Minhang District, once a powerhouse of heavy industry in Shanghai, is now transforming itself into a destination for cultural events and historic attractions.
One of the suburban district’s most famous tourist spots is Qibao, a watertown representing the traditional culture of Jiangnan, region in the south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River.
The watertown is about 30 minutes away from People’s Square by Metro, and a five-minute walk from Qibao Station of Metro Line 9. Qibao is the perfect spot for those who feel the urge to escape from the skyscrapers and concrete jungle of Shanghai’s downtown.
The origins of Qibao, literally meaning “seven treasures,” can be traced back to the Western Jin Dynasty (AD 265-317). When two brothers, Lu Ji and Lu Yun, grandsons of the famed strategist and official Lu Xun, were killed in AD 303, their heir built a temple in their honor and named it Liubao, which means “six treasures.”
The temple was first built in what is now Songjiang District. It’s said that in the 10th century, Emperor Qian Liu, who founded the Wuyue Kingdom (AD 907-978), granted the temple a rare Buddhist manuscript, thereby adding a seventh “treasure.”
Later, the temple was moved to Minhang, and the surrounding watertown which shares its name now attracts thousands of visitors every day.
The watertown is at the junction of the Puhui and Hengli rivers. It became a thriving marketplace in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The layout of Qibao hasn’t changed much over the past thousand years. Unlike many similar towns, where commercial activity is concentrated along the water, Qibao’s historic buildings and shops branch off from it like a tree.
A number of delicacies are there to entice hungry visitors, including beggar’s chicken, lotus-leaf pork, crab-meat dumplings, Haitang cake, as well as Qibao specialties like mutton with special sauce.
Throughout its long history, the area has also been known for its culture of leisure.
In the past, one of the most popular forms of local entertainment was cricket fighting.
At the local Cricket Museum, visitors can learn more about this time-honored pastime through exhibitions of calligraphy, photos and paintings.
For a less bustling watertown experience, Minhang also offers Zhaojialou. Located about 4 kilometers east of Shendu Highway Station of Metro Line 8, this watertown has only exuded its charms in recent years.
The quaint little town was a flourishing marketplace during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), and its ancient City God Temple largely retains its original appearance.
The bus No. 175 can take visitors directly to the watertown from the Metro station in just six stops.
Zhaojialou offers similar choices of scenery, snacks and shopping as Qibao, but with a more relaxed atmosphere and shorter queues.
For a nature experience, Minhang visitors should check out Pujiang Country Park in Pujiang Town.
The park is only about a 10-minute walk from Shendu Highway Station on Line 8 and the Pujiang Line.
A flower exhibition is currently on at the park until November 24. Covering 430,000 square meters, the show has chosen over 3 million flowers, representing more than 100 plant varieties. These include over 30,000 rose balsams in front of the park’s “fairy castle.”
There are also over 10,000 square meters of sunflowers planted in the park to dazzle visitors.
Pujiang Country Park officials suggest people come these days, when the sunflowers are all in full bloom.
Apart from the flower exhibition, the park also has light shows and insect exhibitions.
The park is open free of charge, but entering the flower exhibition costs 45 yuan (US$6.3) per person. For people older than 70 and students, admission is 35 yuan.
Minhang is also home to the first amusement park in Shanghai, the Jinjiang Amusement Park, built in 1983.
Though other parks like Happy Valley in Songjiang and the Disneyland in Pudong tend to steal the thunder from Jinjiang, the park continues to upgrade its facilities every year.
It’s also closer to the city center than its competitors, with convenient access on Metro Line 1 from Jinjiang Park Station.
The most iconic attraction at Jinjiang Park is, undoubtedly, its Ferris wheel. At a height of 108 meters, it takes about 30 minutes to complete a single rotation.