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The Ancient Qibao Water Town of Shanghai

Shanghai qibao ancient town night view
Qibao Ancient Town Night View

Qibao ancient town(七宝古镇) located in southwest district of downtown Shanghai is a typical water town featuring the watery region landscape of East China and the long-standing history of ancient Shanghai. Specifically seen on the map, Qibao ancient water town is in the neighborhood of Shanghai Caohejing(漕河泾) High-Tech Industrial Development Zone in the east, connects to Songjiang District and Qingpu District in the west, gets close to Shanghai Xinzhuang(莘庄) Industrial Zone in the south, and is near to Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport in the north. The transportation connected includes Bus 91, Bus 92, Bus 911 and so on, and the urban rail transit system is also available. By the way, this town is not as large as others, only covers a total area of 21.3 square kilometers and has a total population of over 200,000.



The History of Qibao Ancient Town

the portrait of Lu Ji
The Portrait of lu Ji

As for the formation of Qibao ancient Town, two historic figures should be spoken. Lu Ji(陆机, 261-303) and Lu Yun(陆云, 262-303), two brothers were the son of Lu Kang(陆抗, a great marshal) and the grandson of Lu Xun(陆逊, a quite famous marshal of Wu State), and they both were the famous litterateurs and murdered by Sima Ying(司马颖), the King of Chengdu. Lu Ji and Lu Yun were the authoritative aristocrats of East Wu State in the Three-Kingdom Period. After killed, they were commemorated in the way of building the memorials by their descendants, and the memorial was named Lubaoyuan(陆宝院), which was the origin of Qibao Town. In accordance with the Records of Songjian Fuzhi and Qingpu Xianzhi, the temple, also perhaps, a nunnery, called Lubao Nunnery, was changed to be Qibao Temple.

Since Song Dynasty, a long business street gradually formed. On both sides, there are the old shops and brands. Qibao Ancient Town not only shows the traditional beauty of Jiangnan but also the Shanghai enchantment. Cricket show expresses the traditional folk custom of Shanghai. Tianxianglou(Tianxiang Tower,天香楼)serve the typical cuisine of Shanghai. Qibao Traditional Theater performs the local operas. Mini-sculpture hall and Calligraphy hall show the harmonious integration between the Shanghai culture and Chinese folk culture. The western sculptures in Zhang Chongren Memorial Hall embody the acceptance of Shanghai to inbound or exotic culture. Over here, everything seen and touched is close to tradition and old Shanghai.



The Highlights of Qibao Ancient Town

Qibao ancient street
Qibao Ancient Street

Qibao Old Street(七宝老街) - in the heart of the tiny town is the epitome of old Shanghai. Qibao ancient town centers on the Old Street, which occupying approximately 86 mu. The landmark of the town is a square named Qibao Central Square, besides, there are Bell Tower Square, Puxi Square, Ancient Theater and so on. The old street beside the Qingnian Road, belonging to the New Street, is divided into the north street and south street. The south part is featured of the typical local snacks, The southern part filled with traditional restaurants serving various tasty snacks is a paradise for gourmets (美食家). and the north is mainly themed with the artworks, antiques, calligraphy and paintings. In this part visitors will find the Qibao Pharmaceutical stores (药店), a-thousand-year-old shop, some fine tea houses, and Shadow Play Opera theaters. The small town is a good place to explore Shanghai's grand past. When traveling there, watch out for the authentic flavors.

Qibao Shadow Play (皮影戏) - Shadow Plays were once a feature of Shanghai culture but it was a man named Mao Gengyu from Qibao Town who first introduced this art to Shanghai area. The Qibao Shadow Play performs mainly entertainments based on widely-known historical events with the local dialect, thus giving the shows a truly local character. The plays are performed using colorful drawings and expressive music to illustrate the emotions of the characters.

Qibao Snacks(七宝小吃) - A great variety of snacks will attract your eye and tempt your appetite when you are walking the streets of the old town. Colorful and appetizing, few resist the temptation to try them. Different flavored cakes made from polished glutinous rice (糯米) 'Qibaogao', dried bean curd wrapped in lotus leaves (荷包豆腐干), roasted sweet potatoes (烤红薯), smoked toads (熏癞蛤蟆), and sugar coated haws on sticks (糖葫芦), etc. can be found on every corner in Qibao Town. Within this area of 21.3 square kilometers that forms the ancient streets and a newly developed district, Qibao Town carries visitors back through the centuries by virtue of its history, culture, architecture and local people. A day spent in this unique and historic town will be very rewarding and is highly recommended.

Qibao temple
Shanghai Qibao Temple

Qibao Crickets(七宝蟋蟀) - Once it was one of the most popular folk activities among the ancient Chinese and even now cricket fighting still draws so much interest that the local people have established a special museum where both cricket displays and live cricket fighting shows are to be seen. It may seem strange that such a little insect could bring great popularity to a place, but the crickets in Qibao Town, especially the fiercest species called Iron Sand and Blue (respectively referring to the colors of their necks and feet), are indeed an extraordinary and indispensable feature of the town. Due to its favourable geographic position and fertile lands, the town provides the crickets with an abundance of food and ideal living conditions. In return, the vigorous crickets provide exciting performances each day during the golden weeks (May 1-7 and Oct. 1-7) and the annual Festival of Cricket Culture.

Qibao Temple (七宝寺) - One of the most important sites of this ancient water town is Qibao Temple, said to bring the town luck and prosperity. It’s difficult to say if it was the town that inspired the name of the temple or vice versa. The temple was built to house seven treasures – the iron Buddha, the bronze bell, the golden lotus sutra, a 1000 year-old catalpa tree, a jade axe, a gold cockerel, and a pair of jade chopsticks. Sadly, the original temple is no longer standing – the current building was built in 2002 – and only two of these treasures remain. Still, the new Qibao Temple covers 155 acres and is a lovely collection of halls and gardens.










Writer: David from Seeraa International
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