Better City, Better Life: The Taiwan Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo

by Julienne Lin

The Shanghai Expo is a once-in-a-lifetime event. I made plans to see the expo three years ago while studying abroad in Shanghai, when I discovered that Shanghai would play host to the 2010 World Expo. Having booked my visit in September during the last remaining months of the event, I had done my research and read both glowing reviews and daunting warnings about partaking in this world-class event. Two warnings that resonated most deeply: 1. Visitors of the expo are 90% locals. 2. Lines may range from 4 to 6 hours long.

Be that as it may, this trip was planned and I was off. I won’t go into detail about how exhausting it was to wait in the humidity with thousands of bodies pushed up against me for hours to see a pavilion. However, each day at the expo was a fight for survival – and this is totally an understatement.

I had a checklist of the top pavilions I wanted to visit, which of course, included Taiwan. Taiwan happened to be one of the exclusive pavilions that only allowed 2,000 people through its doors per day. In order to get a ticket to see the pavilion, you had to wait in a 3-hour line, only to rush to the pavilion to wait in a separate line to get in. Only 40 people are allowed inside at a time. At this point I had already braved the shouting matches and brawls that broke out in the first line, which made the cutting and pushing in the second line minor offenses.

The Taiwan pavilion, designed by C.Y. Lee, consists of a large digital sphere suspended inside a glass lantern, inspired by the theme “Mountain, Water & Lantern of the Heart.” The structure incorporated gold, wood, water, fire, and earth materials and proudly showcased Taiwan’s agriculture and technology. It was a beautiful structure, and definitely one to be proud of.

Upon entering the building, I was greeted by digital photos of Taiwanese celebrities and politicians. We rode an elevator into a suspended aisle with a dome theater above our heads. Similar to a virtual ride, we were taken through fields of orchids and the room suddenly smelled of flowers. As we passed through rain forests, a gentle mist began to fall, and the smell of trees filled the room. Whatever we saw on the dome’s screen, we experienced with our other four senses. Following the theater experience came the lantern showcase. Each person stood in front of a touch screen and was given a number of wishes to choose from. Upon selection, a lantern with your wish inscribed would float up into the digital globe above. Tea time followed as we were led to the music room with intricately carved instruments and a large glowing tree. You were sent out of the pavilion with a bag filled with small gifts. That was the last pavilion I visited at the expo.

I read this quote in a Gizmodo article, “If you don’t go to the Shanghai Expo, you will regret it. If you go to the Shanghai Expo, you will regret it even more.” I can understand why this was said, but I don’t regret my trip by any means. Granted I won’t ever do it again, but it was indeed a unique experience in both positive and negative respects. As a Taiwanese American, I didn’t manage to visit both of my countries. I heard the U.S pavilion showcased Kobe Bryant. I guess I’ll have to wait until that pavilion makes its way home.

Julienne is a writer in Los Angeles. She currently works for digital agency Hello Design as the agency blogger.

Leave a Reply