by Xinhua writer Zhang Zhengfu
SHANGHAI, April 30 (Xinhua) -- The gaze of the world is once more fixed upon China -- this time its financial hub of Shanghai -- two years after Beijing impressed the world with a memorable Olympic Games.
An expected 70 million visitors from both home and abroad will see a kaleidoscope of landmarks, ideas and visions embodying the theme of the Expo: Better City, Better Life.
With so much to see during the six months from May 1, any profiling of the event might prove incomplete.
However, it is set to be remembered for the magnificent exhibits, architecture and ideas for urban sustainability to be played out in a site covering 5.28 square meters on both sides of the Huangpu River.
The 189 participating countries will vie to present the best they can offer, such as the Czech Republic's lucky bronze plaque, New Zealand's 1.8-tonne pounamu (jade) boulder, Turkey's 8,500-year-old sculpture to Mexico's Mayan pillars.
Among the best known are the "Golden Lady" of Luxembourg and the "Little Mermaid" of Denmark, who both traveled thousands of miles on their first forays abroad.
Works by Renaissance masters are on display in the Italy Pavilion, and seven French masterpieces, including an Edouard Manet impressionist painting and a Rodin sculpture, appear for the first time together on foreign soil.
The famous "Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival", a masterpiece by a Chinese painter more than 800 years ago, will offer visitors an opportunity to experience the charms of ancient China.
The spotlight will also be on the cutting-edge architecture of pavilions in all shapes, colors and sizes, branded with each country's unique culture and history.
The Switzerland Pavilion features a three-story "meadow" -- complete with chairlift. The Netherlands' pavilion displays futuristic, green housing on its "Happy Street" structure.
Spain's "Big Basket" is made of 8,000 wicker panels handmade by craftsmen in east China's Shandong Province. China's crimson-painted inverted pyramid, Britain's dandelion-like "Seed Cathedral" and Romania's "Green Apple" are also awe-inspiring.
The Israel Pavilion is modeled on a seashell, Macao's mimics a jade rabbit lantern, the United Arab Emirates has a pavilion shaped like sand dunes, Canada's features a Canadian wood exterior and interactive programming on urban sustainability.
But all of the pavilions -- too many to detail -- offer something to enthrall the visitor.
World Expos inspire ideas showing the way toward a better future. In a showcase of its theme "Better City, Better Life," the Shanghai World Expo is poised to be the first green and environment-friendly Expo.
The giant white funnels, representing myriad ideas for sustainable urban living, provide shade, channel sunlight to underground walkways and collect rainwater for recycling.
Most of the materials used to make the pavilions will be recycled, and zero-emission vehicles are used for transport within the Expo grounds. The Expo site also boasts a 4.7-megawatt solar power system, China's largest, with panels installed on Expo buildings.
In addition, a wide range of "urban best practices" will be on show in many local and corporate pavilions, showing sustainable urban technologies.