landscapes, and
the bronze. Everything in that museum is just amazing. It's amazing
to look at the sophistication of what they were doing at a time
when people in Europe were living in sod huts.