China: Shanghai Proteomics and the Qibao Ancient Town

An index to the China series appears at the first post.

September 28, 2016

I was glad for a relatively slow start this morning. I went for breakfast at the hotel, and the lady cooking eggs produced some lovely scrambled eggs for me. While I had been frustrated that I could not plug my laptop into the outlets at this hotel (unlike at WuKe) because the ground pin on my U.S. plug did not have a corresponding hole, I awoke with the realization that I could use my three-pin US to two-pin European converter to let me charge my laptop. Today was looking up!

Jing Li, my host at SJTU, arrived to pick me up at 9:15 AM, and she drove me around the campus. We stopped at a coffee shop that could have been anywhere in the world. I happily sipped my hot chocolate while she updated me on her progress in academia. I think she has found a great academic home. From there, we drove to her office. I like that many of the graduate students for the department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics are seated right outside the offices of the junior faculty. I suspect that Jing Li will soon take her place upstairs with other senior faculty, though!

Minjia Tan, a rising star in proteomics, soon arrived at campus from the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica (Chinese Academy of Sciences). He and Jing have formed a very effective partnership. He had many interesting questions on the relative merits of spectral count and peak areas for quantification of proteomic differences. We talked about some of the interesting challenges that have arisen in his research. Soon, he, Jing Li, and I headed over to the faculty club to have some lunch. I had a yummy combination of needle mushrooms and portobello mushrooms in brown sauce. Our conversation was a really interesting one. I learned of a multi-site investigation into proteomic reproducibility here in China, but the work has yet to be published. I hope I can help accelerate the process of its publication, since I have taken part in several such studies before. People need to know that proteomics in the developing world is viable and reliable.

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I had not realized how much I use my hands when speaking.

Before we knew it, the time had arrived for my talk! We drove back over to the Life Sciences building for my talk. Again I told the story of the CPTAC collaboration’s drive toward publications in three projects I helped to lead. This time, however, many graduate students were in the audience. I enjoyed talking to them directly about the challenges of reaching the first publication. Many students seem to feel alone in how difficult it can be to get a first manuscript accepted by a journal, so I really wanted to let them know that the process is challenging for everyone!

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This team asks good questions!

Soon afterwards, three of the graduate students squired me over to the Qibao old town (the name means “seven pieces of treasure”). We wandered through the village, taking in the sights. I saw a smaller road leading away from the heavily touristed area, and we followed it to some more specialized shops. The first was a gemstone store. It featured some very pretty almost feathery shapes in a distinctive green color. The Chinese name translated to “peacock mineral,” which we later discovered is called “malachite.” A second shop included jewelry of various sorts. I used the opportunity to ask a question that had been bothering me. Why walnuts? The owner explained that walnuts absorb lipids from our skin, making our skin appear healthier. As we began returning to the tourist area, we heard a strange scraping noise coming from one of the shops. It was a carpenter, applying a plane to some bound wood. He was creating a smooth planter for sale. Seeing the curls of wood come away from his planing was very therapeutic.

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This was once a massive pawn shop!

We continued deeper into the Qibao, across the River Puhui. We came to Fuqiang Street. Cricket House stands in memory of this quarter’s history in cricket fighting. We continued over to Yutang Street, where we took pictures at the massive three-story pawn shop.

When we turned back toward the river past Beigu Lane, we encountered a fascinating little second-hand store. I was excited, because I had been looking for just such a place since arriving in China. We looked through the books and found more copies of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong, but no 1960s copies of the little red book. As we worked our way around the shop, we suddenly found some very tiny red books. One of them was an ID for a plastics factory from 1980, apparently for the woman who ran the shop. The other was a small manual on the responsibilities of people who join the Communist Party. I was elated to discover it dated from 1969, the same year as my copy of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong!

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I am so grateful that she was willing to share these books with me!

With our spirits running high, we walked in the direction of the Qibao Temple. The sun was westering, and the skies began dripping a bit. When we arrived at the ticket office for the temple, the attendant announced that ticket sales had come to an end and commented that it was a temple, not a tourist site. I tried to keep a respectful mien; I have no desire to be “that American.” We returned to the tourist area.

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The sound of running water is blissful for me.

We paused by a restaurant where the chef was rolling noodles out by hand in the front window. The nameplate for the business read “Da Da Handmade Noodles.” This staple is a specialty of the Sichuan area, and the whole group wanted to taste them, so we ordered bowls for each of us. I must say that my chopstick skills are fairly rudimentary, and the weight of the noodles was a significant challenge for me. The grad students gave me some pointers on the placement of my fingers, but I mostly made my way by levering the end of a noddle out of the broth and sucking it the rest of the way into my mouth. Happily, making a slurping sound over your soup is expected.

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I am hungry all over again.

I was not anxious to leave my last night of tourism behind. The graduate students and I walked down the street. Jinqiu Xiao spotted a cart full of bootleg DVDs and asked if I were interested. I looked through the titles and found a likely set:

  • X-Men Apocalypse
  • Ghostbusters: Answer the Call
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

We asked the price, and the dealer replied 40 Yuan (divide by six for dollars). I pushed for the best price, and she said I could add a movie at that price. I added “Cobain: Montage of Heck.” Sold! (Remember, though, that giving money to bootleg DVD manufacturers supports the violation of U.S. law.) With my last memento purchased, we hailed a taxi and returned to campus and then the hotel. My time in Shanghai was at an end.

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Each red ribbon is a wish. I know I wish to return to this place!

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One thought on “China: Shanghai Proteomics and the Qibao Ancient Town

  1. Pingback: China: Dave visits the Temple of Heaven | Picking Up The Tabb

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